SEO Copywriting for User Intent
Successfully writing for the web involves knowing a lot of stuff. You have to understand SEO and more specifically, grasp Google’s shift to a more sophisticated focus on user intent – and their increasing reliance on AI. So if you’re a copywriter or an SEO consultant (or you’re trying to work this out yourself), think carefully before you write, and you’ll be rewarded more favourably by the Google gods.
What is user intent/searcher intent?
User intent, a.k.a. searcher intent is the motive a reader has for carrying out a query on a search engine. We have to understand searcher intent and optimise our page to help the searcher. When done correctly, this will make us more relevant and rank higher in the search results. To optimise the page successfully and write for user intent, we must focus on the user and give them relevant, useful, high-quality information – straight up. And where appropriate, we need to optimise for featured snippets or knowledge panels.
Why are they here?
The first step is to ask WHY are people searching? Intent usually falls into four main categories:
Informational intent – Where people are googling to find out more about a subject. It’s queries around Who/What/Where/When/Why/How. For example, to find out the meaning of the word, check the spelling or ask a random fact: “How many types of marsupials are there?” “What is the capital of Mexico?”
Navigational intent – Where you already know about the product or service but need more help. For example, last week, you were reading this fabulous page about women’s financial issues, but for the life of you, you can’t find it now. So you type into Google: “Women’s financial issues” + <brand-name> Voile! There it is!
Commercial intent - This is like a mixture of intent–both informational and transactional. Commercial intent is exceedingly important for individuals in e-commerce who may have mistakenly thought purely about transactional intent. Commercial intent is where the concept of Zero Moment of Truth comes in. In the old days, people would go to a store, see a product, take it home and use it. Today, people sniff around online before they purchase. They want more information before they make a purchase. For example, “Tips for buying memory foam beds” or “best gym membership deals”.
Transactional intent – This is e-commerce land. (Or signing up/transacting) Common words include Buy/Shop/Purchase/Get. You Google “Buy Nike shoes Australia” or “Shop vegan leather handbags online” or “Buy marketing handbook - overnight delivery”.
Optimising web pages for intent
Let’s take a closer look at how to optimise the page, now that we have an understanding of why people are searching.
Writing clear sentences that include the search phrase and a succinct answer is a key tip if you want to appear in featured snippets. But informational intent is a broad subject. If you’re writing an article about the best dog shampoos (without commercial or transactional intent), do a Google search and see which articles are at the top and try and find some correlation with the content.
Then, do your key-phrase research– but expand your search. Don’t just research dog shampoos; that will only get you so far. Search for closely related phrases and see if any of those may be worth including. There could be topics such as allergies, itchy skin, dog breeds, information about cleansers for issues like hair shedding, fleas or detangling. Take a look and see which phrases you need to include.
Again, write in full sentences that will best answer the query so that you get the best chance of appearing in featured snippets. Here’s one of mine recently. It explains what it is, for those that may not have known, includes alternative names it’s called, and there’s information mentioning surgery is involved.
SEO TIP: Make sure you don’t cannibalise your search results here. Again: user intent. If you are promoting memory foam beds, you might write a blog on memory foam beds that you would write it with commercial intent – giving the reader lots of information.
On a different page you would have the transactional e-commerce page which should be filled with loads of lovely info plus excellent transactional information, e.g. price, size, colours, shipping price, shipping time, returns policy, payment options, etc. everything to get them over the line.
With navigational intent, people will need to at least recall your brand along with their desired key phrase, so keep working on brand awareness. Your name has to be at the fore people’s minds. Take previous example, “Women’s financial issues” + <brand-name>.
Research the transactional phrase you want to write for on Google and see what your high-ranking competitors are coming up with. For example, “Shop children's schoolbags.” See the ones at the top that Google is obviously favouring, but keep in mind, some top results may be due to a strong Domain Authority. In that case, they may have a crappy page and simply be getting away with it. Don’t be like them.
SEO TIP: If you have an e-commerce store, don’t just name the item and your brand name in the title tag. Think: what else would appeal to someone wanting to buy my product? Free shipping? Fast shipping? Free returns? 60-day return policy? Payment plans available? Huge colour options? Biggest range?
In the product page body copy, include information others are giving on their pages – and then some. Be the readers’ eyes and describe the product in detail. Describe all the features and benefits.
Be clear about shipping details, bonuses, returns policies, payment options, future discounts. If you want to stand out from the pack and rise to the top, be more informative than the others. But make sure that information is useful.
Answering intent – be clear about your objectives (and communicate these with your clients, too)
We know that by answering intent we’re itching that scratch, but getting the page to rank is not enough. Getting more page views is not enough.
As the copywriter or SEO consultant, ask yourself, why do you want readers there? What do you want them to do? And –if you’re working for clients, you must communicate these issues with them. Clients and CEOs can easily assume everything you’re pushing will be an instant conversion hit. (Or they’ll want that!) But it doesn’t always work that way. Good luck explaining this to them.
Readers don’t always have to sign up to a newsletter or call you immediately. (They won’t, even if you want them to, btw.)
For example, when you consider that Larry King from Wordstream says brand awareness can impact click through rate by 2 to 3 times, creating content for brand awareness is a good idea.
I always apportion a percentage of my work to brand building and trust for a client. Sure, we want the phones ringing, but we might make a series of blog posts for the client that shows how useful and downright helpful– and how authoritative the experts in the company are. Often, we may also run a facebook advertising campaign pointing to these articles.
Do we want people to ring and book an appointment ASAP? That would be nice, but that’s not our objective when writing the content. Our objective is brand awareness and trust. Once we’ve built that, we can be more confident that these readers will call on us the next time they need such a service.
Brand awareness, though, is a small piece of the pie. That was just one example. The bottom line is to have a holistic approach with your webpages and the different user intentions, settle on ideal KPIs and communicate them with the team, then get to work.