If you want to attract more people to your website, you need to understand search intent.
On the surface, search intent is simply a breakdown of what the user intent is for any given search. However, actually using it correctly is another matter entirely.
What is search intent, and what is search intent actually useful for?
Table of Contents
Understanding Search Intent
Search intent is a term that describes the purpose behind an online search.
When users make a search, it carries some search intent – this could be to learn something, to buy something, or for any number of other reasons.
Matching search intent to your target keywords is a vital part of putting the right content in front of the right people at the right time.
Types of Search Intent
In general, search intent is split into four types: informational, commercial, transactional, navigational.
While the specifics of a users’ search intent might still vary based on what they want, most keyword/phrase-based searches are done based on one of these four types, each of which is important to understand.
- Informational intent searches are about being informed. The user is looking for valuable content that explains something and has used that particular query to try and find what they want to know.
- Navigational intent searches want to find a specific website, either by looking the site name up or making searches to try and find a site that they can’t remember the name of.
- Transactional intent searches are the user’s intent to buy. They may or may not be after a specific product, depending on how niche the search keywords are, but they want to buy something and are looking for a product or service that satisfies search intent.
- Commercial intent searches, or commercial investigation, is a delayed transactional intent. Users want to buy something eventually and are looking over their options, looking to learn things similar to informational searches. They want to either find a product that fits their niche needs or want more information on the best products within that niche.
All four of these might be important in different ways. For example, transactional search intent shows a user intent to buy now, whereas navigational intent may show a user intent to look up a site that they have heard about in passing.
We can analyze search intent by looking at the keywords chosen by each user.
For example, something like “how to” or “user’s manual” hints at informational intent, whereas “deals” or “free shipping” can be transactional intent.
Navigational intent would be terms related to the site itself, and commercial intent would be terms focused on comparing different products.
It is important to determine search intent consistently because this becomes a major part of optimizing your content.
If you have not called keyword intent correctly and made a wrong assumption, your content strategy may simply not work.
How to Optimize For Search Intent
In general, if you want successful search engine optimization work done, then you need to match your content to the audience’s search intent.
The user search intent is not just a measurement of their goals; it tells you what they are looking for and why they are using those content-relevant keywords.
If they are people within your target audience, then you need to consider their intent to capture their business.
If somebody is making informational queries about one of your services, you do not want to dump them into product pages. In a similar vein, people with commercial intent want a breakdown of what you offer, not a general FAQ section.
Mastering the art of putting relevant content in the right spots for all four types of search intent can be difficult, but it makes significant differences to your top-ranking pages and overall search engine performance.
Identifying Keyword Intent
Understanding the searcher’s intent is important but not actually all that difficult. The main issue with search intents is having to adapt to the way that your audience searches.
There are various tools that can tell you exactly what your audience is searching for to find your pages, but even once you have that information, you need to interpret it correctly.
Informational intent keywords tend to be queries, usually with an exact keyword about a particular product or niche.
The user wants to find information about at least one specific search term in their search and is more interested in learning than buying.
This could mean terms like:
- How to…
- What is…?
- How do I…?
With navigational search intent keywords, the user is looking for a specific website or page.
This often means that they will use the name of that website if they can remember it, but they end up using other search term additions if they can’t find what they want and have to brute-force the right results.
This could mean terms like:
- [Website/brand name]
Transactional intent searches are for buying, so they will use at least one search term that relates to purchasing.
However, they might also include others, such as the name of a third-party website like Amazon or additional descriptors to narrow down what they are actually looking for.
This could mean terms like:
- Buy [Product name]
- [Colour that they want the item to be]
- Free delivery
- Second hand
Finally, commercial intent searches strike a balance between informational search intent and transactional search intent, using a mixture of both.
This often means queries of informational search intent terms but with a clear focus on comparing them or viewing them through the context of a customer.
This could mean terms like:
- Is [product] safe?
How to Determine Search Intent
Often, it can be a struggle to fully tell apart commercial keywords and transactional keywords or any other keywords linked to specific audience intent.
This is because there can be an annoying amount of overlap, especially if your brand appears in a lot of search queries.
This makes accuracy with search intent important. As mentioned before, mis-understanding search intent can lead to you targeting the wrong audiences or even completely misusing the information you have gathered from those search results.
First and foremost, pay attention to what they are searching for. Keyword search intent data is very easy to gather with the right tools, allowing you to see which search terms are triggering your site to appear and in what contexts.
This can be important for telling informational queries and their informational keywords apart from commercial search intent, even if different groups are using the same targeting keywords to push your site into the search results.
More importantly, make sure that you use some common sense when exploring user searches.
For example, navigational keywords like “local” or “directions to” are almost always going to be navigational queries.
However, if somebody is starting their search with “buy,” that is probably a transactional search intent or a commercial search intent at the very least.
How to Use Search Intent
Intent itself is useful because it tells you what your audience is searching for. This gives you some clear directions on how you can capture their interest and deliver content they actually want to see.
The key thing to note here is that, regardless of whether a user is looking for information or is going to buy something, you want to provide them with content that helps them.
Offering user satisfaction is not just a way to keep a user happy; it is a way to directly get them into your website’s sales funnel or at least make them aware of your brand and products/services. If you can provide content that matches a user’s search, they are far more likely to click on it.
This, naturally, means a lot more traffic – and more traffic can mean more potential customers. This, along with effective search engine optimization in general, makes it much easier to appear in just the right places to dominate results in search engines.
For example, if certain informational keywords are being used often, then there is an obvious informational intent there.
If you create content for search intent results like that and answer whatever questions are being asked, you have effectively created a new landing page.
Why Does Search Intent Benefit Your SEO?
As part of a larger SEO strategy, doing this gives you a good range of ideas on how to produce new content that will draw users and attention to your site.
You are being shown the terms that triggered your site to appear in search results pages, and that makes it much easier to create content that fits those niches.
Whether you are throwing out a blog post related to a specific keyword with a high search volume or creating entire new landing pages to draw in transactional searches, you are helping with your SEO. Not only are you capturing more traffic, but you are doing it with relevant pages that users are finding value in.
Search Intent FAQ
While the types of search intent are tricky to grasp at first, most of the basics are fairly simple once you understand how all of the information works. However, there are some parts of intent that take a little more time to explain.
Does On-Page Search Engine Optimization Matter for Search Intent?
On-page SEO does matter for search intent but in a slightly different way than usual.
Normally, you would use on-page work to boost the chances of your content appearing in search engines for specific search intent.
While this is still true, here, you are sometimes specifically targeting certain queries or topics – meaning that meta descriptions and titles are sometimes more niche and targeted at that particular audience.
Do I Always Need To Create New Pages for New Content?
Updating old content to better suit the kinds of search results those pages appear in can work, as can streamlining your site by answering multiple queries on one page.
However, in some cases, it is worth making a new page simply to avoid putting too much irrelevant information into one place.
How Do I Find Search Engines’ Targeted Audience Search Terms?
Most audience intent information can be gathered using standard SEO tools – Google Analytics, keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, and so on.
Different tools have different ways of displaying search results that trigger your site to appear, so make sure to learn the tools that you have chosen to avoid any confusion.
Remember that there can also be false positives or cases where a user has phrased something badly.
If possible, looking at the higher-search-volume results is the best option because they are the keywords that users are searching for the most – giving you an idea of where the majority are focused.
Final Thoughts – Search Intent as a Marketing Tool
Search intent is useful. It allows you to figure out what your target audience is looking for and gives you an idea of the content you should provide in order to capture their attention.
Everything that a user puts into their search bar influences what pages appear and where, and that is an important thing to remember. Even the slightest change can impact which search results your site appears in and which users will be able to find your content.
By figuring out which content your audience is looking for and matching the content that they actually want to see, you have a direct path to increasing your conversion rates, improving the experience for your target audience, and giving a big boost to your site’s organic traffic.
In the end, this is what search intent is: a way of understanding what your audience wants and matching it with content and links that are most relevant to them. Their intent is the reason that they even made the search in the first place, so providing them with a suitable selection of content is an easy way to get them on your site.
Of course, having to perform keyword research and looking at results from search engines can also be quite confusing at times. Like any marketing technique, there is no guarantee that everything will work quite as planned.
Still, using the correct tools and taking the time to figure out your own strategies will help you out in the long run. User intent is quite a simple idea broken down into a lot of very specific details, and it just takes some time to learn how it all works.
Searcharoo is a Link Building & Content Marketing company run by SEO’s based in the UK.
Our goal from the start has been to provide premium links and content services, at fair and affordable prices.