“Ah, search intent Matt – interesting. Now, what the heck is that?!”
Good question! Though the topic of search intent can get quite complex, I like to think of it in a more simple way: search intent is the reason why a person is searching online.
Let’s take a closer look.
It Starts with Keywords
To get to search intent, you need to start with keywords.
Keywords are the words or phrases that people enter when searching online and keyword research is typically the starting point in search engine optimization (SEO) research.
The theory goes like this: “If a lot of people are searching for this keyword, then I should create content using that keyword so that the search engines index my page and rank it highly for this highly sought-after keyword.”
Now, there’s been a lot of talk about the demotion or even death of keywords lately. And, while it’s true that search engines are starting to move beyond keywords to rank your pages based on the actual contextual meaning of your content, there’s another important role that keywords play: figuring out demand.
Keyword demand is simply the number of times folks have searched using a specific word or phrase. If that number is high, then people are looking for information related to that keyword, a need that can often best be served with content.
Getting Behind the Keywords
However, while you can create a great piece of relevant content using a high-demand keyword phrase, that’s just one piece of content.
The key to coming up with multiple pieces of valuable content for your website is to figure out why folks are searching using a specific keyword.
In other words, their intent.
If you can dig in deep and figure out the reasons why a customer is searching for that information, then you can come up with many ideas for more pieces of valuable content around that central theme.
But just how do you figure out what’s going on in your target customers’ heads?
By building an avatar.
Building an Avatar and Getting into It’s Head
An avatar is simply an imaginary person who shares all the aspects of one of your target customers.
An avatar can have an education level, a career path, a specific job, a certain range of income and much, much more.
The key is that you can picture this person in your head and use them as a basis for research. You can even “ask” an avatar questions in order to figure out its search intent – which is exactly what I do all the time.
Here’s an example:
On my site, www.mattaboutbusiness.com, I wrote a post called, “2 Simple Steps to Find a Manufacturer for Your Product Online”. The post was very well received and even though I wrote it over two years ago, it continues to get significant traffic via search today.
The Matt About Business site is aimed at small business folks who want to learn how to take advantage of the benefits that using the web provides. In this case, I found a very high demand keyword phrase, “how to find a manufacturer”, and used it to create a post on how to use the web to do just that.
Once I saw the traffic that the post was generating, I wanted to write more pieces along the same line. But how would I know in what else the folks who read my post were interested?
First, I built a simple avatar to help me answer my question. Here’s what they looked like:
- Interested in this topic because they have a product idea that they want to bring to market.
- Not an expert at all the steps of getting a physical product to market – while many folks understand retail reselling or providing services, those that understand how to bring a product to market from scratch are much more rare.
- Motivated to research and follow the steps to bring a product idea to market which is why they were searching online.
Next, I spent some time trying to get into my avatar’s head. This process can involve many steps such as online research and live market research, but in this case, since I was simply brainstorming content ideas, I used my favorite approach, the empathetic method.
In other words, I pretended to be my avatar and asked myself the all important question, “Why am I looking for manufacturers for my product online?”
Here’s how the thought process went:
- I have a great product idea that can sell like hotcakes! I want to get it out to the world before someone else does so I can make it big!
- How the heck do I get to the point that I am selling my product to people? I mean, I can’t even glue two sticks of wood together without getting glue in my hair and having to shave it all off!
- Aha! What if I partner with someone who knows all the steps? I’d have to share revenue, but it’s better than not getting the product to market at all!
- Who could I partner with? Who would know what I need to do to get this product made and out to the world? Oh yeah, isn’t that what manufacturers do? Maybe if I find a manufacturer, they will help me walk through all the steps to get my product produced and sold!
- Off to the web where I will search for “how to find a manufacturer”.
So there you have it: the probable thought process that brought most of the folks to my site to read that post. This was their intent when they went online to search.
Next, I needed to do some research to validate what my avatar was thinking.
Coming Up With Content Ideas Based on Your Avatar
As you can see from the thought process above, I believed that folks who read my post thought that finding a manufacturer would be the answer to turning their idea into a product that made them money.
But was this true? And, if not, what was the real case and can I help these folks figure it all out?
Normally I would research this heavily on the web, but I happen to be lucky enough to live next door to a guy who is an expert at bring a product idea to market, my friend Don.
Don and I sat in his kitchen and talked about my avatar.
“First off Matt,” he told me, “You are right on about how people think. They believe that a manufacturer can serve as the perfect partner for someone with a product idea.”
Whew – I nailed that!
“However,” he went on, “The reality could not be further from the truth. 99% of manufacturers want three things: your product specs, the number of units you want produced and where and when you would like them to be shipped.”
Huh. That’s not good. What about all the rest? According to Don, “Bringing a product to market starts with market research, moves on to prototyping and manufacturing process and, if all the stars align (potential demand and competition for a product, price to produce each unit, etc.), then you start looking for a manufacturer.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Don went on, “Once the product is produced, you need to store it and then sell and deliver it, either by shipping or in retail outlets. Then you need to be ready to service your customers if they have questions or problems.”
I thanked Don and walked home thinking, “Wow – there’s a ton more to getting a product idea to market than I and my avatar thought.”
Then I smiled because each and every one of those points was a topic for a different piece of content that I could create – each and every one of which would be valuable to the folks visiting my site.
How About You?
Do you picture your readers in your head when you create content? That’s your avatar!
Have you ever asked those different avatars why they came to read your content? Was their answer what you expected?
How have you used your avatars to come up with content ideas?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!