Blog | 3 July 2018

Understanding the role of user intent in online content marketing

When it comes to online content marketing, understanding and satisfying user intent is the best way to be discoverable and cure a pain point along the customer journey.

Customer profiles and user intent – understanding the role of user intent

User intent

One plus one still equals two, water is still very much wet, the Earth is still flat (contrary to some people’s beliefs), and a simple answer is still the response expected to a simple question. But in the world of online content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO), a user’s search query might not cover the full spectrum of content/answers they are looking for when they use a search engine. In layman’s terms, do not presume to know the pain (problem) a user/customer is trying to cure just because the search phrase seems simple enough.

Does this result in challenges for content providers? Yes, it does. Challenges, but not obstacles. In fact, trying to understand user intent should be seen as a dynamic, fun part of content creation. It means understanding user behaviour and having a full grasp of what it is they want.

Customer profiles

Customer profiles have long been a way for commercial organisations to understand what makes up the characteristics of a particular type of consumer. It allows businesses to make strategic marketing communication decisions based on who they believe is the target audience. Providing content that matches user intent is not too far away from this process. In this instance, a bit of reverse engineering is needed. Rather than building a user profile, you build a query profile and match it to a target audience. In a similar way to customer-profile building, you take certain factors into consideration concerning a user query and try to figure out what content will best answer it.

Going vegan

Say you’re a high street retailer of health products with an online presence, but you want to be more than just an ecommerce brand, more than just an online store. Recognising the importance of providing a full customer journey experience for current/potential consumers, you dedicate a section of your website (that more or less serves as a blog) to providing content on all things health – from beauty to food to fertility. Using the right SEO tools, you discover there’s an upward trend of people searching using the keyword ‘vegan’ in Google’s search engine. The two questions here are: what content is the user most likely looking for when they use such a broad term in the search engine and what content should you create to satisfy their want? Building a query profile can help answer this.

‘Vegan’ query profile

After doing some more research, it is evident that ‘vegan recipes’ gets as many monthly searches as ‘vegan’, with ‘vegan chilli’ and ‘vegan cake’ being the most searched terms for recipes. ‘Vegan restaurants’ enjoys high search volumes also. Not too far behind in terms of monthly search volume is ‘vegan diet’.

Finally, you simply Google ‘vegan’ yourself to see the kind of content being shown on the results page, so you can determine both the content your competitors are providing and what Google deems as relevant content for the topic (and other related topics/questions people have searched for).

Google’s predictive search also indicates the most popular topics related to the keyword:

Armed with this data, you can begin to build an understanding of the type of content the user is looking for. Creating a piece of content that covers all the above is not impossible, but it might come across as a tad schizophrenic. So this is where different content types, such as Hero, Hub, and Hygiene, come into play. Key to this is that content should not be limited to just one-and-done for a topic.

Hero vegan content

It makes perfect sense to create a big piece of content that tackles exactly what being vegan is, especially considering that Google revealed the following as popular queries people also made:

Your hero content can focus mostly on covering these and what a vegan diet involves, but there’s no harm in suggesting a ‘vegan chilli recipe’ at the end of it for the user to try out as they begin their foray into possibly becoming vegan. Go all out and embed a high quality video of the food being cooked (which you’ve also published on YouTube, naturally), which also includes annotations. This piece will allow you to cover some general user intent.

Hub vegan content

Hub content allows you to be more specific in targeting user intent. ‘Vegan diet’ is the highest search suggestion for ‘vegan’, so user intent is likely to be in this ballpark or is most likely to be their next search. Hub content is designed to be part of a series of regular content pieces, so you can start off with a broad introduction into what a vegan diet consists of. Going forward, you can publish regular content about a vegan diet that covers vegan weight loss, vegan bodybuilding, a vegan diet for particular sports, getting the right nutrients while on a vegan diet, being vegan during pregnancy and so on. This is the sort of content marketing that has user intent in mind.

Hygiene vegan content

Hygiene content is even more regularly published. With the vast number of vegan recipe possibilities, satisfying this user intent via hygiene content is a smart play. Starting off with variations of the most popular vegan recipe searches, you can gain some quick wins. Search engines love fresh, innovative content so why not create your own unique recipes? Over the years, The River Group content marketing agency has created recipes for our clients that have gone viral precisely because they are unique and fun.

As an online business, your content marketing plan should involve being there with the right content to help the user along their customer journey, with the end goal being raising brand awareness at least, conversion at most. How do you do this? By creating content that cures a user’s pain, ie satisfies user intent.

Christopher Alonge
Christopher Alonge
SEO Manager

Chris is SEO Manager at River, with almost a decade working in the digital space. He oversees search engine optimisation across all client websites.