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What Is Search Intent? Tools, Examples, and Search Intent Types

By: Brandon Woods — December 27, 2021

Over 3 billion searches are performed every day on Google alone. This impressive volume makes it vital for businesses to optimize their content for search engine rankings. Otherwise, it’s easy to get lost in the vast sea of competition. While search engine optimization once meant using several target keywords with the highest search volume, Google has since been improving its search algorithms, making them both more complex and smarter. Today, search engine algorithms focus on returning the best search results for users according to their search intent.

As a result, understanding search intent and optimizing your content for it can bring you a huge boost in organic traffic, brand awareness, and conversions.

a phone displaying google search results for analytics

There are many keyword research tools and resources that will help you master this concept. This guide will cover the various kinds of search intent, the key ways to optimize it and give you a list of pertinent examples that you can draw from.

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as user search intent, looks at the “why” behind a user’s search. What is their purpose for typing in a certain search query? Is the user hoping to make a purchase or to find a simple answer to a question? There are many different reasons for people to use Google, and the search engine wants to give relevant and high-quality results for all of them. As a result, search intent is a focal point for search engine optimization (SEO).

Furthermore, search intent is very useful for any kind of business online. Whether your business’s goal is to sell products, provide a service, or present valuable information, there is a user that your type of content can target using one or more types of search intent strategies.

What Are the Different Kinds of Search Intent?

Now that you know the search intent definition, it’s important to look at the different types of queries. Each type of search intent reflects a different stage of the customer journey. The four most commonly used types and applicable search intent examples are included below.

Informational Search Intent

Informational searches refer to users who are trying to find certain information. They may type in a question, such as “What is SEO?” Alternatively, users might look up a word or phrase like “travel blog ideas.” Either way, both users want more valuable and useful information on these topics. Informational queries are important for website owners who create informative content, such as blog posts, articles, or e-books.

south africa google search results

Google’s search results for the query “Where is Chile?”

Typical informational intent keywords include:

  • “What is”
  • “How to”
  • “Ways to”
  • “Why does”
  • “Where is”

Navigational Search Intent

A navigational search query describes users looking for a specific website. Navigational searches typically mean users know where they want to go but may not know how to get there. As a result, most navigational intent consists of company or brand names.

Another reason for navigational queries is if users want to go to a certain part of a large website but would rather find it through Google.

facebook support search result

Google’s search results for the query “Facebook support.”

Typical navigational keywords include:

  • [Brand name]
  • [Brand] support
  • [Brand] FAQ
  • [Brand] about us
  • [Brand] history

Commercial Intent

Users with commercial intent are considering making a decision, such as a purchase, but would like to do some more research. For instance, users may have an idea of the product they want to buy but would like to read company or customer reviews to help make their decision.

best dog food search result


Google’s search results for the query “Best dog food.”

If your business sells products or services, you can target commercial intent users by posting guides or demonstrations of your product or service. Keep in mind that many users with commercial intent look for local solutions, so you should implement search intent SEO accordingly.

To do this, you can use local SEO, where you choose high-intent keywords related to the area or city your business is located.

Typical commercial intent keywords include:

  • “Best”
  • “Best [Product] near me”
  • “Top 10”
  • “[Product] reviews”
  • “[Product name] vs. [Product name]

Transactional Intent 

Transactional search intent goes a step further than commercial intent. Here, users are ready to go through with an action, whether buying a product or booking a service. They have all the information they need and want to go directly to the product or service page. Here, using the right keywords is more important than focusing on content.

 

buy iphone search results

Google’s search results for the transactional query “Buy iPhone.”

A typical transactional search term includes:

  • “Buy”
  • “[Product name] price”
  • “[Product name] cheap”
  • “[Product name] deal”
  • “[Product name] discount”

How to Discover Relevant Search Intent

To implement the best search intent content strategies for your business, you’ll first need to do some search intent research. Knowing what’s already working ensures you spend your focus on the right search intent strategy. Here are the most efficient research strategies you could try.

1. Analyze Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

The best way to see what’s working is to go straight to the source: Google. You can see what pages are currently ranking for a search query or specific keyword.

You can identify search intent optimization ideas by looking at:

  • Auto-fill: Google’s auto-fill shows you what users often search for a certain keyword or subject. These auto-fill recommendations give you direct, real-time access to what users are trying to find out.
  • “People also ask/Related searches:” An alternative to the auto-fill research is the “people also ask” or “related searches” boxes that appear after a search. These results can give you further ideas for content on your site.
  • Ads: Lastly, be sure to check out the top ad results. These can give you insight into the keywords that competitors focus on and find success with. Furthermore, you can see which keywords have high transactional or commercial intent, which is useful if you sell products or services on your site.
  • Featured Snippet: The featured snippet is the

2. Use Google Search Intent Tools 

It’s not just the SERPs that make Google so useful for search intent analysis. Google offers several tools that can help you get even more insight into both search intent and impactful keywords.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

The Google Ads Keyword Planner is one of the top tools for finding information on specific keywords, both paid and unpaid. After setting up an account, you can type in a keyword or multiple keywords to see keyword volume, current competitor bids on keywords, suggested keywords, and an estimate of the success you could have with those keywords.

Google Analytics

Google also offers Google Analytics, which helps you research your current website and keyword performance. You can see which of your web pages are getting the most views, clicks, and conversions, letting you know which pages you need to optimize further for search intent and which ones are already doing well.

3. Ask For Direct Feedback

Another option is to get direct feedback from those who matter most — your customers. By sending out a survey or questionnaire via email to your regular customers or website visitors, you can gain a wealth of information to further your search intent comprehension. For example, you can ask how users found your website, what site features they like/would like to see improved, what problems your site solved for them, and what they would like to see in the future from your company.

Alternatively, you can include these surveys as a pop-up on your site if you don’t collect visitors’ contact information, though use these sparingly. Too many popups can make for a much less favorable user experience.

Optimizing Search Intent for Your Business

Now that you have an understanding of search intent and how to research top-ranking pages, you’re ready to create your own content strategy. There are a few key ways you can approach the optimization process:

1. Perform a Content Audit 

Perform a content audit, or a complete review, of your website content to see what you can improve based on keyword intent. Doing this will put you ahead of competitors, as nearly 40% of marketers never make an effort to audit their content for search intent.

To undergo a content audit, do the following:

Categorize Your Web Pages

You can use a spreadsheet like Google Sheets to categorize web pages by search intent. For instance, some pages may have commercial intent, while others are informational. Include the title and URL of each web page.

Define Your Metrics

How you will measure what to audit will depend on the metrics you choose. You can look at factors like bounce rate, click-through rates, page views, unique vs. returning visitors, and conversion rate. Google Analytics can help you gather this information, along with much more.

Analyze and Audit 

Examine the gathered metrics and see which web pages bring you success and which are underperforming. From here, you have several options:

  • Remove content: If a web page doesn’t meet any of your targets, you can consider removing it from your site altogether, or 301 redirect it to a similar, more successful webpage.
  • Move content: If a page has some success but could do with a boost, you can move the content to a more traffic-heavy page. For example, you can include a link to the page on your homepage or another popular landing page.
  • Improve content: Sometimes, improving your content only requires updating older information or deleting any broken links or images. For more in-depth improvement, you can trim down the text or add more visual elements, like images or graphs.
  • Add relevant keywords: Use your keyword research to implement more search-intent-friendly keywords or rewrite the text to fit current search query needs.
  • Look for Content Gaps: Delve deeper into topics you’ve covered before or broaden your content to a wider audience. Analyze what types of content your competitors create and see if you can make something better along those lines.

2. Ensure Your Site Is User-Friendly

Approach the content on your site from a user’s perspective: If you were a searcher and came across your page, would you find it user-friendly? Is it easy to navigate, clear, and trustworthy regarding its intent? For instance, if a user were to click on your web page with informational intent, would they find your information credible, thorough, and informative? Or, if they go onto a page with commercial intent, is it easy for them to find the relevant CTA button they need to perform the desired action?

Incorporating this strategy is particularly useful if you’ve asked for feedback from your potential customers. Consider implementing any suggestions you’ve been given, or emphasize the aspects that make your site successful.

3. Incorporate Proper Formatting and Design 

Lastly, ensure that you have correct formatting to match the specified search intent. Informational intent pages that are long-form articles should have relevant subheadings and be broken up by bullet or numbered lists. After all, users typically spend just 5 seconds looking at a web page before deciding if it’s relevant for them or not. Informational intent pages that are just large walls of text, with no formatting or visual elements, will often lead to high bounce rates.

On the other hand, transactional and commercial intent users are looking for a clear and easy path when deciding to make their purchase. Ensure these web pages are product-centric, consisting of an image or illustration of the product or service with quick and easy points for why they should invest in your business.

Users with navigational intent are looking for brand pages. Make sure your landing pages for your company information or offerings include headers with your brand name, as well as an easy-to-spot logo.

Search Intent: The Takeaway

To succeed on Google and similar search engines, it’s essential to understand the intent behind a user’s search. That way, you can give them the most relevant and useful content possible. This will, in turn, lead you to a wider and more engaged audience, while decreasing bounce rates for your site.

To get started with search intent, determine the intent behind your site. Is it informational, navigational, transactional, or commercial? Once you’ve settled on the user intent, examine your website to see what you can currently offer these users and consider ways you can target them even better. With a mix of the right search intent and keywords, your content can give Google and its searchers the ideal result.


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