Each new Google update sends me and every other digital marketer back to the drawing board to re-strategize on how to use keywords and content to get the best traffic. The sophistication of Google’s algorithm rises to new levels with each update, which presents interesting challenges for marketers. I’m always up for the challenge, and the latest update was no different.
Some things at Google haven’t changed much at all. Its algorithms are still interested in SEO and keywords. Numbers, which have always held a crucial place in my marketing plans, are also still an important part of its algorithms. My strategy places a unique focus on SEO as it relates to user intent. “User intent” is a term that gets the strategic wheels turning in my head. So, what is user intent?
Defining User Intent
User intent is changing how search engines see content and has made it more difficult for marketers to decipher and build new strategies. Essentially, Google isn’t just taking the words in the search box literally. It wants to know and understand, “What is the user’s intent?”
Obviously Google’s algorithms aren’t smart enough to read a user’s mind. The search engine is smart enough, however, to figure out how to get behind the categories of user intent. I recognized two categories of user intent and SEO that helped me revise my marketing plans accordingly.
User Intent And SEO
Thinking about some of the idiosyncrasies of the English language helped me understand user intent and SEO. We can’t always take words at face value unless we know the proper context. For example, what do you think of when you hear the word “jam”? Were you thinking of this morning’s traffic jam? Maybe you jammed your toe in the door, and you’re still feeling the pain. Perhaps you packed a delicious sandwich for lunch with peanut butter and strawberry jam.
If a user puts the word “jam” in the search box, Google wants to know which context the user intended. Typically, users are looking for information based on the keyword, or they’re just looking for general information on the topic.
When the word “jam” appears by itself, Google has to find a rating in terms of how it meets the needs of the user. That rating falls somewhere between “fails to meet” and “fully meets.” The search engine would likely pull up queries regarding all three meanings because“jam” is an ambiguous word with multiple meanings. Google’s rules won’t allow this word to be “fully met” under these circumstances.
User Intent Vs. Query
Google doesn’t respond well to words with unclear meanings. The new algorithm looks for clues regarding user intent vs. query words. User intent usually goes along the lines of:
• Something they want to do
• Something they want to know
• Someplace they want to go
Do, know, go is the user intent that Google tries to uncode. Search words can indicate that a user wants to make a transaction or do something — book a hotel, buy a book, find a job or buy a jar of that amazing strawberry jam.
In my experience, users who search for something they want or need use their mobile devices about half the time. It’s common for them to do some online searching and finalize the transaction later on a desktop or laptop. Google picks up on the idea that a lot of mobile users are just doing preliminary browsing.
Other words tell the search engine that users want to know something in real time. They are information words. For example, what time is it in another time zone? When does the store close? What time will the train arrive? When will that traffic jam lighten up?
Google often puts know-something posts at the top of the page in position zero, giving users some of the information they’re seeking without giving it all away. Position-zero posts might give you an idea of traffic flow at a certain destination, but you have to click through to find the state of the traffic in real time.
If people aren’t looking to do something or know something, they know right where they want to go — online, that is. They know enough to tell Google almost exactly the type of site they’re looking for. The user with an aching toe is going to tell Google they need to go to a site that tells them how to make it feel better.
Voice activation is starting to play a big role in go searches. The general public is just getting acquainted with Siri and Alexa. As more people gain familiarity with voice activation, and as voice activation becomes more sophisticated and translates more accurately, technology will make it easier for Google to identify go searches in addition to do and know searches.
Moving forward, be strategic about ambiguous words and words with multiple meanings. I’ll still be optimizing my content for keywords and SEO. I’ll just be selecting my keywords from the perspective of user intent and considering the impact of do, know, go. Google updates and data analysis will tell me when I need to modify my strategy.