‘Intents’ web optimisation
Understanding user intent is a vital factor in creating effective websites. What is user intent? Essentially it’s the human motive behind why a certain search…
Understanding user intent is a vital factor in creating effective websites. What is user intent? Essentially it’s the human motive behind why a certain search term was typed, a link clicked or menu option selected.
Sometimes this is obvious: clicking “Buy now” or searching for “Hotels with vacancies in Swansea”. Sometimes it’s trickier: if someone searches for “ACME 2000 Wondergadget”, do they want to buy it, learn more or find the manual?
The 3 basic kinds of user intent
There are many ways to categorise user intent and many layers of detail, but the 3 base groups are:
- Informational –looking for answers not specifically to take action (yet).
- Navigational – looking for specific content they are already aware of.
- Transactional – looking to take action (e.g. buy!)
This matches up with the steps of a ‘typical’ buying decision – first you gather the information you need to make a decision (informational) before seeking out who to buy from (transactional).
You might know where this information is (you’ve visited a website before or there’s a household name you know about) or have a specific model in mind. These are examples of navigational user intent – where you specifically know what you want and are seeking it out (as opposed to finding general information).
How to handle different user intent
1. Informational intent
OK, so people at this stage aren’t setting out with making a purchase in mind, but there is still many benefits to targeting informational intent. This form of intent is most common so you shouldn’t ignore it.
You can’t sell unless you first get someone to your website. Then, if you can provide the answers people are looking for, you’re closer to a sale. Even if they leave your site to gather more information, they’re more likely to come back (navigational intent) if you’re the best source of answers out there. That’s building brand awareness.
And, of course, if you build credibility and trust you could ‘short circuit’ the buying process and close the deal straightaway.
So provide plenty of rich, detailed and specific content that provides answers by targeting specific informational searches and remember to include calls-to-action.
2. Navigational intent
Here we’re talking about people who are looking for you/ your products. If someone searches for “Your company name” or “Your product/ service name” you want them to go to your website, not a shrewd competitor.
Navigational intent is about brand protection/ integrity and ensuring people looking for you find you. On the flipside, seeing if you can’t ‘poach’ some of your competitors’ traffic.
Ensure your website/ SEO includes an element of strong and consistent branding.
3. Transactional intent
In terms of SEO, the search phrases tend to be longer and more specific. E.g. “Cheap ACME 2000 Wondergadgets” rather than “Wondergadgets”. Search volumes are lower than for informational searches, but this is obviously the traffic you want.
It’s important when targeting transactional intent to ensure your website is optimised for a smooth selling process, that you build plenty of trust/ credibility and keep things uncluttered (they’re not looking for tons of information now).
Trying to optimise every web page to hit all visitor intents is extremely difficult and is the kind of shotgun approach that, by trying to hit everything, misses the lot. It’s also a sure-fire recipe for cluttering-up pages that should be selling and coming on too strong where folks are just looking for information.
But, across an optimised website, you can create web pages that target specific intents without ruining their effectiveness. For example: Individual product/ service pages are where to target navigational/ transactional intent whereas blogs/ articles/ manuals are where to target informational intent.
Written by Jason John Mills