SEO, Clutch Report

How to Develop User Intent Through Content Marketing

September 20, 2018

by Grayson Kemper

Content & Editorial Manager, Clutch

People who value content marketing are more likely to purchase a company's products or services. If your business can create content that is optimized for SEO and addresses your customers' concerns and preferences, your customers will engage with it.

Businesses use content marketing to develop user intent, or the chances that customers further research a company and purchase its products or services.

We surveyed 384 consumers of online business content to discover the connection between content marketing and customer purchasing.  

Most consumers value content marketing, which encourages them to purchase from a company.

Content marketing directly impacts 3 key factors that define customers’ buying journey:

  • Value
  • Intent
  • Action

People who value content marketing are more likely to further research and ultimately purchase a company’s products.

Businesses can use this report to learn 3 approaches to producing content that consumers will value and develop their interest in purchasing from your company. 

Our Findings

  • Two-thirds of people (67%) believe content marketing is useful and valuable.
  • The value customers experience from content marketing influences whether they purchase from a company. Over half (55%) are likely to research a company after consuming content marketing, and 86% have at some point purchased a product due to content marketing.
  • One-third of people (33%), however, believe content marketing is biased and unreliable.
  • Consumers who think content marketing is biased and unreliable are less likely to take action after consuming content. Less than half (49%) are motivated to revisit a company’s site or research the benefits of products or services.
  • Nearly three-quarters of people (73%) have purchased a product as a result of content marketing, despite thinking it has no value.
  • Audiences of all ages encounter business content through search engines the most (87%).
  • Baby boomers consume reviews (31%) the most, compared to millennials, who prefer blogs and articles (30%).

Content Marketing Directly Impacts Consumer Behavior

People research and consider purchasing from a company if they value its content marketing.  

More than two-thirds of people (67%) believe content marketing is useful and valuable.

67% of business consumers think content marketing is useful and valuable

The value people experience from content marketing translates to their intent and action as consumers.  

More than half of people who value content marketing (55%) are likely to further research a company, and 42% are likely to purchase from a company.

Content Marketing Value Impact on Consumer Behavior

Using your content to establish the value of your company's products or services with potential customers translates to commercial interest in your company.

“Give value first, and once people get that value, they’ll start looking more into the company itself or researching [your company’s] products,” said Kane Jamison, founder of Content Harmony, a Seattle-based content marketing agency. 

Overall, 86% of people who value content marketing have purchased a product because of content marketing at some point.

People who value content marketing are more likely to make a purchase than people who think content is biased and unreliable. 

Biased Content Marketing Only Slightly Decreases User Intent

Content marketing impacts people's interest in a company's products, even if they don’t value it.

One-third of people (33%) believe content marketing is biased and unreliable, meaning they find it overly promotional and untrustworthy.

33% of business audiences believe content marketing is "biased and unreliable"

Fewer than half of people who think content marketing is biased and unreliable (49%) are likely to research or consider a company’s products.

Put another way, overly promotional content eliminates more than half of potential customers (51%) from researching or considering purchasing from your company.

Even if consumers believe a company’s content is biased, however, it does not wholly deter them from purchasing from the company: Nearly three-quarters of consumers (73%) who think content marketing is unreliable have purchased a company’s products or services as a result of content marketing.

The value customers experience from content marketing, then, is not totally compromised even if the content is promotional. 

People Value Content Marketing That Is Transparent, Accurate, and Unique

Audiences value and engage with high-quality content, even if it has a promotional slant.

The value customers experience from your business’s content depends on a few factors:

  • Transparency: The message and purpose of your content is clearly communicated.
  • Accuracy: Your content is based on factual information and uses trusted sources.
  • Uniqueness: Content discusses and analyzes topics in an original manner, such as introducing new data about your industry.

If your company produces content that people believe is transparent, accurate, and unique, people will value it, even if it is promotional.

“You can get away with promotional content as long as it’s grounded in some fact-based comparisons,” said Derek Gleason, content lead for CXL, a digital optimization and analytics training company. “If [audiences] can see facts to draw out, [the content] will influence a purchasing decision, especially if it’s a case where they can’t find that information elsewhere.”

If you rely on facts to drive your content and present it in a unique way, people will value it.

If you fail to reach audiences’ value thresholds, however, they will notice and lose interest in your content — and your company.

Biased Content Is a Missed Opportunity for Businesses

Businesses that produce biased or overly promotional content marketing that people do not value miss an opportunity to engage and build a relationship with their target customers.

For the most part, customers recognize content marketing. In fact, 86% are confident they can identify content marketing when they encounter it.

86% of business audiences are confident they can identify content marketing

Producing biased content may signal that your business does not view its audience as intelligent consumers, particularly if you try to “hide” your sales message.

“I think audiences can find content marketing biased and unreliable if the content is, in fact, biased and unreliable; audiences aren't stupid,” said Arron Richmond, content manager for High Speed Training, an online training platform. “This is a gigantic missed opportunity because the one thing content marketing should aim to achieve, above all else, is increasing a customer's confidence to buy from you.”

Companies that are not transparent about the promotional intent of their content fail to provide value and establish trust with potential customers.

3 Approaches to Producing Content Marketing That People Value

How can your business create content that customers value and that encourages them to purchase from your company?

Producing successful content requires you to understand customers’ content preferences, the most effective methods to engage them, and how to encourage them to research your company and ultimately purchase your products.

Incorporate the following 3 approaches into your content marketing strategy to provide value for your customers and develop their intent to purchase from your company:

  1. Produce content that directly addresses customer issues and preferences.
  2. Demonstrate your expertise by answering your “core question.”
  3. Optimize your content to rank in search engines.

1. Produce Content That Addresses Customer Concerns and Preferences

People use online content to find solutions to their business issues. So, to engage them, your business should produce content that speaks directly to those issues and concerns.

Content that addresses customers’ interests and provides solutions to their problems produces a positive brand impression, which can encourage people to research your company and purchase your products or services. 

“Intent doesn’t happen daily,” said Jamison. “Not many people are going out on a daily basis and looking for something to buy. They’re looking to fix a problem. The importance of content marketing is making the right consumers aware of your brand, so that when the intent is there, when they do have a problem that your solution can fix, you’ve given them enough value where they think of your brand first.”

"Intent doesn't happen daily. Not many people are going out on a daily basis and looking for something to buy. They're looking to fix a problem." 

Helpful content that provides solutions to issues captures customers' attention. When customers experience a problem, they’ll remember your company as one they trust to provide a solution.

Use Outreach and Keyword Research to Identify Customer Concerns

There are 2 main approaches to determining the issues and concerns of your customers: customer outreach and keyword research.

Insights from these approaches inform the topics you address in your content.

Customer Outreach

The best resource for identifying customer preferences is customers themselves.

The staff at High Speed Training reaches out to current customers to discover the common issues they experience. Based on these insights, they produce content that addresses those concerns.

For example, the company published a blog post about street food hygiene, which corresponds to training courses it offers about food hygiene.

High Speed Training Street Food Blog Post

High Speed Training's blog post is relevant to its readers, given its connection to food safety, and addresses a common concern — street food safety.

Keyword Research

Keyword research provides quantifiable data about topics that interest and engage customers based on their search behavior.

“Keyword research helps discover clients’ questions and concerns, which helps you create content that your customers will actually want to read,” said Chevie Publicover, founder of Siege Digital, a content marketing and SEO company in Alberta, Canada.

If customers are interested enough to search an issue, they likely intend to consume content that addresses their concern.

Keyword research reinforces whether the issues customers express through outreach are serious enough for them to actively look online to address them.

  • Search frequency: How often customers refer to search engines to find solutions to their issues and concerns. 
  • Search trends: Whether the search frequency of target terms increases, decreases, or remains static over time. This allows you to determine whether the issues people search are short-term or consistent over time. 
  • Competition: If keyword volume for a particular topic is high, it is challenging to rank content for that term. 

There are a number of free tools available to research keywords and determine the terms your customers search, notably Google Keyword Planner

Understand Customers’ Content Preferences to Effectively Engage Them

It’s also important to produce content that appeals to your customers’ personal preferences.

People's content preferences vary according to content type and factors such as their age and motivation for engaging with business content online.

For example, 42% of people read business content online to stay informed about industry trends.

In addition, blogs and articles are the most effective means to engage millennials (30%), while older generations prefer reviews (31%) and product descriptions (29%).

Business Content Preferences by Generation

Understanding people's content preferences helps ensure you produce content that your customers will engage with.

For example, only 5% of people consume e-books. Devoting resources to content that people won’t engage with, such as e-books, is an unnecessary investment.  

“If 95% of people aren’t reading [e-books], there’s a pretty strong disconnect with big financial consequence as far as investment,” Gleason said.

Customer issues and their content preferences informs the content you produce and ensures it is designed to engage different segments of your target audience.

2. Demonstrate Your Expertise By Answering Your “Core Question”

Content marketing provides a platform for your company to demonstrate expertise. 

Gleason suggests that businesses find the “core question” they can answer with total authority and structure their content strategy around that topic.

“Find the one core question that you are in the best position to be an expert in and really build out your content marketing based on highlighting that expertise,“ he said.

Having a core topic or focus allows your company to demonstrate its value as the main authority for a particular problem or customer issue.

Use Your “Core Question” as the Center of a Hub-and-Spoke Content Strategy

Your “core question” can serve as the center “hub” content on which you base your entire content strategy.

For example, BuzzSumo, a content analysis software company, produced a comprehensive research report about content trends in 2018.

Buzzsumo Content Trends Report Hub Content

This piece represents “hub” content that addresses a question that BuzzSumo can address with authority – how people interact with content in 2018.

Then, to support this "hub" content, Buzzsumo created complementary, or “spoke,” content that explores content trends from a narrower framework: social shares.

How Content Experts Survive When Social Shares Dive Buzzsumo Spoke Content

This piece addresses a topic featured in the larger report in more detail and also links back to the central report to signal to users and Google that the two are connected.

Through the “hub-and-spoke” content model, then, you can engage both customers who are interested in broader industry trends (long-form report) and customers who are interested in more specific insight or services (how to boost social shares).

3. Optimize Your Content to Rank in Search Engines 

People need to find your content in the first place to experience its value. Investing in SEO helps grow your visibility through search and in turn, increases your exposure to potential customers.

Increasingly, people use search engines to find content that answers their business issues and concerns. Nearly 90% say they frequently encounter business content through search engines.

87% of business audiences find business content through search engines

For example, businesses struggling to partner with the right SEO company may enter the search query, “how to choose SEO services.”

The first result they encounter for this query is a blog post titled “How to Choose a Reliable SEO Company” from Blue Corona, a digital marketing company that offers SEO services.

How to Choose SEO Services SERP

Earning the top result on a search results page is hugely beneficial for your business. It provides a boost to your organic traffic, which, in turn, further shows Google that your piece is a relevant result to display for this search query.

To earn quality search results, you need to study and implement SEO services that signal to Google that your content is relevant and insightful to your customers’ search queries.

Refer to your keyword research to create content that responds directly to the issues customers are searching for online.

For example, Blue Corona’s article speaks directly to this concern posed in the search query, "how to choose SEO services." Customers want to know how to locate a reliable SEO company, so the article is titled, “How to Choose a Reliable SEO Company.”

The piece is also optimized for user experience: it uses bullet points and subject headings that directly relate to the issue posed in the search query.

Content that features a title, formatting, and body content optimized for user intent and experience is considered high-quality, which ultimately improves your search ranking – ensuring your target customers encounter your content through search.

Optimize Your Content Marketing to Develop User Intent

Content marketing impacts whether people decide to purchase from your company. 

Specifically, the value that people experience from content marketing determines whether they research your company and ultimately purchase its products or services.

People who think content marketing is “useful and valuable” are likely to research a company and its products, and nearly all have purchased a product as a result of content marketing.

On the other hand, people who believe content marketing is “biased and unreliable” lose interest in a company. It does not wholly deter them from purchasing, however. If your business produces content that audiences find transparent, accurate, and unique, customers will realize its value.

Businesses that demonstrate their industry expertise by building a content strategy around a “core” question can provide value to customers and encourage them to research your company and purchase your products or services.

Your business can use customer outreach and keyword research to determine customers' preferences and the questions and issues they want answered.

With this insight, you can produce content that addresses customer issues, improve your site’s SEO, and boost the chances your customers will encounter, engage with, and express interest in your company.

About The Survey

Clutch surveyed 384 employees who read business-related content online in the past week to identify the connection between the value they experience from content marketing and their actions as consumers. 

Eighty-five percent (85%) of the respondents were full-time employees; 15% were part-time employees.

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