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How to optimise your website for user intent

by Brett Horan
on 3 May, 2017

Search marketing is a fast moving space, it’s always changing so your on-page tactics need to keep up. Search Intent is the buzz right now. Keeping “intent” in mind is as important as having relevant content to begin with.

I bet one of the main sources of traffic is organic search traffic – take a look at your latest analytics. Organic traffic is free. It makes sense to invest a bit of time and increase organic search traffic as much as possible, right? If you agree then keeping up with SEO is a no-brainer, and the latest trend in SEO is search intent.

Your efforts to create and optimise “evergreen” content are long-lasting (and still free). A great article can continue to deliver quality traffic to your site years after it was first published.

For example, one of Thirst Creative’s specialisations is design. In 2015 we published a blog post on the 10 considerations for Annual Reports. That post still drives traffic to our site three years later. We see traffic spikes each year as companies seek help with their Annual Report projects.


Featured snippets and the questions people ask

We increasingly find “featured snippets” appearing in search results – a block of text taken from a website and highlighted in the search results page because Google deems it most likely to answer the question asked.

According to Google, people start their search questions with “how” 8 times more than with who, what, when, where and why.

“When we recognise that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results,” says Google.

Google says there’s no way to influence organic featured snippets results, but for websites that use google search tools within their own sites, the tools exist to create rich snippets around content such as events, recipes, products, reviews and your business location.

Adding rich snippets to your site certainly makes it easier for search engines to identify the core information on your site, so it makes sense to make it as easy for the search engines to identify as possible.

Note: Adding rich snippets and the vocabulary associated with them to your code is something you’ll need to consult a developer on. Give the Thirst Creative developers a call.


Optimise your content to meet searcher intent

Google is watching everything we do, and learning from what we do. If a user searches for a topic and clicks on an organic link to your site, they know. They also watch things like the dwell rate, click through rates, bounces and whether users clicked on your phone number, website or viewed reviews in your Google+ business listing.

A lot of these things you can’t control directly, but you can get clever with some basic search engine optimisation to make sure you’re optimised for “intent”.


Marketers have arrived at four main intents when it comes to searching:

  • Navigational – people are looking for a specific destination. They’ll possibly search by brand or ask a question like – Where’s the new sushi shop on Lygon Street?
  • Investigation – people are researching for advice from an expert or options for a possible future purchase.
  • Transactional – people searching for a specific product with an intention to compare or buy.
  • Informational – asking a specific question or solving a problem.


With this in mind start optimising the content you already have. Look within your analytics tools to see which content pieces on your site get the most attention and look for trends over time. For example, we see a peak in interest in our Annual Report design articles in October as auditors finish up their work and the work of putting together reports starts to kick in. Also, check online tools like to see what gets the most shares and interest in social channels.


How to optimise for search intent

The key is to create content that builds trust. Titles, meta descriptions, headings, slugs and keywords are all still important, but look at them from the perspective of a user with one of the four key intentions – navigation, investigation, transactions or information – and see how you can solve each of those problems.

Take your content topic and split it out into these four intentions, then define the common questions that would apply to each intention and identify how the content on your website solves that problem.


For example:

TOPIC Building a new website

INTENTION Navigational Investigation Transactional Informational
QUESTION Does Thirst Creative offer website development services? How do I choose a web developer? How much is a new website going to cost me? Do I need a new website or should I develop an app?
CONTENT Services page showing information on website development Blog article – 8 questions to ask your web developer

Case study – HealthAbility’s new website

Call to action for no strings project assessment Blog article – things to consider before developing an app


Now, look at how you link it all together in customer journey funnel. Are you leading your visitors down an easy to follow the path?

  • Do I need it?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How can I be sure?
  • How much will it cost?


Get your content in place, then optimise

Now that you have some solid content in place that answers, at a basic level, some of the intention questions around your core business topics, it’s time to get back to old fashioned on page SEO and rewrite with those intentions in mind.


Write Title tags that invite a click
Write titles for your customers and the target intention in mind – what’s in it for them? Tell them what the content is about.

  • Make your titles unique – use Google Webmaster tools to find and fix any duplicates.
  • Use keywords at the start of your title, but don’t overstuff. You only need to say “Widget” once.
  • Stick to the 60 character limits


Use heading tags to make users read more.
Headings show search engines the structure and hierarchy on content on your page. They make your content easy to read and easier to scan. Structure the content of your pages logically and make your headings look like headings so that users are able to scan through and see that structure easily.

  • H1 represents your key concept – only use it once, normally it’s used for the page title.
  • Use H2 to define the key concepts and sections within your content,
  • Bring in H3 through H6 to show ideas within each section.

For longer form content over 1000 words, it’s a vital way to break up your text and help the reader find their way. Use bolding, pull quotes, images (tagged with descriptive explanations rather than just keywords) and well tagged and well written subheadings through your content will increase dwell time on your pages but giving users the ability to scan the page, see if they’re going to get an answer to their problem, and encourage them to start at the top and read.


Use meta descriptions to sell your content
So often meta descriptions are overlooked and search engines are left to make up their own, or just use the first block of text they can find on your page. Make your meta descriptions helpful given intent and take the opportunity to be inviting. They play a huge role in driving traffic from search results – this is the text that will display under the title you set on your listing on SERPs. The better it is, the more likely people will click through to your website.

  • Go under 155 characters – Google will display 156, but anything more will be cut off
  • Use action words – learn, grab, discover, explore
  • Be specific – tell users what’s in it for them


Structure your site like a filing cabinet
Think of your website as the cabinet, the sections your drawers, the topics your folders, and then order the information within them logically so it’s easy for users to find.

Now make the URLs to your pages reflect that structure – use keyword rich and helpful slugs to show users where they are on your website.


Use Google Maps to improve local rankings
Google maps is much much more than just a free map to your premises that you can embed on your contacts page. Use its features to improve your local search rankings.


Ask for reviews, or setup an automated system
Get your customers to write reviews of your business on Google. You should add a direct link to the review box to your thank you emails and ask them to rate and comment on your services.


Make sure you’ve set up Google My Business properly
If you haven’t get it done. If you have, do some updates based on the intention of your audiences.


Is your website mobile friendly
If you don’t have a responsive design fix that first. If you do, then think about whether your content is optimised for a mobile audience. Google knows that your audience is most likely on mobile devices, even if you don’t, and they’ll prioritise mobile friendly content and sites first in results.


Increase load speed
Check your site speed and then consider whether your hosting provider is meeting your needs. If you’re routinely waiting for your website to load then so are your users – if they’re on a mobile device they probably won’t wait, and search engines will penalise your for it. Make sure your website loads fast on both mobile and desktop. It will improve dwell rates within your content and improve users’ experience.


Ready for action?

If you look over your website with a user intent microscope you’ll likely find that a lot of what you need for content is already there. The key to improving the experience for your users is to make sure you answer all the questions that could arise from each of the core intentions.

As you develop your marketing strategy around your website, its content and social marketing, you’ll find an additional layer of intent based on your different audience personas as well. Catering to these audiences achieves what Google is most interested in – providing the best experience and quickest answer to people based on their intent.

Keep user intent in mind and you’ll be future proofing that evergreen content.

If you need help defining intention, creating content, setting up your on page SEO and getting some solid structure and rich snippets into your website then give the Thirst Creative team a call.

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