The State of Search: Unraveling User Intent in Organic Search

Posted by Steve Wanczyk

We often think of our SEO and ORM work as a mix of art and science; the discipline requires both right- and left-brain solutions as we crunch numbers, analyze patterns, and craft original content. Ongoing data analysis is absolutely critical, but in almost every situation, specific context winds up being equally important.

As if to prove this point, a recent study from Ahrefs – an industry-leading data toolset – looked at almost a billion web pages to determine common factors across high-performing sites. One subset of the study was particularly interesting: it found over 30,000 websites which had a high number of backlinks, yet saw very little success in organic search position. Ahrefs wrote these sites off as relying on sub-standard link building, but, by applying a little human intelligence, Search Engine Journal had a different take… despite boasting plenty of backlinks, these sites failed to assess and appeal to user intent.

What does this mean for you?

One way to decipher “user intent” is to take a manual look at Google’s autocomplete options. At REQ, when we look at the kind of content that could or should be associated with an ORM campaign, we consider not just keyword volume and competitive metrics, but Google’s own insight into how related content is consumed (and demanded) by the user. This approach is, in many cases, even more valuable than strictly going by the numbers, because it inspires secondary and tertiary content to help us crack the top ten or twenty. By combining user intent signals with big data takeaways, we’re constantly adjusting our approach to every program.