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The author

Catherine Large

SEO Strategy Manager

Understanding audience intent has never been more important for achieving results from organic search.

From the Hummingbird algorithm through to Knowledge Graph and RankBrain, Google is finding ways to become increasing sophisticated in understanding the user intent behind a search query.

Google has developed to understand how words relate to each other, the context of those words and what results have worked well previously for a similar or related search queries.

Long gone are the days when Google simply matched keywords in a search query to keywords on a web page.

This means webmasters cannot rely simply on keyword research to inform their organic search strategy.

They also need to research their audience so that they can develop a content plan that targets the search queries carried out by their customers and understand how to answer these queries. Once this is understood, content can be written specifically for the user’s intent.

Below, I’ve highlighted the different ways you can research audience intent and identify search queries relevant to your audience, as well as how to identify the types of content that work best for these search queries, ultimately increasing click-through rates and engagement with your audience.

Using SEMRush

The third-party tool, SEMRush, provides an opportunity to gather informational queries where a site already has some visibility or where competitors have visibility.

Informational queries cover the ‘how, what, where, when and why’ searches. SEMRush allows you to filter the search queries a site is currently ranking for to show only those that include ‘how to’ or ‘what is’ etc. you can also view the current SERPs for each of these queries to better appreciate what types of content are ranking well.

Look at the SERPs

Looking at the type of results that are returned for a search query informs how you should approach producing content for that search query. For example, in-depth content, video, images, featured snippets etc.

Monitoring and reviewing Google SERPs for your website’s most important search queries can provide insight into the types of content that work best for these search queries.

Google is fine-tuning its results to show the results that users most engage with, so if a search returns in-depth articles, a featured snippet or an image carousel then the chances are this is the type of content that best meets the searchers intent.

Use your existing data

Another method for gathering more data on the queries your customers search for is to use your website’s own data.

For example, is there a way for visitors on the site to ask questions, an online chat or general enquiry form, for example? Or does the site have an internal search function? Looking at this information will quickly give you an idea of what your customers want to know, and you can then take steps to answer these questions.

Google Suggest

Using Google Suggest can also provide additional ideas on informational queries. In the example below we started by searching ‘what is yoga’ and from this, we can see the top related searches.

Combing this data with search volumes can make a good argument for producing new site content whether this is a series of text guides or ‘how to’ videos.

The foundation for a content strategy

Using a combination of the methods outlined above, it’s possible to begin building a list of search queries relevant to your audience, and then by reviewing Google’s SERPs for these queries, you can get a good indication of the types of content that generate the best engagement.

This provides a good basis for a content strategy with the aim of providing content that engages with your target audience and meets their intent.

By using the above methods and tools, you can build a clear picture of your audience’s intent and begin to build content which not only ranks for their queries, but increases click-through rates and engagement, too.