Brian Dean is a famous SEO expert.
Inc.com regards him as “one of the world’s most sought-after SEO experts,” and they’re right. Brian founded Backlinko, and through his SkyScraper technique, took it from nothing to hundreds of thousands of monthly organic search traffic:
Most content managers can only dream of these figures. And such enviable SEO prowess may get you thinking anything Brian’s team creates ranks high.
Well, not really!
They published a piece that over-ticked all SEO checklists a few years ago. It was in-depth with the target keyword in the title and URL, with lots of tips, tricks, and tactics within the guide:
It also had dozens of visuals to make it scannable and of the highest quality. In Brian’s words, “because the content was really good, lots of bloggers in the digital marketing space linked to it,” which everyone craves to boost page authority and rankings:
Despite all these, the guide didn’t even make Google’s first page, let alone the top spots, months after Brian and his team hit publish:
Because it didn’t align with the search intent.
Searchers weren’t looking for an “SEO strategy case study,” which is what Brian’s guide went in-depth on. They were searching for information and a template for developing their own content strategy for SEO:
A slight difference, you may say.
But when it comes to online marketing and SEO, a slight misunderstanding of users’ search intent costs a lot.
In this post, you’ll see:
How to avoid Brian’s mistake, and
How to create intent-matching content.
What Does Understanding Search Intent Really Mean?
Imagine you wanted to learn about how motorcycles work. But when you use Google, all search results try to sell you a motorcycle:
Google and other search engines want to eliminate such frustrations when people –your target audience– research online. Their business depends on this. So aligning your team’s content creation efforts means making their work easier and setting yourself up for success.
But here’s the catch.
As Brian’s case showed, the path to those benefits isn’t to bury your head in technical SEO stuff focused on pleasing search engine bots.
It’s a call to go “Back to Human.”
In other words, before obsessing over SEO and whatnot, focus more on understanding your target audience’s (human beings’) search intent. Doing this aligns with what Google sees as relevant and it drastically increases your content’s chances of ranking higher.
Hear that from Gael Breton, Authority Hacker’s CEO:
How to Determine Keyword Search Intent
In determining keywords search intent, it’s crucial you keep one thing in mind: Search engines aren’t decision-makers.
They’re a means to an end.
Content managers obsessed over SEO tricks often forget this. You shouldn’t! Yes, people may use Google to find your content, but it doesn’t mean they call the shots. Your target audience does.
Although they do this via keywords used in querying Google, knowing the underlying intents behind those keywords empowers you to make more informed decisions.
In the words of Steve Toth, a top SEO Consultant:
It starts by knowing the four intent types:
We’ll come back to this chart.
In the meantime, following the steps below will increase your chances of understanding the real intent behind keyword types.
1. Visualize Searchers JTBD (Jobs To Be Done)
Today, two people can type the same keywords into Google and get varying results. We’ve tried this on a few occasions and sensed something: Google uses people’s most recent search history to personalize results based on what they’re trying to do at the time.
The search engine giant confirmed this in a whitepaper:
Here’s what this should teach you.
Always put your audience’s needs above SEO keywords. Doing this helps you understand their intent by visualizing the tasks (JTBD) they want to accomplish when they use certain keywords.
Eva Viola, Flow SEO’s CEO, corroborates:
2. Cluster Queries According to Keyword Types
Recall our keyword intent types chart:
Unfortunately, these are just identifiers. Alone, they don’t reveal underlying search intent. To increase your chances of understanding intent, cluster long-tail queries related to each keyword.
WriterZen does this out of the box.
Type a phrase into our Keyword Explorer tool, scroll down and click on the “Insights” tab, and you’ll find clusters of long-tail queries:
The tool does more.
Say you’re targeting executives in the nursing industry, and the keyword is “team collaboration.” Keeping with our first point to always have your target audience’s JTBD in mind when trying to understand search intent, you’ll need more insights.
And the auto-built clusters of queries around keyword types on WriterZen’s Keyword Explorer lets you do that in 3 steps:
Click on “Show ideas” on any cluster,
Find queries your target audience would likely use, and
Click on the query for more insights, including SERP data:
3. Use an Advanced Keyword Search Intent Tool
After nailing the top-level keyword type, say, an informational one, like “why,” you can still dig deeper to uncover the intent. And this involves using an advanced search intent tool, Wildcard.
The Wildcard search is unique and involves using an asterisk (*) to reveal (usually unknown) intents associated with a keyword.
Say you wanted to know the additional intents associated with apples-related searches. You can find out with WriterZen’s Wildcard research tool.
Here’s what I got:
Creating Content That Aligns with Search Intent Types
It’s one thing to understand the “why” behind keywords.
It’s another ball game aligning content creation. As Brian Dean’s example showed, if you don’t create content with search intent in mind, you’ll not rank high, let alone capture search demand.
Aligning content creation with search intent basically means going Back to Humans’ needs. In other words, create content for the end user, not to tick SEO checklists or please search engine bots.
Here’s how to do that.
1. Analyze What Ranking Articles Are Addressing
Google processes over 5.6 billion searches daily.
Going by this these massive amounts of data, it’s safe to say the tech giant understands search intents more than anyone else. And one way they demonstrate this is by detecting and ranking content with higher click-through rates and longer dwell times:
Based on this, you can detect relevant search intents yours should address by analyzing what top-ranking address. Florian Kluge, the Head of SEO at Nyumi, observed this.
Unfortunately, manually analyzing the top Google SERPs is a thorn in the flesh. Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, aren’t helpful either, as they don’t tell you what the top articles really went deep on.
But WriterZen’s Content Creator makes it a breeze.
Start a project and choose your target keyword. And in the 1st of our 3-step content creation workflow, you’ll see detailed summaries of the intents Google’s top 20 (not just 10) articles addressed:
You can then build a content outline more likely to cover unaddressed intents relevant to your target audience’s needs with this information.
And that brings us to step two.
2. Build Search Intent-Addressing Content Outlines
Your outline should lay the building block of search intents your final draft will address. This means building it from actual queries, not mere assumptions, relevant to your ideal readers.
WriterZen comes in handy.
Scroll to the “Suggest Insights” section, and you’ll find a long list of queries (and intents) related to a keyword:
People Also Ask queries,
Topics people discuss,
Comparisons related to your keyword, and
Direct queries from forums like Reddit:
And here’s the fun part.
Click on any of these search intent-revealing queries, and it’ll be added to your content brief. This makes building an outline aligned to your target audience’s search intent even easier.
See it for yourself:
All these are why content managers rely on WriterZen for the complete workflow required for building intent-addressing content outlines. But don’t take that from us.
Hear it from Natalie I., a Content Manager:
Put Satisfying Search Intent over SEO Tricks
Let’s go back to where we started: Brian Dean.
Once realizing his SEO strategy guide failed to rank because it didn’t address the search intent, he recreated the content to satisfy the intent. And surprisingly, without SEO tricks, Google did the rest.
In Brian’s words:
Here’s the new, intent-matching guide dominating the SERPs:
Backlinko’s story teaches content managers something: Go “Back to Humans” needs. In other words, satisfy your audiences’ needs each time you create content, and you’ll unlock growth.
It makes sense because, ultimately, Google, search engines, and SEO are all means to an end: To reach your target audience. So by satisfying their intent (not Google or SEO) when creating content, you’ll (like Brian Dean) even have Google doing the rest for you.
And WriterZen can help.
From content research to analyzing the SERPs, building intent-addressing outlines, etc., you can count on our complete content creation workflow.