Improving Search Results with User Intent and Keyword Research

Interpreting user intent is now an SEO non-negotiable for small businesses and startups. Improving a website’s search ranking is more than picking a keyword phrase that seems to work. Instead, writing for user intent focuses on how prospective customers search, not just including a keyword phrase as much as possible.

By blending user intent with the right type of keyword research, you can improve your search engine ranking while also providing content visitors find useful.

What Is User Intent?

User intent focuses on, you guessed it, what the user is looking for. Instead of focusing on keyword matching, it requires considering the intent behind a search. Slight changes in phrasing could make a significant difference in search results. We want to market based on what the user wants to find, not necessarily the words they use.

Google’s foundation of user intent lies in micro-moments. It detects user intent based on go, buy, do, or know language and delivers the results the user is looking for. If you Google your favorite restaurant to find the phone number, you no longer have to click through to their website. Their number appears in the Google My Business listing because Google has determined that if you’re searching for a restaurant, the phone number is one of the key pieces of information that you’re looking for.

User Intent Lets You Be Creative

When writing for user intent, you’re not held to specific keywords. In the keyword heyday, stuffing articles with one or two specific keywords would help your page rank. Now, algorithms are smarter and built to deliver on intent.

This allows you to focus on creating great content without chaining yourself to repeating X keyword ten times. A purely keyword research driven piece on pediatric dentistry could read like this:

A pediatric dental office in Atlanta, Georgia is the best place to take your children for pediatric dental care. As pediatric dentists in Atlanta, we are committed to your family and all your pediatric dentistry needs, from cleanings to fillings to restorative pediatric dentistry care.

A piece driven by user intent will have a better flow while providing more impact:

As a pediatric dental office in Atlanta, Georgia, we’re proud to care for children of all ages. We’re committed to making your family feel at home in our office, whether you’re looking for cleanings, fillings, or restorative dentistry.


Performing Keyword Research with a User Intent Foundation

We’re not suggesting to do away with your keyword research. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s still an important piece of any SEO strategy, there just needs to be a different focus. When you place a user intent filter over every keyword, you can find those that will truly help your strategy, not just those high-performing options that won’t convert.

When you find keywords you would like to target, put them through the user intent test. See the intent that appears with each search. If you were marketing a home cleaning service, you would want to see how “home cleaning tips” performs compared to “home cleaning [location]”.

The first results in primarily content about tips for homeowners, not how to hire a home cleaning service.

The second results in cleaning services, both as ads and as organic results.

Typically, you would want to target the second option, right? Not necessarily. The caveat to this is focusing on the first keyword by creating content based on home cleaning tips. Keyword research with user intent isn’t a settled process. It requires digging into the thought process behind your prospective customers’ searches so you can maximize your ranking.

Real Life User Intent Application

Let’s apply this to a blogging strategy. A local plumber looking to improve his organic search visibility writes an article on “Why Do Kitchen Sinks Clog?” In it, the article covers the history of garbage disposals, how to fix a clogged sink, what to avoid putting down a garbage disposal, and other relevant content.

This article accomplishes a few things.

  • It answers the searcher’s question: why their sink could be clogged and how to fix it.
  • It also provides other relevant information that could be interesting to the reader.
  • The title is a phrase that people are likely to type while searching.
  • The article contains similar keywords so the article is likely to be found without getting penalized for keyword stuffing.

By following this strategy, you can improve content quality and its results.

As user intent continues to play a key role in how websites rank, it’s essential they focus on intent and supplement with keywords. Once brands understand this, they’ll begin to see an improvement. If you’re looking for a team ready to take this on for your company, give us a call at (415) 640-8009 or drop us a line.

Marc Apple

Marc Apple

Digital Strategist

I like inbound marketing strategy, creative design, website development, analytics, and organic and paid search. That's what I write about.