Keyword in the title? Check. In an image alt text? Check. High-quality, relevant internal and external links included? Check and check. You’re certainly on top of your SEO, but there might be one thing you’re forgetting to look into: user intent.


Wait… What’s User Intent?

It might sound self-explanatory, but it deserves a closer look.

User intent is what an individual means to find when they type a query into a search engine. Read: It’s what the user intends to discover.

The term sounds simple, and in a sense, it is. However, how you apply it — or don’t apply it — can make or break how well you perform in Google.

Let’s talk about why.


Why You Should Care About User Intent

We’re going to use a specific example to better illustrate this. (Note: This is purely hypothetical.)

Let’s say you own a national chain of yoga studios. You want to write a blog about the benefits of yoga. So, you write this thorough, in-depth, beautifully optimized blog post that roughly follows the below outline:

  • What is yoga?
  • The history of yoga
  • The popularity of yoga in the United States
  • Scientifically backed benefits of yoga

You hit publish, and… crickets. Google doesn’t seem to care about you one bit, and you’re nowhere to be found in search rankings. What gives?!

You didn’t satisfy user intent.

“How is that even possible?” you ask. “I gave the user more than they were looking for!”

Ah, yes. There’s the problem.

In our hypothetical example, users who search “benefits of yoga” in Google want to learn about just that: the benefits of yoga. Yes, you answered their query—but only after you offered a definition of yoga, talked about its history, and reviewed how popular it is in the United States.

All people know when they land on your page is that you don’t immediately satisfy their query. Do you think they’re going to scroll through the entire page looking for the answer? Absolutely not. In order to satisfy user intent, you need to give them the information they’re looking for, quickly.

Now, does that mean you can’t cover those other points later on in the blog? You can—but only after you’ve fulfilled user intent, plain and simple.


How to Determine What the User Intent Is

By now, you know what user intent is and why you should care. You understand that if you don’t meet your readers’ needs, you’re going to lose them and they’ll likely never come back.

Got it.

So, how can you fulfill user intent and ensure that they have a good experience on your page? Fortunately, you don’t have to go looking very far for this answer. Google point-blank tells you what people want—by what it ranks on the first page.

Think about it. Pages that rank in the top spots of search results are there for a reason. True, there are multiple factors that go into ranking on page one—some of which we’ll probably never know. But you have to look at it like this.

Google’s top priority, by far, is offering the best user experience. When people use the search engine, Google wants them to find exactly what they need within seconds.

Those who rank on page one accomplish just that. They provide stellar user experience, and Google rewarded them accordingly.

As opposed to starting from scratch, look at what these top-ranking pages are doing. If you search “benefits of yoga” and skim the results on page one of Google, how do they cover the topic? What specific information do they include?

Clearly, they did something right. If you want to compete with them, your page needs to accomplish what theirs did. But a word of warning.


Don’t Mimic. Be Better

We want to be very clear about this. Nothing good will come from copying what successful pages have done. Even if you think Google won’t notice, it will.

Besides, you don’t want to be just like the others. You don’t want to be as good as them. You want to be better and outrank them. So, this means that you need to take what they did and find a way to do it better.

This could take some trial and error, but here are a few things you can test out:

  • If they wrote a 400-word blog, try writing one that’s 1,000 words.
  • Include more media, meaning images and videos.
  • Make better use of headings.
  • Include a relevant freebie or lead magnet that readers can take advantage of.
  • Include original quotes from an industry expert.

You get the idea.


SEO is About So Much More Than Ticking the Boxes

We don’t mean to dismiss other SEO best practices — like thorough keyword research and using that keyword in the appropriate places. These factors are still beneficial for both the reader as well as your rankings.

However, remember that with how savvy Google is, and with how much the search engine cares about user experience, your priority has to be writing for the user — not the algorithms. If you give the users what they want, then Google is going to award you major bonus points.

And that’s why user intent is important for SEO.


Megan Grant is the owner of Revenue Spark Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Las Vegas, NV. She also teaches freelancers how to build their own agencies.