Will User Intent Replace The Conversion Funnel?

Getting a conversion, no matter how minor it might be, is your goal. If you focus on user intent and provide an experience that matches that intent, specifically,...

How do you consume information these days?

TV is still hugely popular primarily because of the advent of new technologies including flat panel LCD, OLED and DLP not to mention, Smart TV. Yet, media consumption via other devices has now surpassed traditional TV viewing for many consumers.

“Nielsen’s latest Total Audience Report … showed adults in the US spent an average of four hours 55 minutes watching live TV in Q1 2015, compared to five hours 11 minutes in the same period of 2013. That’s a decline of 16 minutes daily viewing in just two years,” according to TheMediaBriefing.


Photo: The Total Audience Report: Q1 2015; Source: Nielsen
Photo: The Total Audience Report: Q1 2015; Source: Nielsen

The decline can be attributed to a lot of factors. “The Internet, mobile devices, TiVo, Netflix and other streaming services, and other major disruptions to traditional TV and home entertainment mediums (Forbes)” have continued to rise.

Part of this is pure convenience.

If we are not home when the news is on, we can get it on the web; if we miss a show, we can stream it. But the web has become our number one information source. In the digital marketing world, this is called user intent, and it is rapidly becoming the most important factor in digital marketing and ultimately securing conversions.


A Closer Look at User Intent

Photo: The Customer Journey to Online Purchase – Think with Google
Photo: The Customer Journey to Online Purchase – Think with Google

User intent describes what a user is looking for when they conduct a search query. This goes beyond the superficial idea of “keywords.” Keywords are just that — words, and they are nearly passé in the age of semantic search and highly developed algorithms (Crazy Egg).” Essentially, an online user conducts a search with one of three intentions:


  • Informational

  • Navigational

  • Transactional


Let’s look at each intent through the lens of an online pet store owner.


Informational Intent

When someone searches for “most popular dog names” their intent is clear – just a list of names. If I, as a pet store owner, have discovered that this a frequently searched long-tail keyword term, then my SEO strategy will include tactics to develop that list, put it on a landing page, and use that keyword term moving forward. I will not, however, try to sell that user anything upon arrival at the landing or blog post; instead I may offer a CTA, such as:


  • subscribe to our email newsletter to receive updates,

  • participate in our contest to name this cute pooch (with picture of said pooch, of course) or,

  • an invitation to share the contest with friends on Facebook to enter to win a $10 gift certificate if their name is chosen.


2. Navigational Intent

This happens when someone searches for my pet store, specifically. That person is interested in something I have, but I don’t know what. If they have typed a keyword phrase in the search box at my pet blog, then obviously that is where they will land. But if they have landed on my home page, I will have to be certain that I have an attraction that will keep them there while they “look around.”

Maybe they are trying to price items or just see if I have a specific item. They may not be ready to buy anything, but it is important that I have some compelling stuff for them (e.g., a discount, a free pet care e-guide, or a shareable story of a puppy saved by an organization I support. If I have the right analytics in place I can learn where they go, too.


3. Transactional Intent

This occurs when someone has searched for a specific item, maybe even using the word “buy” in their search term. These individuals should have immediate access to a big search bar on my website to type in the item or a catalog page that features the item.

I can still offer incentives to purchase. During the online purchase process, I can gather more information, an email address at the very minimum, a full name and additional customer details if I do it right.


User Intent as a Driving Force

User intent should drive your marketing strategies. Bringing everyone to the same landing page from a special incentive advertised on Facebook is one thing. Bringing everyone to the same landing page when their intents are different, is quite another.

If I am searching online for popular pet names, I don’t want to have to search more after I land. Here are the things that you can do to honor user intent and get more conversions:


1. Identify search queries.

You can use Google Webmaster Tools and conduct a traffic search by queries. You
will receive a list of terms that are most frequently used and result in online visits.


2. Categorize queries by intent.

Identify each query as informational, navigational or transactional. Devise search engine results pages (SERP’s) related to the most popular terms. For instance, if someone is searching for “most popular dog names,” my SERP should be something like “Top 100 Popular Dog Names Of 2015.” A SERP for a navigational search should bring up my website with a great title such as “Pet Supplies and Free Information on all Things Pet-Related.”


3. Design targeted landing pages.

Create separate landing pages for user intents, especially for informational (e.g. a blog post) and for transactional intents. If a user wants dog collars, that is where that user should land.


4. Dig deeper.

Consider what else the user may want based upon the intent and offer it – in most instances it will be an incentive in exchange for an email address. Sometimes it may be a free download or webinar.

Getting a conversion, no matter how minor it might be, is your goal. If you focus on user intent and provide an experience that matches that intent, specifically, you’ll achieve your goal far more often.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Alice Calch, writing on behalf of Essay Thinker,  is a passionate traveler, writer and educator interested in self-development and business issues. She writes for her own blog and works as a consultant. Back in the day, she was an athlete, so she knows perfectly where her goal is and how to achieve it. Connect with @alicecalch on Twitter.


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