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October 17, 2022

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent relates to the ‘why’ of a search query.

What motivated a person to enter a particular phrase into Google?  What do they want to achieve?  What’s the purpose behind their search?  There’s always a reason why a person types a specific term into a search engine, and it’s known as ‘search intent’.

Why search intent matters

Google’s only aim is to serve up the most relevant and helpful answers to every searcher’s query.  Everything that the search engine giant does is geared toward meeting its users’ needs and expectations, which means that digital marketers need to follow Google’s lead in terms of prioritising search intent.

This post provides an overview of search intent and gives you practical tips on how to optimise your web pages to maximise opportunities for your business.  You may also want to read my post on why search intent is so important for SEO for another perspective on this important topic.

Search intent can be categorised into four main types, namely:

  1. Informational
  2. Commercial
  3. Transactional
  4. Navigational

Explanation of the four types of search intent

1. Informational search intent

This is when a searcher is looking for general information on a topic.  Informational searches generally cover broad topics and are usually made by people who are in the very early stages of an investigation.

Even though these types of queries are usually fairly wide-ranging (often containing modifiers such as ‘how’, ‘guide’, ‘tips’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc), they do offer business opportunities to create awareness around their offering.

TIP:  Create or optimise high-quality content that has an educational slant (eg ‘how-to’ guides, ‘top tips’, ‘FAQs’ etc).  These will showcase you or your business as an industry expert and build trust and authority among your target audience and in Google’s eyes too.

2. Commercial search intent

A person looking to buy something will enter keywords with a commercial search intent.  Examples of these types of queries often include modifiers such as ‘best’, ‘top’, ‘vs’ and ‘review’ and they’re usually motivated by a consumer wanting more detail about comparative products or services and getting information that will inform their buying decision.

TIP:  You should target commercial search intent keywords in your blogs, product pages, FAQs etc.  Look for opportunities to put your brand in front of a motivated consumer who is looking for a reason to choose a particular offering over another.

3. Transactional search intent

This type of search query will come from a user who is in the starting blocks and ready to buy. They know what they want and the keywords they enter into Google reflect their intention to convert.  They need to find your brand through searches that include modifiers such as ‘buy’, ‘order’ and ‘cheap’. These are the best keywords to include in your SEO as you really want someone to find your website at the exact point they are ready to buy!

TIP:  Make sure you use transactional language throughout your website (eg fill in a form, share this post etc) as well as including transactional keywords on your product landing pages and other key pages.

4. Navigational search intent

A person looking for specific information on a business such as its website, address, hours of operation, product, phone number etc will use keywords with a navigational search intent.  These users could be anywhere along the sales journey but it’s super important that people can find your business whenever they are searching for it by name.

TIP: These types of queries almost always drive action, so you need to make sure your website is optimised properly so that your business comes up when there’s a relevant navigational search.  Businesses should maintain up-to-date business listings such as Google Business Profile to give them the best chance of being included in Google’s answer boxes and local packs.

What you can do to make your website ‘search intent-friendly’

Search intent keywords can mean different things to different people. That’s why search intent in relation to your keyword research is so crucial.

The more you know and understand about what your target audience actually wants, the greater your ability to align your content with their search intent.  You need to ensure your content will answer their questions, provide useful information, help them with their decision-making process and establish trust in your business.

In doing so, you’ll meet your audience’s need and you’ll appease Google too which will go a long way in boosting your chances of long-term rankings success – and business success too.

Understanding search intent is a key aspect of successful SEO

Comprehensive keyword research together with an understanding of search intent is the foundation for great SEO. New to SEO? Then download our Free SEO Starter Kit to get you started.

If you’d like to learn more about the ins and outs of this crucial aspect of SEO, have a look at The SEO School.  This hands-on DIY online course is led by a highly experienced SEO specialist and takes you on a practical journey covering all the elements of SEO including keyword research and search intent that are necessary to get your brand to the top of Google’s rankings.

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