Attracting new customers is tough, especially on the internet. Run a search on Google or Bing and you’re sure to find hundreds of blog posts and how-tos selling fancy platforms guaranteed to grow your customer base. And in fact, if you were to read one of these blog posts, you might actually discover that you’ve already answered your own question: write a blog. After all, if it works for all these companies why shouldn’t it work for yours. So you write a few posts with killer topics trending in your industry, sit back, and wait for the crowds to roll in. But nothing happens and ultimately you’re left wondering if you even know what you’re doing, or what you’re doing wrong. Enter search intent.
Producing content, let alone good content, is no easy feat. It can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing or even why you’re doing it in the first place. This is even more difficult when you consider that potential customers that come to you online are completely anonymous: no face, no name, nothing. So to write content that appeals to these anonymous customers becomes an impossibility if you don’t understand concepts like search intent, the marketing funnel, and purchasing timelines.
If you’re familiar with any of our marketing strategies here at West County Net, you know we are big, BIG fans of content creation. Content is king for a reason. And we believe that content-centric strategies are the easiest, most-sound paths to building solid industry authority and improving search engine request position (SERP) rankings. Before any of our content creators start drafting blog posts for our clients, the first step is always understanding who is looking for this content, why they’re looking for it, and what they’re hoping to get out of it, i.e. search intent. And having a solid grasp of search intent not only helps us identify potential customers, but also helps us write better content in general.
So without further ado, let’s explore search intent and why it’s necessary to a quality content-creation strategy.
What is search intent?
The simple definition of search intent, is that it’s the way we describe the purpose of an online search; it’s the reason why someone is searching for what they are searching for. For example, someone searching for the “best chocolate chip cookie recipe” is likely looking for a recipe to use immediately or in the near future. They either don’t know how to bake chocolate chip cookies, or they want to know a better way. Moreover, it’s highly unlikely someone searching for a “recipe” is looking to buy cookies or find a local bakery. These are the nuances of search intent: figuring out or anticipating why someone is searching for something and writing content that specifically appeals to their situation.
Types of search intent
Mind you, yes search intent is broadly defined as the reason why someone is searching for something. However, there are different types of search intent and they lead to very different kinds of results.
“Know” searches are perhaps the most well known and obvious type. They are inherently informative or educational. Someone wants to know the answer to a question. This could be “what is the optimal season for bass fishing” or “how old is David Attenborough” or “when does BART stop running on weekends”. This person wants to “know” something.
“Go” searches on the other hand are navigational searches. Someone is searching for a website or brand or destination. “Amazon website.” “Amazon app.” Would it surprise you to know that the top searched term on Bing worldwide is in fact “Google”? This person is trying to “go” somewhere.
“Do” searches are the final type of search. These searches are inherently transactions or commercial: someone either wants to buy something or contract a service. “Tickets to the new Batman movie.” “Buy running shoes.” “Coffee shop near me.” This person is determined to “do” something.
Search Intent and the Marketing Funnel
Now we understand the basic principles of search intent, different types of searches, and why someone searches the way they do. So now let’s frame those same principles within the concept of the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel outlines a customer’s journey with you from the initial stages of discovering your business to becoming a loyal customer. Over the years, the funnel has changed and grown to include more stages, but the four main stages remain: awareness, consideration, conversion, and retention. So how does search intent apply to these four funnel stages? Let’s take a look!
In the awareness stage, prospective customers are aware of a problem as well as possible solutions. You can easily see that “know” searches are specific to this part of the funnel. The prospect has a question and you have an answer. This is your opportunity to introduce your brand or service and how it solves the prospect’s problem. We also call this the discovery phase because prospects “discover” your business through informational or educational search queries.
Ex. What is LASIK laser eye surgery? What are the benefits of LASIK laser eye surgery?
At this stage, your content strategy should be to appeal to prospects and make them respective to future interactions. You don’t want to start pushing for your brand just yet, as this can turn away potential customers. Instead, build rapport with visitors and establish your expertise. Become their destination for answering questions about your industry.
Once prospective customers become “aware” of your product or service, they move into the “consideration” part of the funnel. Here, prospects either show interest or disinterest in your business. At this stage, “know”, “do”, and “go” searches all apply because the prospect is thinking about whether or not to proceed with a purchase. So they may want to “know” the answer to related questions, they may search for specific things you “do” at your business, and they may simply want to “go” to your business website for more general information. They are “considering” your business as the solution to their problem.
Ex. Cost of LASIK laser eye surgery; LASIK laser eye surgery near me; LASIK laser eye surgery center
You start advocating the benefits of your brand over other options at the “consideration” stage. Prospects will be actively comparing you to your competitors and your goal should be to convince them you are better than the rest. Advocate for yourself and flaunt your great business reviews and customer testimonials. Show potential customers that choosing you is the smartest and easiest decision.
After the “consideration” stage, prospects move into the “conversion” stage of the marketing funnel. The prospect has made a decision to purchase. Obviously, this is where “do” searches come into play most frequently. The prospect has a clear idea of what they want to “do” and it’s in your best interest to make the purchasing process as seamless as possible. Your goal is to “convert” them.
Ex. Schedule LASIK laser eye surgery; Appointments for LASIK laser eye surgery
Content-creation is less important during the “conversion” stage than the “awareness” and “consideration” stages, although there are certainly opportunities. The best strategy is to simplify the purchasing process as much as possible. However, you can take this moment to explain how easy it is to schedule an appointment today or customize a new product.
The “retention” stage is the last but most crucial part of the customer’s journey. It’s at this stage that you have the opportunity to transform a one-time customer into a loyal customer who will repeat business with you over your competitors. This is where “go” searches become very important. You want customers to search for your brand or business rather than return to the top of the funnel with a new “know” search. This expedits the customer journey and reduces the risk of buying.
Ex. LaserVue Eye Center
During the “retention” phase of the funnel, content should be written to instill loyalty and advocacy. Give customers a reason to come back rather than find a new business. Send them insider tips through a newsletter subscription service. Start a loyalty program with regular sales and discounts. Share user-generated content (UCG) on your social media channels to instill a sense of community and belonging. Get customers to associate your business with a brand or service so closely that they automatically think of you first for new problems or questions.
Search Intent Motivated Content-Creation
Search intent helps you understand where customers are in the purchasing journey, and more importantly, helps you to create content that moves them from one stage to the next. Good content creation will not focus on one stage of the funnel, just “awareness” or just “conversion”, but all stages. And great content will build on top of each other so that, in theory, you can move a customer from prospect to returning without navigating away from your website. In other words, your content strategy should follow the customer journey and have a response for them wherever they land in the funnel and whatever their search intent.
As we mentioned before, writing content alone is already difficult. Writing great content can seem like a massive undertaking especially now that you understand the nuances of search intent, the marketing funnel, and the customer purchasing journey. Rather than go it alone, team up with the content creation specialists at West County Net. We already know the ins-and-outs of content creation, so you can trust us to write compelling pieces sure to incite, engage, and convince.