When defining a Content Strategy for Internet Marketing you need to align Context with User Intent.
A frequent problem I encounter when analyzing a website’s content marketing strategy is that the marketing team is creating content without fully thinking about Context and Intent.
To understand Content Context in its simplest form, let us take a basic one word search query like “apple.”
This search term can be used in two different contexts. 1) apple – the fruit 2) Apple – the company.
We know that search engines like Google understand Content Context because they have Contextual Advertising Networks like Google AdSense that successfully place fruit advertisements on pages dealing with fruit, and laptop advertisements on pages dealing with computers. It would not be effective to advertise Macintosh Laptop Peripherals on a page with an apple pie recipe. Context is important.
Contextual factors also strongly influence the interpretation of a search query and the results that are returned. Contextual search is a form of optimizing Internet search results based on context provided by the user(User Context). Contextual search attempts to increase the precision of search results based on how valuable they are to individual users. Contextualized search coincides with the increasing popularity of using mobile phones when searching, and a user’s search history. The easiest user context to understand is a user’s current location, and how that impacts search results. Think “Local Search.”
That is User Context. Context also includes Content Context. You can think of Content Context as a component of natural language understanding. Search queries like “movie times” and “movie reviews” can be related to a particular topic “movies”. These can be grouped into what are referred to as Context Clusters. This how search engines like Google can return web pages for a search result even though the exact search term does not appear on the page. They understand the context of what is being searched for.
Content Context Clusters can be explained by going back to the example of searching for the word “apple”. A page with words like apple macbook, apple watch, and apple airpods on it probably is not discussing apple the fruit and is more likely discussing Apple the company, and Apple’s products.
When a search engine like Google offers a user search suggestions as they begin typing a query, one or more context clusters may be presented to the user based on a context cluster probability. The context cluster probability is indicative of a probability that at least one query input that belongs to the context cluster will be selected by the user. A list of queries grouped into the context cluster may be presented as options for a query input selection.
As mentioned earlier, a user’s search history can also effect search context and that takes us into the topic of User Intent.
So far we have discussed Context(both User Context, and Content Context). Next, we need to take a look at Intent.
Search Intent seeks to understand the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Are they searching because they want to buy something or read reviews before buying it?
With the Google Hummingbird and Google RankBrain algorithms, the Google search engine can interpret search intent and display results that meet the user’s search intent.
3 Types Of Search Intent
User Search Intent can be categorized in 3 broad areas.
Informational Intent: To know something. The user wants to answer a specific question. These queries will include “how to”, “what is”, “where is”, and “why do”. Content in this category includes tutorials, and introduction articles.
Navigational Intent: To find something. The user wants to find a specific website or location. Examples of these queries are “closest gas station”, or “facebook.” Google Local Search is a great example of how Google is presenting content based on a user’s search intent.
Transactional Intent: To buy something. The user wants to purchase a product. Most keywords that have high commercial intent will fall into this category. Look for keywords like ‘buy’, ‘online store’, and ‘shipping’.
You could also have a 4th category called Commercial Investigation. This is the intent to research something prior to purchasing it. The user may want to purchase a product in the future, but wants to research the product first by reading product reviews or learn more about how a product works. I still lump this into Transactional Intent for content creation strategies as I view it as part of the Consumer Funnel. As users move closer to the actual act of buying, their searches become more precise(less ambiguous) and are easier to optimize content around. These queries include queries with the words “best”, “review”, “top 10”, etc.
How to Optimize Content for Context and Intent
Knowing a bit about Context and Intent can help guide your Content Marketing Strategies. First, try to plan your content creation to satisfy specific user intentions driving their search queries. Understand related keywords and include them in the content so that search engines can determine the context of the content. If the content is on a narrow subject that could be ambiguous or may be searched for using ambiguous search terms, include a broader background of the subject within the article’s content that will help establish the context of the information and include meaningful related terms or phrases within the content that are less ambiguous.
Building upon the earlier example of “apple”, if you are creating an article on apple – the fruit you would include related terms like orchard, tree, and popular varities of apples like Cortland, Fuji, McIntosh. I realize this is an oversimplified example, but hopefully you get the point. I have found that including related words and terms not only helps with context, but helps with SEO.
Knowing about User Intent can further refine your content by dialing in the content to be about common search patterns like “How To Make Apple Pie”, “Where Is The Nearest Apple Store”, “How To Configure Apple TV”, and “Apple iPhone Review.”
When creating content for a “how to” query, structure the content so the H1 tag contains the query, and then put each step of the process in a H2 tag.
Aligning Content Context and Intent is part science, and part art. With time and practice you will get better at it, and naturally start thinking about content creation and content marketing strategies in a way that is optimized to perform better.