SEO Explained: What is Search Intent?

Understanding search intent could be the key to elevating your content strategy from good to great. I frequently identify clients on the verge of ranking success as an SEO Strategist at a digital marketing agency (Gatinho Design). They have excellent content that isn’t ranking for their desired keywords. Why? Frequently, the keywords and the intent do not coincide.

We’ll go through the many forms of search intent, how to determine the optimum intent for a given phrase, and how to optimize for search intent in this article. Let’s start with the basics.

What is search intent?

The fundamental purpose of a user while searching a query in a search engine is search intent (also known as user intent). Many times, when consumers search, they are looking for a specific type of answer or resource.

Take, for example, pizza. Searching for a pizza recipe is not the same as looking for a takeout pizza, which is not the same as looking up the history of pizza. These users all have diverse intentions, despite the fact that they all revolve around the same general issue (pizza).

What role does search intent play in SEO?

Google cares about search intent

The simple answer is that Google’s primary goal is to satisfy search intent, which makes it a primary goal for SEOs as well. When a user searches for a certain phrase and finds irrelevant results, Google receives a signal indicating the user’s intent is likely misaligned.

If a user searches “How to make a website” and is presented with a flurry of product pages for CMS platforms and hosting sites, they are likely to attempt a different search without clicking on anything. This is an indication to Google that the intent of those results does not match the searcher’s intent.

Extend your reach to all phases of the funnel.

When it comes to running a business and developing a successful content marketing strategy, the importance of remembering search intent and having that be the driving force behind the material you create and how you make it cannot be overstated.

What is the significance of this? The more precise your content is to distinct search intents, the more users you’ll be able to reach at various phases of the funnel. You may enhance your chances of reaching people, from those who have yet to discover your brand to those who are ready to convert, by focusing your efforts on matching search intent.

Rankings Can Be Improved

Because relevance, authority, and user satisfaction are three of Google’s core ranking factors, it’s simple to understand how changing your keyword targeting to match search intent can enhance your overall ranks.

Relevance: This refers to your user’s actions. If they find what they’re looking for on your site, they’re less likely to return to Google in a matter of seconds to look for something else (pogo-sticking). When your content is related to search intent, you’ll see a difference in KPIs like click-through rate and bounce rate.

Authority: While backlinks play a significant role in a site’s authority, it’s also critical to establish a strong internal linking strategy that tells Google “I have a lot of content covering all perspectives and intentions surrounding this issue” in order to rank well. Additionally, you may boost your brand’s authority and visibility by providing quality content that serves numerous purposes and is relevant to your brand’s expertise.

User satisfaction: Does the content you publish add value to your audience and is it relevant to them? Period.

Types of search intent

While there are endless search terms, there are just four primary search intents:

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

Informational

Users looking for information, as you might have imagined, do informational searches. This could be in the form of a how-to manual, a recipe, or a dictionary definition. Users can hunt for solutions to an unlimited number of queries, making it one of the most prevalent search intents. However, not every informational phrase is a question. Users who type “Bill Gates” into Google are most likely looking for information on Bill Gates.

Examples:

  • How to boil an egg
  • What is a crater
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Directions to JFK Airport

Commercial Investigation

Users begin their commercial investigation before they are ready to make a purchase. This is when they use search to learn more about a product, a brand, or a service. They’ve progressed beyond the informational stage of their investigation and have restricted their possibilities to a few. Users frequently compare products and brands in order to discover the best answer for their needs.

Note that non-branded localized phrases like “best body shop near me” or “top sushi restaurant NYC” are frequently used in these searches.

Examples:

  • Semrush vs Moz
  • Best website hosting service
  • Squarespace reviews
  • WordPress or wix for blog

Transactional

Transactional searchers are on the lookout for something to buy. This can be a product, a service, or a monthly membership. In either case, they know exactly what they’re searching for. These phrases are frequently branded because the customer is already in the purchase phase. Users are no longer looking for information about the product; instead, they are looking for a location to buy it.

Examples:

  • Buy Yeti tumbler
  • Seamless coupon
  • Shop Louis Vuitton bags
  • Van’s high tops sale

Navigational

These users want to get to a specific website, and it’s often quicker to do a quick Google search than it is to type down the URL. The user may potentially be unsure of the URL or searching for a specific page, such as a login page. As a result, most of these searches are for brand or website names, with extra criteria to help consumers discover a specific page.

Examples:

  • Spotify login
  • Yelp
  • MOZ beginner SEO
  • distilledU

How to determine search intent

Think about keyword modifiers.

Keyword modifiers, as we briefly mentioned above, might be useful indicators of search intent. But knowing the terms isn’t enough; you could also be wondering how to find these terms when doing keyword research.

Thankfully, there are a number of reliable keyword research tools available. Their filtering capabilities will come in handy here, as you’ll be able to filter terms that involve specific modifiers or phrases.

You may also use the SERP function to filter keywords. If you’re looking for terms that rank for knowledge panels, relevant questions, and featured snippets, for example, you can use the informational intent filter.

Read the SERPs

Researching the SERPs is another technique to figure out what people are looking for. Enter the keyword you’re looking for into Google’s search bar and see what comes up. You’ll be able to tell what Google considers to be the most relevant search intent for each word based on the categories of results.

Let’s take a deeper look at each intent type’s search results.

SERP results for informational intent

As previously said, informational keywords are more likely to produce SERP results that are concise. Knowledge grabs, featured excerpts, and relevant questions are all examples of this. The top results are almost certainly organic and include Wikipedia, dictionaries, and educational blog postings.

 

serp results example

SERP results for commercial research intent

Preferential intent results are similar to featured snippets in that they may include paid results at the top of the SERP. In addition, rather than providing relevant information, the results will most likely include information on the brands searched.

Instead of defining what site hosts are and how they work, the organic results in the example below compare product attributes of rival site hosts.

 
serp for commercial research

SERP results for transactional intent

Transactional SERPs are some of the easiest to identify. Paid results and/or shopping results, shopping carousels, and reviews are frequently displayed first. The organic results are mostly product pages from online and brick-and-mortar businesses, with maps to their locations depending on the search.

 

transactional search intent
byuer intent serp results

SERP results for navigational intent

Because users with navigational purpose already know which website they’re looking for, the most appropriate page is frequently displayed first: For example, if a user searches “Spotify,” the top result will be Spotify’s homepage, whereas the first result for “Spotify login” will be the login page.

Depending on the search, additional features such as site links, information cards, and top articles may be available.

 

Take in the full picture

Keep in mind that terms can have many search intents, so relying solely on keywords or the SERP to accurately identify it is rare. Taking a holistic approach, on the other hand, will lead you closer to the most prominent intent.

It’s also worth noting that SERPs are always changing, so while a keyword may rank for one purpose this month, it may not rank for same intent next month.

Ways to optimize for search intent

Match metadata and content type to the intent

You’ve done your homework and know which keywords you’ll be focusing on for which sites. It’s now time to optimize. Starting with your pages’ information –– edit your title tag, H1, and H2s to reflect your precise keyword targeting is a good place to start. Try leveraging your title tag with some snappy language to enhance click-through rate (without creating clickbait).

Weigh the competition

Prior to the event, as with other competitions, it’s a good idea to find out who the current winners are. Take a look at the top-ranking pages and ask yourself the following questions before you start generating new pages or reformatting current content:

  • How are they formatted?
  • What’s their tone?
  • Which points do they cover?
  • What are they missing?

You can now use your answers to create the best, most relevant piece of content on the topic.

Format content for relevant SERP features

SERP elements can be utilized to inform the formatting and content of your pages, just as they were used to determine search intent. For example, if the featured snippet includes a numbered list, it’s plausible to assume that Google values and rewards such structure for that phrase.

In a similar vein, if the SERP returns related questions, make sure to address them in your content in a clear and straightforward manner.

Key takeaways:

When creating SEO content around search intent, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Understand the search intent before optimizing content
  • When discovering new terms, use specific modifiers in your keyword research
  • Use the SERPs to determine optimal formatting and content options
  • Provide valuable, quality content every time
 
It’s straightforward, but not easy, to create SEO-optimized content for specific search intents. If you follow these recommendations, you’ll be well on your way to providing users with the information they require in the format they desire.
 
Hopefully you feel more secure as you work to create more relevant SEO content for specific search intent. Want more tips on SEO and Web Design then subscribe to my YouTube for more content.