You can put in hours and hours into researching and creating amazing articles on various topics only to miss the search intent and have your content get stuck on page 10 of SERPs.
It's critical to identify search intent for every keyword or topic you want to cover.
In this article, I will focus on the informational search intent and how to optimize for it.
What is search intent?
Search intent aka user intent aka keyword intent is the reason behind the search.
It's funny how such a simple concept can absolutely stop a piece of content dead in its tracks if you get it wrong.
How does this happen?
Well, if you miss the search intent, you're not providing searchers with information they are looking for.
Google doesn't unilaterally decide what the search intent behind searches is, by the way.
The algorithm tests the content out to decide where to place it in the SERPs and, based on users' actions, it comes to a decision whether that content is useful or not.
I've used this analogy before, but a good example of missing search intent would be if you asked me "What's the time, Tomislav?" and I replied "Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an apparently irreversible succession" instead of simply replying "It's 6:45, Bob."
Even though it's interesting to know what time is from the physics standpoint, my reply would have been entirely useless to you.
Because I missed the search intent so much, Google couldn't let my content anywhere near the top of the SERPs.
That's how severe missing search intent can be.
There are four types of search intent:
To find out more about search intent in general, check out my article on the topic.
The rest of this article will focus on informational search intent and how to optimize for it.
What is informational search intent?
Informational search intent is to find information on a topic.
In their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google refers to informational search intent as "Know" user intent.
Google also makes a distinction between "Know" and "Know Simple" queries.
Know Simple queries are questions to which there are short, straightforward answers like facts, diagrams, short lists of items, etc.
Basically, anything that can be objectively answered in 1-2 sentences is a Know Simple query.
Every other informational query Google classifies as a Know query.
Here are a few examples of Know Simple and Know queries including explanations.
The reason why I'm mentioning all this is because it clearly shows Google is trying to read search intent as best as possible.
Now that algorithms have become sophisticated and understand nuances of language a lot better, search intent is becoming a new frontier for them.
How to leverage informational search intent for your content marketing efforts
Informational content is the backbone of content marketing.
It requires getting into the trenches and grinding out content pieces that provide value and connect your audience with solutions to their problems.
Benefits of creating content that caters to informational search intent:
- Increased traffic to your domain – useful content that nails the informational search intent gets eyeballs on your pages
- More pages and keywords on your domain indexed by Google – more content indexed by Google equals more visibility in the SERPs
- Increased Average Session Duration and Dwell Time – informational content is fantastic for keeping your audience engaged on your pages for longer which positively impacts many SEO metrics
- More backlinks pointing to your content – your peers will not link to your sales-oriented pages, but they will link to your informational content if it provides value
- Brand building and increased brand awareness – helping your audience solve their problems creates a perfect atmosphere for brand building
- Building trust and relationships with your audience – when you provide value through informational content without trying to sell to your audience, they trust you more
The value-driven nature of content that caters to informational search intent lines up perfectly with content marketing.
They fit together like hand in glove.
If you're looking for a more in-depth take on benefits of optimizing content around search intent, check out my article on the topic.
How to optimize your content for informational search intent
Optimizing your content for informational search intent comes down to providing as much value as possible.
There's so much content out there these days.
Millions of articles get published every day.
Content relevance means creating content that solves specific problems for specific segments of your audience.
Vanilla content that's supposed to be relevant for large segments of your audience usually ends up being relevant to no one.
Creating comprehensive content means providing your audience with everything they need to know to solve their problem.
On top of relevance and comprehensiveness, you have to pay attention to the best practices of SEO.
I'm not a fan of the uber-ninja SEO tactics that require a lot of time to accomplish marginally better results, but I do love the 80:20 approach to SEO.
This basically means accomplishing 80% of the results by doing 20% of the work.
80:20 approach to SEO means:
- Doing your keyword research
- Creating relevant and comprehensive content
- Optimizing your titles and meta tags
- Interlinking your content
- Raising your domain's backlink profile
- Including relevant images and videos
- Having a mobile-friendly website
- Having a consistent publishing schedule
This might seem like a long list, but when you get into the habit of routinely taking care of the basics, SEO won't take an extraordinary amount of your time and effort.
How to optimize your content for Featured Snippets and People Also Ask section
When you see a Featured Snippet and People Also Ask section, it's another dead giveaway that you're dealing with an informational query.
These features are Google's way of trying to keep searchers on Google for as long as possible.
Featured Snippets lost some of their appeal after a change in early 2020 that meant if your content occupies the featured snippet spot, it can't appear on page one for the second time.
Before this page, every content creator was targeting the featured snippet because you could end up getting the featured snipped AND the rank one spot.
Even though featured snippets aren't as sought after since this update, they're still not a bad deal if you get them.
Especially if the rank one position is unobtainable for your piece of content.
In other words, it's much better to get the featured snippet than rank 7 on the first page.
To target the featured snippet spot, try providing concise and useful answers to questions.
The same applies to targeting the People Also Ask section.
If you can write the best paragraph-long answers to questions that appear in the People Also Ask section, your content stands a chance of being featured.
Best content types that cater to informational search intent
Great content comes in a lot of shapes and sizes.
It's a good idea to take everything with a grain of salt when you're taking someone's advice about which types of content to create.
The real answer is to create the types of content that provide the most amount of value to your audience.
Having said that, here are some content types that typically do well when it comes to informational queries:
- Videos – especially valuable when you're dependent on the visuals to provide the most value
- Blog posts – How to, Where, What, Why, Guides, Tutorials, Lists, Reviews, etc.
- Case studies – demonstrate your expertise by sharing your results in a case study
- Success stories and cautionary tales – both do extremely well and are very relatable content types
- Infographics – an alternative way for your audience to consume your content and a great tool for earning backlinks
If you want to know more about the best content marketing types and how to repurpose them, check out my article on the topic here.
Free tools that can help you discover informational search queries around your topics
As I've mentioned before, informational content is all about providing value and answering questions your audience might have.
Sometimes, you're going to find yourself in need of a little help coming up with angles from which to cover topics.
And because comprehensiveness is a very important ranking factor, it's a good idea to seek that help out anywhere you can.
Luckily, there are free options that serve this data to you on a silver platter.
Some of the free tools and techniques that can help you discover informational search queries around your topics are:
- Google's People Also Ask section – simply Google your keyword or topic and you'll find a ton of related questions that people are typing into Google in the PAA section.
- Google's Related Searches section – same concept as PAA, only provides related suggestions in the form of keywords rather than questions.
- AnswerThePublic – a fantastic free tool that pulls questions and keywords from Google and Bing and sorts them out in a few categories before displaying them for your consumption. If you need an in-depth guide on how to use AnswerThePublic, check out my article on the topic.
- Keyword Sheeter – a free keyword research tool that pulls a ton of related keywords and helps you identify topic opportunities to provide value to your audience.
- Competitive research – type in your keyword or topic into Google and open every first-page result (other than ads) and see how comprehensively your competition covered the topic. Identify the content gaps and make your content better than what is already out there.
Informational search intent is a very important concept to grasp.
Figuring out what information your audience needs and in what way is the first step towards creating great content that gets eyeballs on your pages.
Google also knows this and is on a mission to provide users with only the most useful answers to their queries.
This perfectly lines up with what you're trying to do as a content marketer anyway.
I'd love to know if this article brought you value so feel free to drop a comment!