Arise personalized content thanks to the power of intent data

In February 2019, Google announced the phasing out of third-party cookies on its search platform – the deadline for which has since been extended from 2022 to 2024 after significant outcry from the marketing community. Google is one of the last but the largest search platforms to still rely on third-party cookies, so an end to this usage could spark major disruption for marketing strategies.

Third-party cookies – never really our cup of tea!

So, what exactly are third-party cookies and what kind of data do they collect?

Third-party cookies are tracking codes that are attached to an internet user when they enter a website. These codes track user activity on the website, such as page views and duration of visit, but also continue to track internet activity after the user has left the initial webpage, gathering information on wider interests and online behaviors. This data is then used to share targeted and personalized ads and content with individual users in order to influence buying patterns.

It’s time for a data re-set

Without this, strategies that rely heavily on third-party data for targeted ads and personalized content could face significant disruption and a decline in B2B sales cycles.

But with changed B2B prospect buying habits and business decision makers searching more online for business solutions, we are seeing an over-saturation of online markets. PR and marketing pros are already finding themselves competing for a smaller piece of brand mental availability real estate.

Targeting high-volume keywords is no longer an effective way of getting content to the top of search engine results pages (SERP). The saturation of content online paired with buyers’ weakened tolerance for irrelevant content means it will simply get lost in ether.

Personalized content is now more important than ever, and without third-party cookies, businesses need to create targeted and personalized content to get their brand noticed.

Herein lies the value of intent data…

Third-party cookies have crumbled: First-party cookies are here to stay!

Yes, third-party cookies are being phased out, but this doesn’t mean all data gathering cookies are gone. First-party cookies are here to stay and are the first port of call for PR and marketing teams looking to gather and leverage intent data.

First-party cookies are an inherent part of websites and gather basic behavioral data on users, such as page navigation, time spent on pages, and how users enter web landing pages. What they do is gather data that represents buyer intent and as such should be a key piece in every marketing professional’s toolkit.

For instance, intent data provides valuable insight into B2B buyers – what interests them, what their pain points and needs are, and which solutions they prefer. PR and marketing professionals can then use intent data to inform marketing strategies and create a more buyer-focused journey before the buyer even reaches the company website. All by using the power of SEO and intent marketing – something the IBA team here are well-versed in!

Intent data fuels powerful SEO strategies

Recent advancements in the use of machine learning technologies along with regular search updates have created increasingly complex search engine algorithms. Compared to earlier simplistic algorithms that predominantly favored keywords, there are now many more factors that influence web ranking – and search intent is one of the most important!

It’s the new Best Practice

Intent-based keyword search is now the new best practice. Search intent has been understood for many years but it wasn’t until the 2015 “Google RankBrain Update” to Google’s algorithm, that put new emphasis on user intent and user relevant content. These two user focused search additions are key to helping marketing professionals nail personalization first time round.

User intent is the reason why people make an online search, and this is why understanding user intent is so important for optimizing SEO.

Give the people what they’re looking for!

Marketers need to segment content with keywords according to user intent to provide the most relevant content to the right person at the right time during the B2B sales cycle.

There are three types of search intent:

  1. Informational

This is where the intent behind the online search is to find information. This could be for news, instructions, tips, and general information. The keywords that denote informational intent are interrogatives such as ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘why’, and other phrases like, ‘how to’ and ‘tips on’.

  1. Transactional

Transactional intent means the purpose of the online search is to conduct an action. This is typically to make a purchase or request a service. The keywords that denote transactional intent are words such as, ‘purchase’, ‘cost’ and ‘hire’.

  1. Navigational

The final type of search intent is navigational, where the searcher is looking for a specific website. The keywords for this usually contain brand names, this could be ‘SAP’ or ‘Salesforce’.

Forget the SEO cheap tricks the sting’s in the tail

To maximize intent-based SEO strategies, long-tail keywords are the most effective to use. For instance, a study by Ahrefs of 1.9 billion keywords found that 29.13% of keywords with 10,001+ monthly searches were made up of three or more words. These might have lower volumes than short-tail keywords but these phrases usually drive higher conversions, as the searcher’s request is more specific so it is easier to match content that is highly relevant to their search intent. For example, rather than simply searching ‘top enterprise technology’, searchers would use a phrase like ‘top enterprise technology for service providers working in the healthcare industry’ to get the most relevant content.

As well as incorporating intent-based keywords, semantics can also contribute to SERP. The Google algorithm doesn’t just look at keywords but also looks at the content of the webpage as a whole and will use other words on the page to determine what the content is about and whether it suits the intent of the searcher. Here is where content creation comes in. Marketers can leverage words and phrases within the body of their content to help the algorithm better understand the nature of their content and how this relates to search intent. If the keyword is ‘cloud’, for example, you will want to include other words that highlight the relation to cloud technology rather than the weather such as, computing, integration, data, business agility and cybersecurity.

Intent data is the most important data in successful content marketing

Intent data helps businesses to understand what their buyer’s want, what their pain points are, and what they are interested in – and use this to create content that addresses these pain points that’s laced with intent-based keywords and phrases to help the Google algorithm put your content in front of your target audience.

But at the moment, only 25% of B2B businesses leverage intent data. Surely targeting the right people at the right time with the right content far outweighs display and banner advertising?

Thought leadership is the best content for the job. Offering useful information in long-format makes it ideal content to load with long-tail keywords and tailor to specific types of intent.

As we’ve said before, SEO without content marketing is like a body without a soul – you need both to build brand recognition. Intent marketers can align content and SEO with buyer intent to grab and hold the limited attention of the web user by directly addressing their business issues and needs.

Elizabeth Quinlan is PR Executive at IBA International.

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