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3 User-Centric Content Optimization Tactics You are Not Using But Should Be

A user-centric content optimization strategy is the one that puts your target customer or reader in the main focus.

It would seem weird this strategy even exists… After all, shouldn’t any content marketing strategy be centered around your target customers?

Sadly, it’s usually not the case…

Historically, there are 2 groups of content marketers:

  • Those who write content and never really care to know how it’s going to perform in (Google’s) search results
  • Those who consider themselves search engine optimization experts and create content for search engines rather than people. They focus on keyword research, domain authority, and Google’s positions.

These two groups seldom overlap, bringing in a huge gap in marketing possibilities.

The thing is, you can please both—people and search engines—and that’s where the user-centric content optimization strategy comes into play.

Here are 3 tactics (and tools) to optimize your content for search engines while prioritizing your audience:

1. Analyze User’s On-Site Search Behavior

Traditionally, keyword research involves utilizing third-party tools that generate keyword suggestions based on your core term. While this method is very helpful for topic research and ideation, it’s not the only source of data that a content creator has to be using. Traditional keyword analysis has 2 huge drawbacks:

  • Your competitors have access to exactly the same amount of data as you do. They can use the same tools and come up with the same ideas.
  • The data is limited. Google has taken steps to ensure keyword data remains hidden for the public. Third-party data platforms like SEMrush and Ahrefs—while being extremely helpful tools—only access a glimpse of the information Google knows. And private data content marketers used to have access to (i.e., search queries that actually send traffic) have been hidden ever since Google Analytics locked it behind “not-provided” value. While there are ways to still know which search queries seem to work well for you, it’s only the tip of an iceberg.

Additionally, traditional keyword research is not as user-centric as we would like it to be. We don’t really know the searching patterns behind those queries, or what drove people to type them in the search box.

Yet, content marketers have a powerful tool at their disposal that they seldom use for whatever reason—their own “site internal search”.

It has been found that at least 30% of people landing on your site would use an internal search to navigate further. That third of your existing audience is also the most motivated and action-driven part, as they tend to convert 5 to 6 times better.

Why wouldn’t you listen to this highly engaged portion of your audience?

Monitoring your on-site search statistics offers you access to data no one else has. It is invaluable in understanding your customers better, what they are struggling with, and what they are really after.

Adding on-site search functionality can be as easy as installing a plugin. But if you are really serious about making it right, consider AddSearch instead, which is a comprehensive on-site solution offering you access to:

  • Your internal site search popular keywords to act on. For example, it alerts you of keywords that return no results for you to build them into your content strategy
  • Your internal site search no-click keywords. These are site searches that are likely to produce irrelevant results sending many of your dedicated users off the site in search of answers elsewhere.
AddSearch for content optimization of on website search

(RELATED: How to Rescue Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy)

How to Use This Data?

Obviously, you need to create content based on your site search users’ behaviors and engagement with the search results.

On top of that, if you choose to give AddSearch a try, you can cover more possibilities thanks to their new personalization feature:

  • Personalize search suggestions and results based on the user’s previous searching patterns to give them exactly what they need quicker
  • Create detailed customer personas to better align your content marketing strategy to the needs of your target customers:
Examples of customer personas to use for content optimization: vegetarian, meat lover, celiac

2. Optimize Your Content for Search Intent

SEO-oriented content marketers tend to get fixated on keyword optimization, forgetting one of the most important questions out there:

Why would a user search for that?

In fact, the searcher’s intent is a very old notion which re-appeared in the SEO spotlight only a couple of years ago when Google announced the introduction of Google’s Hummingbird update. The update would learn to “understand user’s intent to deliver more relevant results and better answers.”

While search intent has been actively discussed ever since, few to no content marketers really went from talking to implementing it in their strategies.

After all, if I build my content around the search query, isn’t it safe to say that I have search intent already covered?

Not quite.

Google uses searching patterns and query context to try and see more behind the words in the search box. A few weeks ago, I wrote a detailed article on semantic research giving an example of the [cat missing] query that produced very interesting results allowing us to see how well Google could really understand the query.

Google's auto-fill results for half-moon cat missing

Google obviously knows that the searcher’s intent is to find the cat and its algorithm goes above and beyond to try and help by:

  • Recommending helpful services for missing pets nearby
  • Suggesting to search for the cat in nearby locations
  • Looking on Craigslist for the missing cat
  • Showing queries with tips on how to find a missing pet

Do you see any “articles” within search results?

In fact, there are plenty of news articles announcing cats missing in the area that could match the initial query better; only Google wouldn’t show them.

Google knows you are not up for reading: You need to find the cat and you probably don’t want to read articles of other pets that were lost months or years ago.

(RELATED: The Customer Avatar Worksheet: Finally, Get Clear on WHO You Are Selling To!)

How to Optimize for Search Intent?

The first step would be to search Google and try and find all the clues that could tell you what Google has found helpful to their searchers previously.

Using semantic search analysis tools is essential too. Text Optimizer is a search intent optimization platform that finds related concepts behind queries and guides you through creating a better-fitting context:

Example semantic search analysis results for halfmoon cat missing

Use semantic research tools to go beyond the traditional optimization process and create content or landing pages that fit the search intent better.

3. Analyze Your Return User Behavior

Digital marketers tend to stress about getting new people to the site, often forgetting about a much more valuable audience portion—i.e., people who decided to return to your site.

First-time clickers may be lurkers. Looking at their interactions with your content may be useful, but it’s also incredibly cluttered.

Return visitors are usually back with some kind of purpose. Knowing why they came back and how they continued interacting with your site gives you a goldmine of insight into what you did right and what needs fixing.

(RELATED: What is a Tracking Pixel—Explained in 800 Words or Less)

Google Analytics allows you to see how return users are navigating your site inside their “Behavior Flow” report. To access it:

  • Login to Google analytics and click “Behavior” link in the left-hand sidebar
  • Click “Behavior Flow” link
  • Click + icon on top of the report to add a segment
  • Check the box next to “Return visitors” option
Return user behavior flows report to use for content optimization

How to Use This Report?

Seeing which pages send your return visitors away from your website is helpful, as you can:

Using Finteza, you can also re-engage your return visitors based on their previous interaction with your site. The platform supports two types of goals:

  • Event: A conversion is recorded when a user performs a specified action activity, for example, watched a video, purchased an item, etc.
  • Target page: A conversion is recorded when a user visits a specific page.

Based on the conversion goal you are tracking, you can set up additional goals to re-engage a user that already performed a certain action or visited a specific page. For example, you can invite a user who previously read half of your public guide to opt-in or join your private course that provides further information on the topic:

How to add a goal to re-engage website users

Whether the user lands on the same page he/she previously engaged on or not; they will see a CTA based on their previous behavior on the site. This is a great way to personalize your on-site experience and improve conversions.

On a related note, it is a good idea to use Facebook ads to re-market your products or services to previously engaged users of your site.

Conclusion and Takeaways

  • Using third-party keyword research tools is helpful, but don’t forget to include the data you own, i.e., your own site search. This will give your content marketing strategy a competitive edge as no one else has access to that data
  • Optimizing for keywords is getting old: You need to understand the query in context and optimize for the searcher’s intent. Address problems and give solutions rather than focusing on search queries verbatim
  • Finally, don’t forget about your site return visitors! They already know your site and they come back to your site for a reason. Identify content that seems to drive your loyal return users away from the site and come up with ways to engage your audience better!

Building your content strategy around your audience’s needs will make it much more engaging… which will result in more conversions. Good luck!

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is the Brand manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas as well as the founder of Viral Content Bee. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for over a decade, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Ann is also the frequent speaker at Pubcon and the host of a weekly Twitter chat #vcbuzz.

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