Why ‘Search Intent’ Should Fuel Your Digital Strategy

In the past, understanding where and how people were looking for health information was enough to formulate strategic digital marketing programs. But things have evolved, and we now need to dive deeper to understand not just what they are searching for but what they are really interested in finding. This is especially true in the health industry where searches are nuanced, and someone’s health and well-being is on the line. It is critical that media buyers and planners and pharma marketers understand the basics of “search intent” and evaluate their advertising partners on their expertise to boost marketing performance.

Healthline’s Senior Director, SEO, Ryan Purtill shares why search intent is so important and takes you behind the scenes to see how successful search marketing delivers on audience needs and creates engaged health content.

The Importance of Search Intent

Search intent refers to the real intent behind what a person is searching for. When setting up a search approach, we now need to go beyond identifying search terms and search volume to understanding search intent. This is important for three reasons:

  • Knowing a person’s intent enables you to narrowly target, by mindset and need, whom you are reaching via search, and to deliver the content that population is actually looking for. When people searching get the answers they are looking for they feel good about the content you provided, view you as a trustworthy source, and will be engaged consumers of your content in the future.
  • Fulfilling on search intent also ensures that users don’t “pogo” (i.e., click the “back” button) to return to Google because the content they landed on does not meet their need. Pogo-ing sends a clear signal to Google that your content isn’t good for a specific query.
  • Over the years, Google has become more and more able to determine the search intent of people, giving higher rankings to pages that fit the search term as well as the search intent of a specific search query. That’s why it’s essential to make sure your search term and related content fits the search intent of your audience.

An Example of Search Intent Driving Page Ranking and User Engagement:

We’ve been experimenting with — and learning about — search intent a lot at Healthline over the last year. Here’s a real example of fulfilling on search intent that we arrived at after a few rounds of trial and error.

About 2,000 people a month are searching “Best drinks for diabetes.” But what is the user really looking for? The best drinks for preventing diabetes? What drinks best regulate blood sugar? Least damaging alcoholic drinks? Where to purchase the best drinks? Specific recipes for drinks? Brand names of drinks?

When you Google it, this is what shows up:

Notice that three of the top five ranking sites also include the worst drinks, or drinks that raise glucose, in addition to the best drinks for diabetes. This highlights what we learned through our process: that although the user typed in “best drinks,” their real intent is to identify both the best and worst drinks for their condition.

Notice how there are no recipes, alcohol content, content about specific brand-name drinks, or purchasing websites ranked at the top. That’s Google clueing us in that those topics are not related to the user’s intent.

When you click through on the first ranking to Healthline.com, you will see this:

Notice that we reaffirm the intent with the headline, “What Can I Drink if I Have Diabetes?,” which is inclusive of both best and worst drinks for them. We found a dramatic decrease in bounce rate on that page when we matched our headline to intent.

We provide the user almost immediately with content about the five drinks that don’t raise blood sugar. We don’t waste time explaining what blood sugar is or the disease itself. The user can quickly get to the information they’re looking for without scanning through fluff.

Once we’ve allowed the user to scan the best and worst drinks, we then dive into each drink with research-backed information and helpful tips.

Best Practices to Pay Off on Search Intent:

Based on our experience navigating how to pay off on “search intent,” here are some best practices that we use to earn and retain a consistent top spot on Google’s results page.

Best Practice #1: Match Title Tag to Intent
Notice how our title tag matches search intent: i.e. “10 Best and Worst Drinks If You Have Diabetes.”

Best Practice #2: Pay Off Intent Quickly
Our listing provides the answer to the query in the description tag (i.e., water, tea, coffee, vegetable juice, low-fat milk). This clean communication drives up CTR and over time sends a quality signal to Google.

Best Practice #3: Match Headline to Intent
Notice that we reaffirm the intent with the headline tag, “What Can I Drink if I Have Diabetes?” A headline of, say, “How Drinks Can Affect Sugar Levels” would represent a broader intent and may cause a reader to exit to find more focused content.

Best Practice #4: Match Content to Intent
We provide links for “Best drinks” and “Worst drinks” right below our headline to get users to dive right in. Our introductory paragraph, “The basics,” is short and to-the-point, quickly followed by the lists of best and worst drinks. We serve intent above the fold, in its own paragraph, so scanning eyes quickly get what they are looking for. This creates a better search experience, which results in better rankings.

Pharma, health, and medical marketers need to realize that no matter who “owns” this function in their organization or agencies, it is critical to recognize the importance of search intent for health information seekers. Deciphering search intent and analyzing results and content performance all open the door to better understanding audience needs, delivering the right content, and helping people live healthier lives. So when you’re choosing publishing or advertising partners, evaluate the players who know how to leverage “search intent” to boost the health of your digital business.

At Healthline, we’ve gotten pretty good at it. That’s why we’re consistently #1 or #2 in health searches. It’s helped us grow by 70% in 2018 and helps us be a proven partner for brands driving audience quality. So come talk to us about how our search expertise can impact your campaigns.

If you’re interested in learning more about search intent or how search can be integrated into your marketing strategy, contact us at insider@newsletter.healthline.com.

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches 90MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, May 2020). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.