For as long as anyone can remember, keywords have always been considered as the end-all and be-all of Google searches. Because of the perceived all-importance of keywords, it’s only but natural for SEO pros to put keyword research at the core of their SEO strategy.
To be fair, building your SEO strategy around keyword research is a smart decision. No one can deny the results, after all. But what many of us don’t realize is that as far as Google is concerned, keywords can always take a backseat to user intent.
Google’s frequent search algorithm updates
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you are aware of the major and minor changes Google has made—and is still making—to its search algorithms. In general, these algorithm updates were designed to give searchers a better user experience. And what would make search engine users get a much-improved experience? That would be nothing less than getting the answers or solutions to the need that they expressed by typing into the Google search bar.
Google processes about four billion searches every day. That’s four billion people with a need to know, buy, or do something, or go somewhere. More often than not, these people don’t even have specific keywords in mind when they do a Google search. Many of them ask actual questions, as a matter of fact, and whenever they do that, they are thinking about what they want. That is user intent, and that’s what marketers should consider at all times when developing a sound SEO strategy.
The importance of user intent
Whenever people make a search, there will always be a reason behind that query. Their intent will always be foremost in their minds, and any search always has a need attached to it. While it naturally falls upon SEO professionals to fulfill that need, it is unfortunate and kind of frustrating that many SEO people continue to employ traditional SEO strategies while ignoring or marginalizing user intent. This, despite knowing and fully understanding what user intent is all about.
Keyword optimization may be a solid way to do SEO, but there are a number of other things that SEO pros can achieve if only they give user intent the time of day and fulfill the need of searchers in the process.
Finding high-value long-tail keywords
When doing keyword research, SEOs typically do their best to find the most popular keywords in their industry or business niche and work hard to rank for them. High search volume keywords, low-difficulty keywords have become their bread and butter. However, one thing about these types of keywords is that they don’t really capture what searchers are typing into the Google search bar.
Long-tail keywords, however, do exactly just that.
They may have lower search volume and lower competition, but long-tail keywords are highly targeted search phrases that specifically serve user intent. And since they are driven by user intent, long-tail keywords can rank high rather easily. In addition, conversion rates tend to be higher with long-tail keywords.
Creating highly targeted content
The whole point of understanding user intent is that it gives you the ability to come up with content that will specifically target that user and fulfill his or her need as expressed in the Google search bar.
Let’s say that your website falls under the pest control niche. While doing your keyword research, you notice that there are people who are searching for termite treatment under $1500. What you need to do then is dig deeper using Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool or any other keyword research tool you’re comfortable using to find out the exact search queries they are typing into the Google search bar.
Once you have those keywords, work them into your content, and wait for Google’s bots to work their magic. Because you figured out the user intent behind those searches, their chances of finally getting what they want just got better.
Serving specific demographics
If your business serves a highly specific demographic, then you must consider user intent at all times when coming up with keywords because the likelihood of connecting with that demographic is higher.
For example, if your site is selling organic dog food in several locations, targeting “buy organic dog food” would make sense since it’s likely a high-volume keyword, albeit a little generic. But you know what would be better? Considering user intent and targeting “best organic dog food in Phoenix” instead, that is, if you’re selling your product there. Substitute any of your other locations for Phoenix, and you’re going to draw in residents who are interested in the best food for their pets, therefore fulfilling their needs.
Coming up with a better content strategy
Google’s search algorithm updates were implemented with improving user experience in mind, and you would do well to keep up with that ultimately noble goal. Understanding user intent is a major step towards that goal. When you have a feel for the intent of your target audience, coming up with a content strategy that incorporates that intent at every turn will be so much easier.
For all the benefits of taking user intent into account, keyword research, keyword targeting, and optimization are still solid approaches for your SEO work. Then again, keep in mind the fact that rankings are already being influenced by the level of attention Google is giving user intent. So if you can actively work user intent into your overall SEO strategy, the better it would be for you and the actual human beings who do the Google searching.