Content Marketing Crystal BallYou know millions of people saw your content. But do you know the answer to the more important question: why did they take the time to read it or watch it?

  • It isn’t because it was widely shared on Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Your SEO program didn’t make then read it.
  • A content promotion program didn’t make it suddenly appealing.
  • Triggered emails gave them a link but didn’t make them click or spend their time with it.

These are ways people find your content, and without them your content marketing would fail.

But these are not the reasons someone chose to spend their time with your content. They don’t tell anything about what someone was hoping to get from your content.

B2B Content Marketing and Understanding Visitor Intent

Particularly for B2B content marketers, understanding the intent behind someone spending time with your content is key to improving your content marketing. Intent is what has made search an effective channel for so many marketers. It is time to bring a similar mindset to your content marketing.

The challenge is that intent often isn’t readily apparent. Search provides a good model. Consider someone searching for “cloud computing.” Their intent could be:

  • Learn about cloud computing for a school paper
  • Find personal cloud computing solutions
  • Understand how businesses are using cloud computing
  • Identify potential cloud vendors
  • Get a list of what to look for in a hybrid cloud provider

It’s difficult to understand intent behind broad keywords, but consider someone searching for “hybrid cloud computing reviews.” The intent behind long-tail specific terms like this is far clearer!

It is very similar with content. Your broad category content, the content that often pulls in the largest audience, gives you very little information on its own about the individual’s intent. Your highly focused, long-tail content provides the most information about intent, yet it reaches only a small audience.

How to Uncover Intent

Here are two ways you can learn more about the intent of visitors, even when someone starts with your broadest content.

1. Link to more focused content
Your best potential prospects won’t read just one high-level piece of content, but you need to give them the opportunity to find the next piece of content through you, not by going back to Google, by linking to your own more granular content for more specific or detailed information throughout your content.

The best potential prospects are looking for information and the links they choose to follow, and those they skip, will give you significantly more information about their intent.

2. Ask what they are looking for
Whatever you do, don’t just add a question to a form in front of your content! Instead, give someone a real reason to share the information. If you create an online tool or experience, where the information is actually used to shape the output and increase the value they receive, you will get far better results.

How to Use Intent In Your Content Marketing

When you create a nurture stream or any other followup communication, it should build on the intent behind the previous content viewed by each individual.

Sure, this requires a buyer’s journey, but it requires more than that. Sometimes it requires followup communication designed specifically to uncover intent. An eBook about what manufacturing will look like in 2025 is stage zero content. It isn’t time for a buyer’s journey, first you need to determine if they are interested at all in the subtopic that is relevant to you!

As you understand more about each individual’s intent, future communication can be specific to the intent indicated by what they have read or watched. Yes, that communication may progress through a buyer’s journey, but more importantly it will build on what each individual is interested in. Just like you do when you talk to someone in person!

In Practice

As marketing automation matures, expect so see new capabilities that allow marketers to uncover intent information and make use of it more readily. Until then, considering intent is a useful way to understand why people may have been interested in your broad topical content and how to determine if they are even interested areas of the industry you serve.

Your Turn

Share your perspective with me on Twitter (@wittlake) or in the comments below!

Photo Credit: katerha via Flickr cc