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What is User Search Intent? How can You Use It to Get Better Results From Your Content Marketing

It’s sad that many SEO and content marketing professionals create keyword optimized content without paying any heed to ‘user intent’.


What exactly is user intent?

User intent is simply the purpose behind an online searcher’s query. It helps us delve deeper into what a searcher wants while they type a query in the Google search bar. Here are 3 common types of user intents:

Informational: The user is looking for an answer to a question. They wish to know more about a topic of interest or relevance.

Commercial: They may be interested in buying a product or service but they wish to do some more research.

Transactional: The user has decided to buy a product or a service.

Why is User Intent Critical To Content Marketing Success?

A common mistake that SEO and content marketing professionals make is to create content pieces that have no correlation with searcher needs. They end up creating informational content pieces for targeting keywords with a navigational search intent.

For example, targeting a keyword like ‘marketing automation software’ with a content piece like:

Marketing Automation Trends 2018

A user looking for a tool will certainly not be interested in knowing about industry trends. Similarly, a searcher looking for trends may not be ready to buy a tool.

If you create content that does not satisfy the online searcher, then it’s obviously not going to rank for the targeted keywords.

You can easily avoid such blunders by creating relevant and authentic content.


I always ask my clients a simple question: What is your intent behind doing content marketing and SEO? They naturally come with stuff like – rankings, leads, and conversions, etc.

I always tell them that conversions should be their secondary goal. The primary goal should be to understood and solve user queries.

As content marketers, we’re out there to create trustworthy, informative, and entertaining content. Our success depends on how well we know what our audiences want and that’s exactly why user intent is such an integral part of an SEO and content marketing strategy.

Search algorithm updates have ensured that search engines are far more evolved. Google uses machine learning to understand the context and meaning behind search queries. The search engine makes use of RankBrain to understand what worked for the users and then learns to improve search results.

“Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.” – Wendy Piersall

If your content fulfills user requirements better than other sites, the search engine will be happy to rank your pages higher.

How to identify user intent?

Each user’s journey starts from being a stranger and ends at being a loyal customer to a business. The journey is divided into 4 typical stages – awareness, consideration, decision, and retention.

An online searcher’s motives vary across each of these stages. Let’s now discuss these in greater detail:

Awareness Stage

Suppose you’re selling a marketing automation tool.  Your target audience, in such a scenario, would be CMO, CEOs, and Entrepreneurs in mid to large-sized companies.

In the awareness stage, your target customers are strangers to your business or their problem.

Let’s look at a sample search query from such an audience: ‘lead generation ideas’.

The user intent here is informational and unrelated to marketing automation.


You can satisfy the users with a content piece like 25 Awesome Lead Generation Ideas You Must Try in 2018.

The user intent here is to learn. Your intent should be to educate.

Solution Awareness Stage

Let’s take niche keywords like ‘email list segmentation’ or ‘customer lifecycle’.

Can you guess the user intent behind these keywords?

The user here is looking to understand ‘what is email list segmentation’ or ‘how to create segmented email lists’ or ‘what is customer lifecycle’. In this case, your prospects are looking to learn about these aspects of marketing automation. The intent of such keyphrases is informational and fall in the solution awareness stage of the customer journey.


Let’s now look at content pieces you can create around these keywords:

A Quick Guide to Email List Segmentation

Understanding the 5 Stages of Customer Lifecycle

This way you can make use of educational content pieces to satisfy your target audience add them to your lead pipeline.

Such content will help you to put your product in the consideration set of the users. These prospects will not convert immediately but they might sign up to your newsletter and follow your content.

Solution Comparison Stage

Let’s now look at an example from the solution comparison stage of the buyer’s journey. This is when the user knows about the industry and is looking to choose the right product.

Suppose a user typed a query like – ‘Marketing automation software’.

In this case, the user is looking to ‘buy’ or ‘choose’ a ‘marketing automation software’ for her business.

Here is another query that displays direct comparison: ‘hubspot vs marketo vs pardot’

The intent of the user in such a scenario is commercial.


How would you create content to target a keyword like this?

You can create a listicle around the best available marketing automation tools.

Top 10 Marketing Automation Tools

You would include your product in the list and link it back to the homepage of your site.

The intent of the user is to make a choice. Your content piece helps them to know about the different alternatives.

Another way to target such a keyword is to look for PR opportunities among the pages which are already ranking in the Google SERPs for more such comparative search queries.

Decision Stage

This is the stage in the customer buying journey when she is aware of the solutions that exist in the market and is ready to buy. Branded keywords indicate a transactional intent. Take a look at the following keywords:

‘HubSpot crm’

‘HubSpot pricing’


For such keywords, you need to create landing pages that provide the relevant details to a potential buyer.

Retention Stage

This is a stage when an existing user of your product is looking for further help.

Let’s look at a sample keyword like: ‘hubspot crm user guide’


In such a scenario, you can create a content piece like A Quick Guide to Implementing HubSpot to Your Site. You can create a variety of such content to solve the challenges faced by your customers.

The user intent here is again informational.

How to Integrate User Intent Into Your Content Marketing Plan?

Keyword research is the first step to creating your content plan. You need to create a table with keywords segmented according to their user intent (besides of course the usual monthly searches, competition level, and keyword difficulty). Take a look at this table I have created from the above examples.


This way you can add the above columns to your keyword and content bucket. A systematic approach like this will help you to create content that meets user intent for each of stages in the user journey.

I hope you found this article useful. Would love to get your thoughts and comments. Please feel free to add them in the comments section below.