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Matching good intentions with your content marketing strategy

If you do a Web search the word “pizza” on Sunday afternoon, more than likely, it’s not because you want to learn about the history of the dish. You probably want to order a pie to share with football-watching friends. (Don’t forget the breadsticks!)

When Google® serves up local pizza places as results, the search giant is demonstrating that it understands user intent.[1]

Audience intent marketing matches Web users’ searches with relevant content. It’s about understanding the true intention behind a search and returning results that not only meet basic search needs, but are also seen as useful, interesting, engaging and shareable. Marketing for intent calls for understanding and designing context:[2]

“The old adage ‘content is king’ while still ringing true can be added upon with the notion that ‘context is king.’ Basically your keywords, ads, landing page, and content all need to contextually flow together based on users’ needs and their intent.”

Audience intent marketing answers:[3]

  • What kind of content meets the intent of visitors?
  • If the intent is vague, what different types of intent may visitors have?
  • What will visitors consider useful?
  • What will visitors consider interesting or engaging?
  • What will visitors consider worth sharing?

Why conduct user intent marketing?

Organizations that understand intent have a competitive advantage. Delivering on user intent helps increase conversions, traffic, leads, sales and click-throughs.[4] Companies that focus on user intent improve their trustworthiness and reliability because they provide great value to an audience.

Understanding user intent is part of optimizing for user experience (UX).[5] Companies that invest in UX see, on average, a return on investment of 9,900 percent. UX helps lower the costs of customer acquisition and customer support, and successful UX is tied to increased customer retention and market share.[6] In other words, it pays to walk in your customer’s shoes.

Intent also is a different way to group customers that encourages creative problem solving within an organization. Characteristics such as age, income, marriage and education are traditional ways to segment customers. But, grouping by intent forces organizations to approach meeting customers’ needs in a new way. [7] Customers grouped by intent may not share demographic traits that traditionally drive many marketing activities.

Through audience intent marketing, organizations can discover intent based on type of search, develop content that delivers on intent and understand audience intent for different channels.

What search says about user intent

Web users conduct three primary types of searches: informational, transactional and navigational.[8],[9] Each aligns with a different intent and shows a customer’s place in the buying journey. Figure 1 helps to better understand the relationship.[10]

This figure shows the correlation between search terms and intent described in this Blue Paper.

Figure 1

Informational searches: These are generic searches for a broad topic. They’re usually 1 to 2 words. Examples of informational searches include: party balloons, content marketing strategy, etc.[11] Searchers use broad terms at the beginning as they gather information.[12]

Transactional searches: These are searches to perform an action. Examples include: buy Nike shoes, download e-book, sign up for travel alerts, etc.[13] Searchers move toward transactional searches after they’ve gathered enough information to make a decision.[14]

Navigational searches: These searches don’t have buying intent; they’re conducted to help take the searcher to a website. Navigational searchers want one specific piece of information and nothing more.[15] These are searches homed in on a specific brand, for example, Facebook® or Samsung®.[16]

An expanded way to look at audience intent is through the See-Think-Do-Care framework developed by Avinash Kaushik, Google’s digital marketing evangelist. Kaushik groups users into different intent clusters:[17],[18]

See users: This is the largest audience. They’re qualified in that they might buy something from you, some day. But, they’re not interested in buying right now. These people have shown intent through behavior, not demographics or psychographics. Content for the See audience should entertain, inform and provide utility.

Think users: These are people who might buy something from you, some day—and that day could be soon! Unlike the See audience, the Think audience has demonstrated weak commercial intent. They’ve probably conducted an informational search related to your product or service. They are thinking about a problem, but not necessarily a solution (aka purchase).

Do users: These users display even more commercial intent because they’re close to making a purchase. They’re conducting transactional searches. Most marketing is targeted at the Do group.

Care users: This audience has made at least two commercial transactions with your brand, demonstrating that your brand has passed the audition.

Figure 2, below, illustrates how the audience intent clusters might look for the fictional XYZ Workout Company, which sells fitness products.[19]

This figure illustrates the See-Think-Do-Care audience intent clusters described in this Blue Paper.Figure 2

The combination of See-Think-Do-Care and informational and transactional searches gives a soup-to-nuts overview of intent throughout the buying journey. The Think and Do clusters contain more purchase intent, and searches become more specific as that intent intensifies, transforming from informational to transactional. (Navigational searches are special cases without clear buying intent.)

The See and Care clusters are bookends with little or no purchase intent. But, See and Care are critical to brand awareness and customer retention. You want the See cluster to think of your brand when they need to perform a transactional search.[20] The Care cluster comprises people who have “long-term revenue resulting engagements” with an organization.[21] Transactions are just one chapter in the book on customers and companies. There’s a lot of story before—and after—customers hand over their cash.

Developing content strategy based on audience intent

Back in the day, when content marketing fell flat, the reasons given generally sounded like this:[22]

  • The quality is poor
  • The call to action is incorrect
  • Content marketing doesn’t work

But, content marketers have since found it’s not the quality. It’s the content strategy. Audience intent is different across channels.[23] What’s more, potential customers have different intents based on where they are in the buying cycle.[24] Audience intent marketing takes these and many other factors into consideration and connects searchers with relevant content.

Audience intent marketing drives a content strategy, which must:[25]

  • Meet or exceed user intent
  • Align with business goals
  • Offer unique, peerless value

Understanding the different types of searches—informational, transactional and navigational—is the perfect setup for delivering intent-driven content. Audience intent marketing has three primary steps: [26]

  1. Know the buying cycle. If you don’t understand buying cycle and context, you will create “catchall [content] experiences that speak to no one.”[27] The buying cycling starts with broad, informational search terms and moves toward specific transactional search terms. Your marketing task is to provide informational content that guides them toward specifics and transaction.[28]
  2. Match keywords to buying cycle stage. As customers flow through the buying cycle, their intentions, at different points, could be to: conduct research, compare options or make a purchase. Place keywords related to each intention on appropriate landing and content pages.[29] Think like a customer as you align content with intent.

Check out these content examples for different intents based on keyword. Let’s say a customer is interested in foot massagers:[30]

This chart shows intent-driven content examples described in this Blue Paper

 

  1. Identify user intent from analytics. Steps 1 and 2 are closely linked. Diving into analytics will improve content. Bounce rate, which counts how many people leave a website after landing on one page and not interacting with it, is a particularly informative metric.[31] Keywords with a low bounce rate indicate greater engagement and useful content because visitors hung around a page. Keywords with a high bounce rate indicate “disconnect with user intent,” because the on-page content failed to deliver on what visitors were expecting or wanted to see.[32] Experiment with keywords and content to find the best mix that delivers on audience intent.

Delivering on intent is bigger than on-page content. Site architecture also can meet intent. Research how visitors with different intents navigate to find answers. Tabs in a navigation menu, for example, could group content by intent.[33] Developing and organizing content by intent helps ensure a helpful and valuable experience for customers.

The hard work comes with alignment—changing keywords to match user intent or adding more context around those keywords with relevant content.[34] These are the two ways you can align on-page content—what people actually want to find and is useful to them—with the search words they’re using.

To that end, ranking well for a keyword does not mean you’re going to get organic traffic for it. You must understand intent.[35] Optimizing for search engines isn’t enough, because “we’re creating content for people, not search engines.”[36],[37] At the heart of every Internet search is an intention:[38]

“A user wants answers, resources, information, reviews of a product and much more. Content that is crafted to meet this expectation will connect with the user immediately. Content that makes only a passing reference to what the user is looking for, on the other hand, is much less likely to connect.”

User intent—Search vs. social media

Users go to different channels with different intents. And, different intents call for content that does different things.

If you intend to buy something or learn about a topic, you likely turn to a search engine. Users are looking for search content—that is, the articles, videos and more that are returned in search engine results.[39] Search content needs to provide answers, because it’s found by people looking for solutions.

If you intend to be entertained, you likely turn to social media. Users, however, are not looking for social content. That’s because social media content is found by referral (likes, shares, etc.). Social content that does well makes the sharer appear unique, interesting and useful.[40] In short, brands use social content to find an audience—vs. an audience finding a brand through search.[41]

Search and social don’t have to live on separate islands. The same theme can be used to develop content for either channel. Intent will give direction to how the content should feel and what it should say to each audience. Let’s pretend you wanted to develop content about baby strollers:[42]

  • Search audience: These people are looking for information about baby strollers before choosing a pram. You could craft a blog post titled “How to Choose the Right Baby Stroller.”
  • Social audience: These people are looking for entertainment and want to share fun content that makes their friends laugh. You could assemble a slide show called “12 Babies with the Most Pimped-Out Rides You’ll Ever See.”

Brand messaging is more effective when content lines up with the intent of those different audiences.

Aligning online advertising with user intent

How do paid advertising and intent work together? The key is that intent is revealed in search. And, sites and product pages visited reveal user intent. Online ads can be targeted to respond to that intent.[43] Advertising is made more relevant when marketers use intent data from search, social, browsing and webpage context.

When it comes to ads, generic, informational keywords don’t show intent. A targeted ad or landing page likely will fall flat if it doesn’t include transactional keywords.[44]

Once you’ve picked a more transactional keyword for an ad, match the call-to-action message between ads and landing pages.[45] If the CTA is “Try the free demo,” the landing page must continue the path to the free demo.

Content for landing pages calls for getting inside the head of your audience. What is it they really want to see?[46] You can’t drop the ball in the handoff from keyword to ad to landing page.[47] If you know the intent of certain keywords, match that intent with the content of ads and landing pages. Otherwise, it feels like a bait and switch.

If a user’s intent is transaction, taking them to a page with informational keywords is a failure. Same goes for directing a user looking for information to a page with transactional keywords.[48] Intent helps you understand how to build deliverables (content, products, programs, etc.) that are most relevant to users.

When you understand intent, online ads can be more personalized and more effective. Helpfulness matters to an audience. Think about how intent could shape the strategy behind remarketing (where relevant ads are shown to users after they leave your site):[49]

“When marketers make a personal appeal to consumers—for example, serving ads for barbecue grills and accessories to consumers who have read an article titled ‘10 Ways to Spice Up the Backyard This Spring’—it’s not merely an ad but also a useful service.”

But, seeing an ad follow you around the web is unpleasant. Use frequency caps so users don’t see the same ad too many times. Even better, however, is serving different messages tailored to intent along the buying journey.[50] This calls for aligning all content, ads, blog posts and more, with users’ intent stages.

Intent on delivering lifetime value

In any sort of content development, from ads to blogs, starting with user intent allows you to provide users content they actually want.[51] Relevant content helps users, and it builds your brand in their eyes. So, even if they don’t have purchase intent right now, they’ll think about you when the time comes to buy. And, after you have won them over, loyal users add revenue to your business through customer lifetime value.[52]

Delivering on intent makes all your marketing activities more effective. Companies that best meet customers’ needs have their needs met, too—in the form of retention and long-term revenue streams.

Endnotes

[1] Brown, Kelly. “SEO: What Is User Intent?” Sanctuary Marketing Group. Sanctuary Marketing Group, 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2016. <http://www.sanctuarymg.com/seo-user-intent/>.
[2] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[3] Lippay, Laura. “Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)?” Moz. SEOmoz, Inc., 6 May 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/content-strategy-guided-by-audience-intent>.
[4] DeMers, Jayson. “Why Your Keyword Strategy Is Incomplete Without User Intent.” HubSpot Blogs. HubSpot, Inc., 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/importance-of-user-intent-in-seo>.
[5] Ibid
[6] Kucheriavy, Andrew. “Good UX Is Good Business: How To Reap Its Benefits.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2015/11/19/good-ux-is-good-business-how-to-reap-its-benefits/#334a56663c53>.
[7] Kaushik, Avinash. “See, Think, Do, Care Winning Combo: Content +Marketing +Measurement!” Occam’s Razor. Avinash Kaushik, 05 July 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/see-think-do-care-win-content-marketing-measurement/>.
[8] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[9] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[10] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[11] Ibid
[12] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[13] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[14] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[15] Ibid
[16] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[17] Fryrear, Andrea. “Marketing to Audience Intent: #MPB2b Keynote Takeaways.” MarketerGizmo. Widgix, LLC, 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://www.marketergizmo.com/marketing-audience-intent/>.
[18] Kaushik, Avinash. “See, Think, Do, Care Winning Combo: Content +Marketing +Measurement!” Occam’s Razor. Avinash Kaushik, 05 July 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/see-think-do-care-win-content-marketing-measurement/>.
[19] Ibid
[20] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[21] Kaushik, Avinash. “See, Think, Do, Care Winning Combo: Content +Marketing +Measurement!” Occam’s Razor. Avinash Kaushik, 05 July 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/see-think-do-care-win-content-marketing-measurement/>.
[22] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[23] Ibid
[24] Fryrear, Andrea. “Marketing to Audience Intent: #MPB2b Keynote Takeaways.” MarketerGizmo. Widgix, LLC, 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://www.marketergizmo.com/marketing-audience-intent/>.
[25] Lippay, Laura. “Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)?” Moz. SEOmoz, Inc., 6 May 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/content-strategy-guided-by-audience-intent>.
[26] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[27] DaSilva, Tiffany. “Why Ignoring User Intent Is Costing You Money in AdWords.” Unbounce. Unbounce, 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://unbounce.com/ppc/ignoring-user-intent-costs-you-money-in-adwords/>.
[28] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[29] Ibid
[30] DaSilva, Tiffany. “Why Ignoring User Intent Is Costing You Money in AdWords.” Unbounce. Unbounce, 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://unbounce.com/ppc/ignoring-user-intent-costs-you-money-in-adwords/>.
[31] “Bounce Rate.” Analytics Help. Google, 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2016. <https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1009409?hl=en>.
[32] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[33] Lippay, Laura. “Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)?” Moz. SEOmoz, Inc., 6 May 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/content-strategy-guided-by-audience-intent>.
[34] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[35] Ibid
[36] Lippay, Laura. “Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)?” Moz. SEOmoz, Inc., 6 May 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/content-strategy-guided-by-audience-intent>.
[37] DeMers, Jason. “Why Your Keyword Strategy Is Incomplete Without User Intent.” Hubspot Blogs. HubSpot, Inc., 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/importance-of-user-intent-in-seo>.
[38] Ibid
[39] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[40] Lippay, Laura. “Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)?” Moz. SEOmoz, Inc., 6 May 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/content-strategy-guided-by-audience-intent>.
[41] Hochuli, Daniel. “Search vs. Social Media: How Audience ‘Intent’ Can Affect Content Marketing Performance.” Content Marketing Institute. Z Squared Media, LLC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/search-social-content-performance/>.
[42] Ibid
[43] LePage, Alex. “How Intent Data Leads To Better, More Personalized Marketing.” Marketing Land. Third Door Media, Inc., 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://marketingland.com/intent-data-leads-better-personalized-marketing-125243>.
[44] DaSilva, Tiffany. “Why Ignoring User Intent Is Costing You Money in AdWords.” Unbounce. Unbounce, 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://unbounce.com/ppc/ignoring-user-intent-costs-you-money-in-adwords/>.
[45] Ibid
[46] Lippay, Laura. “Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)?” Moz. SEOmoz, Inc., 6 May 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/content-strategy-guided-by-audience-intent>.
[47] DaSilva, Tiffany. “Why Ignoring User Intent Is Costing You Money in AdWords.” Unbounce. Unbounce, 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://unbounce.com/ppc/ignoring-user-intent-costs-you-money-in-adwords/>.
[48] Jones, Ron. “3 Tips for Understanding and Acting on User Intent.” ClickZ. Contentive, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2127071/tips-understanding-acting-user-intent>.
[49] LePage, Alex. “How Intent Data Leads To Better, More Personalized Marketing.” Marketing Land. Third Door Media, Inc., 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://marketingland.com/intent-data-leads-better-personalized-marketing-125243>.
[50] Ibid
[51] DaSilva, Tiffany. “Why Ignoring User Intent Is Costing You Money in AdWords.” Unbounce. Unbounce, 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://unbounce.com/ppc/ignoring-user-intent-costs-you-money-in-adwords/>.
[52] Kaushik, Avinash. “See, Think, Do, Care Winning Combo: Content +Marketing +Measurement!.” Occam’s Razor. Avinash Kaushik, 05 July 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/see-think-do-care-win-content-marketing-measurement/>.

 

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