User Intent Optimization

User Intent Optimization

What Is User Intent Optimization?

User Intent Optimization (also known as “Search Intent Optimization”) is the practice of optimizing web content to full satisfy a searcher’s query.

For example, let’s say you want to cook up some kale for dinner.

But you’re hangry and want to eat NOW.

So you head to Google and search for “quick kale recipes”.

User Google searches with a particular purpose

The first result you click on looks OK at first.

But you quickly realize that the recipe takes over an hour.

First result clicked on doesn't satisfy search purpose

So you quickly click over to the search results to find something else.

And the next time you strike gold.

This result is a recipe that takes 10 minutes from start to finish…

Second result clicked on does satisfy search purpose

…which is EXACTLY what you’re looking for.

If enough people that search for “quick kale recipe” feel the same way, that result will get a significant rankings boost.

Why Is User Intent Important in SEO?

In many ways, satisfying User Intent is Google’s ultimate ranking factor.

In fact:

Most of the signals that search engines measure (like Dwell Time and organic CTR, etc.) are designed to figure out whether or not a result is making users happy.

Which is why you want to optimize for these ranking factors.

That said, you can have amazing Dwell Time and a sky-high organic CTR.

But if your content doesn’t match user intent, you’re not going to rank.

On the other hand:

If your result is a 1:1 match for User Intent, you can find yourself with significantly higher rankings.

If your result matches user intent it creates ranking boost

With that, here’s how to create content that’s optimized for user intent.

Best Practices

Study the SERPs

Google’s search results give you HUGE clues into what people want to see.

For example, look at the search results for “buy headphones”:

Most of the results ranking in the top 10 are product pages.

On the other hand, check out the search results for a similar keyword: “headphone review”.

These results are completely different.

Specifically, these results are mostly pages that outline the pros and cons of various headphones.

At first glance these two keywords seem to have the same user intent.

(Namely, people that want a pair of headphones)

But the search results paint a very different picture.

So if you wanted to rank for “buy headphones”, your best bet is to have a result where people can buy right away.

But if your target keyword was “headphone reviews”, you’d want to publish a post that reviews different headphones on the market.

Let’s look at a real life example.

A while back I published this post on getting more website traffic.

Increase Website Traffic – 2019

And before I wrote a single word, I decided to check out the results for my target keyword: “increase website traffic”.

And when I looked at the top 10 results, I saw almost 100% list posts.

So I decided make my post a list of 27 actionable tips:

27 actionable tips

And it worked!

Today, my page ranks in the top 3 for my main keyword:

Backlinko top three

Look at “People also ask…”

You might have noticed more and more “People also ask…” boxes in the search results:

Well, as it turns out, these are a GOLDMINE of User Intent info.


Because these boxes are literally telling you: “These are questions people have around this topic”.

And when your content answers those questions, you can CRUSH user intent.

For example, I recently published a post about nofollow links.

Nofollow Links post

And to make sure that my content satisfied User Intent, I looked at the “People also ask…” questions:

And I answered those questions in my post:

Nofollow links questions

Update Existing Content for User Intent

Ideally your content would match search intent from Day 1.

But you can also go back and update your older content so it matches User Intent.

For example, a while back I published a huge list of SEO tips.

Huge list of SEO Tips

In terms of traditional content marketing stats, my post did well.

It got a ton of social shares:

Social shares – 8894

And comments:

Comment count – 336

But it wasn’t ranking well for my target keyword “SEO tips”.

SEMRush – SEO tips

And I realized why:

People searching for “SEO tips” don’t want 200+ tips.

Instead, they want a curated list of SEO tips that are going to have the biggest impact.

So I identified the 17 most important tips from my original list.

And ONLY included those 17 tips in my post:

Top 17 tips

Even though my content was significantly shorter, it was a better fit for User Intent.

Which is why organic traffic to my post increased by 26.7% right after I published the new version:

Organic Traffic –

Put Keywords Into Categories

I just showed you how to figure out user intent for specific keywords.

But it’s also helpful to know the type of keyword you’re looking at.

I’ll explain…

As it turns out, 99% of all search terms fall under 4 different intent categories: informational, navigational, commercial and transactional.

Types of user intent

And once you figure out which category your keyword falls under, the easier it is to satisfy user intent.

For example, I recently published this guide to the Google Search Console.

Google Search Console Guide

And I quickly hit the first page for “Google Search Console”.

Amazing, right?

Kind of.

As it turns out, “Google Search Console” is a navigational query.

In other words: most people that search for “Google Search Console” aren’t looking for a guide.

Instead, they want to login to their GSC account.

Which is why my guide gets an insane number of impressions…

Google Search Console – Impressions

…but very few clicks.

Google Search Console – CTR

So if I spent time figuring out that keyword’s intent category I would have realized that an ultimate guide isn’t a good match for that term.

Keywords With Multiple Intents

Sometimes you’ll come across a keyword with multiple user intents.

This is surprisingly common.

In fact, Google’s rater guidelines talks a lot about keywords that have different possible user intents.

Queries with multiple user intents

What should you do if you run into a keyword like this?

Don’t hedge your bets.

Instead, optimize HARD for one type of user intent.

For example, one of my high-priority keywords is “SEO audit”.

Well, when I looked at the results for that keyword, I saw that there were two totally different types of user intent.

Some people that searched for “SEO audit” wanted software:

Others wanted a process to follow:

So I created a guide that fully gave people a process they could use:

Ultimate SEO Audit 2019

Which helped my page quickly hit the top 5 in Google:

Learn More

SEO Case Study: How I Increased My Organic Traffic 652% in 7 Days: How “The Skyscraper Technique 2.0” boosted traffic to one of my pages by more than 6x.

SEO Ranking Factor #1 is Satisfaction: A well-written guide to making sure your content is making Google searchers happy.