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How to use SEO to meet audience intent.

Audience intent is a crucial part of SEO strategies , and something that everyone should be looking at to truly understand what your audience is searching for and how you can meet their expectations.

On the 4th February 2021, I joined Majestic’s Old Guard vs. New Blood webinar series alongside Dixon Jones, Jenny Halasz, and Natalie Mott to talk through exactly what audience intent is and what that then means for SEO. You can watch the recording below or head over to their website for the transcript.

Utilising keyword research to identify intent.

One of the biggest things about keyword research is knowing who your audience is. If you don’t know who they are, you can’t focus on the keywords they may be using to find you, making it much harder to be there (or rank) when they are searching for things related to what you offer.

At the very start of this webinar, Natalie rightly said that “there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty with keyword research” when it comes to using SEO to serve audience intent. To really get to grips with what information you should be providing, you need to know what people are searching for and what kind of information is already being displayed.

Think of it like a sale; to make that transaction you need to know what you are selling and who is going to buy it, otherwise you’re just sitting there waiting for people to give you money.

That then means you should be thinking of Search as a click transaction – you need to earn the click, and you need to make sure that click provides something for the audience in return. If you aren’t providing that value, your audience won’t hang around and likely won’t return to you if you appear for another query, because another site is serving their needs better. Have that happen consistently (along with a multitude of other factors) and you end up seeing decreases in rankings because your website is not being seen as relevant to the searches.

So you need to be looking at keyword research from two angles:

  1. What
  2. Why

What are people searching for? What is appearing already? What isn’t appearing? What kind of results are showing? What’s the split of known vs. unknown competitors?

Why are people searching for that? Why are the websites showing that are? Why isn’t content around a related topic showing? Why are there no additional SERP features on this query, but there are on that one?

Then there is the fact that search is constantly evolving, and 15% of queries every single day are brand new, so there are always new keywords and new opportunities to go after. You just need to know how to find them (more on that over here), and then understand if they are relevant to your audience before you start looking at building them into your plans.

Too often keyword research is conducted by just looking at what is already being targeted by websites that are ranking on page 1, and while that is a great starting point, it misses huge amounts of potential opportunity because you’re not looking for what your audience actually needs to see or why they need that information.

Using SEO to serve your audience.

Once you’ve identified the keywords you want to be targeting, there are numerous ways you can work this into strategies to make sure you’re capturing the opportunities. These quick steps will be key to making sure you are not only capturing that opportunity, but are serving the audience needs to make sure you (and they) see the benefit of that click:

  1. Understand what your audience searches for and what information they need to be able to answer that query.
  2. Determine the types of results appearing for a query – organic, paid, PLAs, PAAs, local packs, featured snippets, answer boxes.
  3. Review the content that is appearing – how is it structured, how much information is provided, what format is it in, what additional elements are on the page, what keywords does it target specifically?
  4. Review gaps in what is currently showing on page 1 – are there any related searches that aren’t covered, or searches that are but not well?
  5. Review the websites that are appearing – are they commercial/informational/research heavy? Is the purpose of the click to buy or to inform?

Once you have that information, you’ll be able to understand whether you need to:

  1. Optimise a commercial- or informational-heavy page for a term
  2. Add informational elements of content (e.g. FAQs) to previously commercial-only pages
  3. Create a content strategy focused around specific topic ownership
  4. Create or optimise content for additional SERP features
  5. Adjust the layouts of your page templates so they are better set up to serve the needs of an average user

I mentioned at the start of the webinar that there is no one “intent” classification for a query – there are underlying layers of different needs that have to be met for every single search, and they change from person to person.

Instead of looking at keywords as purely informational or purely commercial, really getting under the skin of what is showing currently will give you a good idea as to what kind of information you should be providing to meet the intent of the query. But always, always, monitor the results for changes and shifts in behaviour.

If you need some support identifying what it is your audience is actually searching for, and what you need to be doing to meet their needs, get in touch with us.

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