How To Understand User Intent to Unlock the Insights

Becky Simms, Christopher Hofman Laursen and Laurent Bourrelly joined us on Tea Time SEO in April to share their insights on understanding user intent and how to deliver better content to customers. User intent also called search intent is the objective of a user when typing a query into a search engine. Christopher Hofman Laursen expanded on his talk in the post below. In case you have missed this tea time session, you can also view the slides or re-watch the talk on YouTube:

1. Use more tools to understand the user intent better

Sometimes I see a question on social media asking “Which tool is the best? Ahrefs or SEMRush?”. The answer is both and more than both. We have never had access to so much data on our customers. The more tools we use, the more we will reveal all the user intents of our potential clients.

Many will only use Google Keyword Planner to research keywords hence user intents. It is only the top of the iceberg to use one tool. You should use the following:

  • Google’s own tools. Google Search Console and Google Analytics. In particular in GA you can get the Google Ads transaction data to understand, which keywords convert. Secondly, you can look at Internal site search data to understand, which products or services that the users can’t find.
  • Clickstream data tools including Ahrefs, SEMRush, Searchmetrics etc. will all bring something to the party. This is where you find the gaps. The user intents that you are still not ranking for.
  • Own data. E.g. live chat is an overlooked resource. It will consist of a lot of questions asked by clients and prospects. 

To sum up: Don’t rely on that one favourite tool only. If you want to understand all the user intents out there, then you need to use more tools.

2. Don’t guess the user intent of a search term – let Google help you

If a user searches for a search term such as SEO software, what is their user intent? Are they looking to compare, read a product review, get educated etc.? Earlier I used my gut feeling when tagging up where the keyword should be  in the sales funnel. “SEO software”…hmm….that must be the Interest phase. But why not let Google decide instead? If I search in Google UK for “SEO software” the top results are either a product page or comparison pages. So we are somewhere in the Interest/Desire stage. If I want to rank for this keyword I need to build similar content. Of course, if you focus on few keywords you can do a manual lookup in Google and “smell the SERP” (Laurent’s quote), but if you manage hundreds or thousands of keywords you need an automated overview. And that is where we scrape Google, identify what the content is about and tag the stage of the sales funnel.

3.  What is the user’s “uneducated guess” on Google?

Let’s play a game. How can a user describe your product or service without using the right name? At the moment a user is activated to search for a solution for their problem, they are in most cases not very educated about the solution. What will they search for? 

I work with a Danish optician, who launched a special pair of glasses to be able to drive at night (and not get blinded by car lights). Users searched for “night glasses”. This is not an industry term for this type of product, instead it is “night driving glasses”.

The optician took the challenge right on, created the page here which was about “night driving glasses” and educated the visitors to know what it is really called. I have worked with larger corporations, which are not so agile in their approach. It can be very political to “dumb down” and not use the correct term on your website. But this stubbornness will only result in prospects going to your competitors instead.

4. What to do when the user intent is wrong (and when Google is wrong)

When you go mountain biking you probably wear some tinted glasses. Many people use yellow tinted glasses so they can see when biking in the woods where it can be dark in the shadow of the trees. Night drivers thought yellow tinted glasses would help them too but if you are an expert in the optician’s field, you will know that yellow tinted glasses do not help.

If users searched in Google in Denmark one year ago, they would only see product offers for “night glasses” which were yellow tinted glasses. However, both the user and Google are wrong. When the user intent is to find protective glasses for night driving, yellow tinted glasses are not the solution. We decided to create a page warning against the use of these type of tinted yellow glasses for night driving. The result? The page we wrote shot straight to number one. Never had any other site presented the same user intent angle. It was the real content to serve for this kind of search. As a side note we also occupy the featured snippet with an advertorial. That is a nice chunk of real estate at the top of Google. Most importantly, the keyword converted.

5. Small data in Google Search Console can uncover big insights

Do you use Google Search Console to uncover new user intents? If you have pages with lots of organic traffic, then go through the keywords and look at keywords, which do not rank very well. Search volume is unimportant here. Then look at them, and see if they reveal a new user intent. Small data can give big insights. You can be able to find user intents, which should either be written about on the specific page. Alternatively, create a new page for this user intent. It is not uncommon to find similar searches ranking outside the top 20 all catering to the same user intent.

Christopher Hofman Laursen is the Lead SEO Specialist at the Danish agency IMPACT Extend.

Thank you for this summary Christopher. If you want to know more about user intent and understand what keywords below in each sales funnel stage, check out Becky Simm’s recap from the session.

Image credit: Massimo Adami on Unsplash

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