Micro intents and their role in the customer journey
During my Google Core Update analyses, it became clear to me that classifying keywords according to classic search intents is no longer sufficient, as Google is segmenting users’ search intents in an increasingly granular way. This led to the concept of Micro Intents.
What are micro intents?
The concept of micro intents describes subforms of the classic search intents or user intents (transactional, navigational and informational) that are familiar from search engine optimization. The determination of micro intents by analyzing the SERPs allows the derivation of certain types of content that a user expects for a search term. I invinted the concept of micro intents in 2020 during my research and production of my book “Content along the customer journey” (only german).
SERP analyses for Identification of search intent and micro intent
The major search engines, such as Google, are now very good at determining the expectations that a search engine user has with regard to the search results for a particular search query on the basis of user behavior. Is he looking for definitional explanations, instructions or an offer page. Does the user want to see videos, images and/or just short explanations in the form of a featured snippet. The nature of search results provides clear indications of what type of content, content type, and media formats related to the search term are expected by the user. These are valuable clues for content design.
That’s why the first search results page is a goldmine for SEOs and content managers.
SERP analyses are for:
- finding out the search intent and micro intents behind a search query. From this, the purpose/benefit of a content can be derived, which it must fulfill.
- Identifying content types that users want to see when entering a keyword or searching for topics.
- Identification of media formats that users want to see when entering a keyword or searching for topics.
Informational Micro Intents
Micro Intents for an informational search intent can be:
- Entertainment: people want to pass the time and are looking for entertainment. Entertainment can be satisfied by short snackable content such as memes or short video clips, which are mostly consumed and shared directly on the respective social media platform (social content).
- Definition: users looking for basic answers e.g. to the question What is…? What does … mean? How important …? first want to understand what something means in order to develop the context of a topic for themselves and/or decide whether it makes sense to delve deeper into a topic. They are beginners. Wikipedia articles are a typical example of content that fits this micro-intent. Google tries to answer this search intent partly by providing answers directly in the SERPs (e.g. Featured Snippets)
- Expansional: Users who want to go deeper into a topic in their online research need very detailed content that illuminates as many perspectives as possible. The content should describe a topic comprehensively and answer many questions. The so-called holistic landing pages or pillar pages are a sensible approach to serve this search intent. Here, the depth and scope of the content plays a special role, as well as new perspectives that have not been published frequently before.
- Enablement/Empowerment: Users who want to be empowered to do something themselves need concrete instructions. Content designed to serve this search intent should answer step-by-step “How do I…?” questions.
- Aggregation / Overview: Similar to the expansional search intent, the user wants to get a neutral overview of a topic. However, the content here should be kept as concise and clear as possible, e.g. in the form of tables, thematic or random listicles.
Transactional / Commercial Micro-Intents
Micro-intents for a transactional search intent can be:
- Comparison / Orientation: The user is on the way to buying a service of a product or at least shows interest in investing. To get an overview he is looking for the best solution. Ranked listicles, tests or comparisons make sense for this search intent.
- Category / Selection: In this search intent, there is a concrete interest in products and services. The user knows roughly which solution is the right one for him, but is not yet sure which variant of a service or product group is the right one. Classic store category pages or service overview pages are optimal for this search intent. The products and/or services should be the focus of the main content (MC), possibly accompanied by information to simplify the decision for a variant.
- Service / product: The user knows quite exactly what he wants or which solution is the right one for him. He is about to make an inquiry / order and would like to get detailed information about features, price, delivery, delivery costs, guarantees …. Performance detail pages and product detail pages make sense to serve this search intents.
- Brand: In addition to the classic search intent Brand, another Micro Intent can be added. This plays less of a role in the search. It takes into account the user’s need to find out more about the brand or the provider in order to build trust. Typical content types here are testimonials, customer testimonials …
- Support: The user needs service content for the use of an ordered product. User manuals and product-related FAQs make sense as content here.
- Location: the user wants to find a location near or in a place with the intent to visit it.
- Website: The user wants to navigate to a specific area of a website.
The role of micro intents in content journey mapping
It makes sense to include the user’s micro-intents in the content journey mapping in addition to the content type. It makes more sense to include the micro-intents of the users in the content journey mapping. In the following overview graphic, I have grouped the content types according to micro-intents.
There are content types that can be used to satisfy multiple micro intents. The following overview is only intended to explain the principle, but only includes selected typical content types. A more complete grouping then follows in the next chapters broken down by customer journey phase.
In the following, I have grouped different content types according to the customer journey phases. In the end, however, it is not the content type that determines the customer journey phase, but the topic itself or the micro-intent that the content should fulfill. For example, a how-to content can fit into the consideration phase.
If you then combine the topic in different media formats, which have not yet been used frequently for the presentation, it becomes an outstanding production and outstanding content, which only needs to be distributed in a meaningful way.
This way, the different contents can be distributed as different media formats via different distribution channels.
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