When searching for things online, consumers always have a result in mind, but their search terms may be vague. This is creating a problem for brands, as their websites and results have been created with specific questions in mind, but this now no longer captures the intent behind the searches that consumers make. Luckily, there is a solution: Intent marketing. Jon Buss, UK MD at Yext, explores how brands can successfully implement intent marketing through data.
In a world of warring brands, deluges of data, misinformation and an ever-growing number of platforms and brands, consumers are stuck right at the heart of it. Where in the past consumers could rely on a quick Google search to bring them the information they needed, this crowded online space is making it harder than ever to find useful answers. With 3.5 billion Google searches being made every day, it’s important that consumers are guided in the right direction and can rely on the information they receive.
And this changing landscape extends to the ways we purchase things; consumers no longer follow a predictable or straight path to making a purchase. Instead they increasingly turn to their devices to get instant answers, searching for exactly what they want — and they expect brands to be able to provide it. In fact, an estimated 90% of consumers report using search at every stage of their customer lifecycle, and 50% of searches contain four or more words.
But buried within these search terms and results is something that’s crucial for brands to grasp hold of and understand: customer intent. Consumers express intent in their search behaviour billions of times each day — particularly in the highly specific queries they’re now making more often. Each time they make these searches, they are expressing intent.
But what does this mean for brands, and how do they reach customers in ways that address their intent? Thankfully, there’s an answer: intent marketing.
Introducing intent marketing
Intent marketing is the practice of marketing a product or service based on a consumer’s intent to make a purchase decision, as demonstrated by their actions. Put simply, it’s about marketing to individuals whose behaviour dictates that they are more likely to take a certain action or make a certain purchase. For example, the idea behind intent marketing is that searching for “car repair near me” is a better predictor of intent to get a car repair than simply knowing a customer has purchased a car in the past.
Understanding when someone is taking an action that expresses a strong intent to transact with a business is key. It empowers brands to focus on the right customers and reach them at the moment they’re most likely to make a purchase. Intent marketing helps businesses maximise spend by driving more conversions than they would with more general tactics like demographic-based targeting alone.
But how can brands successfully implement intent marketing?
Implementing intention-based marketing
There are two key ways for brands to begin using data to understand intention and successfully market towards it. Firstly, understanding high-intent keywords is a critical element of building an intent marketing strategy.
The fundamental principle behind this is that there are three forms search terms can take, each of which reveals important moments in the customer journey. Navigational searches reveal an intent to reach a particular page on a business’s site, while informational searches intend to acquire information from a business. Finally, transactional searches indicate an intent to buy.
The key to understanding the intent behind a search is through high-intent search terms. For example, a customer searching “buy car insurance” is likely looking to purchase insurance in the near future, while a user searching for “what kind of car insurance do I need?” probably needs to dig around a little more before buying. Terms such as ‘buy’, ‘visit’ and ‘purchase’ signify an intent to buy — as do searches that include the phrases ‘near me’ or ‘driving directions’.
On the other hand, keywords and phrases containing terms like how to, tips and guide imply the need for informational content, like a blog post or in-depth infographic on a topic relevant to your industry.
Crucially, this information will help brands to understand what kind of high-intent searches its customers are making, and to prioritise targeting them with the right type of content — whether that’s an informational blog post or surfacing in search results with a landing page where they can make a purchase.
Data that delivers
Finally, once a brand knows which consumers it is targeting, it needs to ensure it’s sharing useful content that spurs on the next stage of the customer journey. If a consumer with a clear intent to purchase isn’t directed to a store page, they will simply move on to another brand. At such a crucial late stage in the customer journey, brands cannot afford to lose out at the last hurdle.
Having a presence in search results is simply the first step, but brands must create specific, structured content for these different intent searches, helping customers find a business at the moment of highest intent.
Ultimately, if businesses can incorporate data to better understand consumer intent and then align marketing to business outcomes, they can reach customers in the moments that matter — and drive sales as a result.
By Jon Buss