As a business or organization you understand the importance of generating traffic from search engines (hopefully). To get that traffic you obviously have to show up in search engines when your potential website visitors are searching using related search terms...that's a given. Because most people understand this concept, they have an idea of what keywords they want to rank for. The problem is that people are often wrong, or maybe just headed in a slightly wrong direction. Their keyword lists are often geared around their specific products or services.
Example: we manufacture OEM automotive brake pads so we want to show up 'car brake pads' when someone searches in Google.
Sure, 'car brake pads' is related to what that manufacturer does, but the traffic generated in Google if/when they rank for that term would probably be full of mechanics and DIY car owners. In reality this particular manufacturer should be reaching other manufacturers or suppliers, not consumers. This is their best buyer.
The keywords you need to rank for should be based more on user intent than just a list of product or service related keywords.
How to Understand User Intent and Apply it to Search Engine Optimization
First things first, if you want to understand user intent you must first understand the user. This absolutely cannot be overlooked. Take the proper steps to define your buyer persona(s). A buyer persona should be a reflection of your best buyer and it should be more detailed than just details of a target demographic.
After you've defined your buyer persona, the next step will drastically help define your best buyer's intent: understand the buyer's journey.
A buyer's journey is the stages that a person goes through when making a decision: awareness, consideration, decision. User intent will vary for each one of these stages and you will likely have a unique journey for each persona.
Awareness: outline problems that your potential customers are having that might lead them to you at some point. They may not know they have a problem yet, so they may be searching for symptoms of that problem.
Consideration: Your buyer has now defined their problem and are committed to solving it. Think about what they may be looking for when they've decided to solve the problems from the awareness stage.
Decision: Your buyer has narrowed it down to a short list and are looking for validation. They'll be looking for material to back up their decisions one way or another.
After you outlined the various avenues of your buyer's journey, you are ready to associate intent with keywords for your search engine optimization strategy.
For each step of the journey, brainstorm what a keywords a person might use when going to a search engine to find answers. By keywords I mean, what would they type into Google for their search. You will have many possibilities and variations, but these are absolutely the keywords you should focus on.
The next step would be to prioritize your keyword list because you cannot focus on all of them and be successful. Determine what content you already have on your website associated with those keywords and what content needs to be created. If you are ranking for a keyword based on user intent, be sure that you can deliver. The content you have or plan to have must be of value to the searcher.
After you've completed this step you are ready to move into the SEO strategy itself. The question is...are you focusing on the right keywords for your business?