What Is Search Intent?

Search Intent is a crucial concept in the digital marketing world. Our guide hopes to provide you with all the information that there is to know about keyword intent in research.

Photo of Danny Mahoney
Danny Mahoney

We all know that SEO is a powerful tool capable of driving traffic to any website.

With proper keyword research, you can optimise your site in a way that attracts potential customers. The more successful you are in choosing these keywords, the higher are your chances of ranking on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

What Is Search Intent

Even if keyword research helps people find your products and services, there’s no surety that they’ll commit to a purchase or come back to your website. That’s where the concept of keyword search intent steps in.

In this guide, we’ll be discussing the basics of keyword search intent and its types (informational, transactional, commercial, and navigational intent). We’ll also help you target and capture the right keywords and build an intent-based keyword list.

Keyword Intent Types Graphic

What Is Search Intent?

Let’s start by highlighting the basic definition of keyword search intent before we go on to identify the common types of search intent. That being said, keyword intent surrounds the idea of why a particular search query was made. Rather, what was the intent or the purpose of the user to perform the search?

Google will want to know if the person is looking for information, an immediate answer to a question or if he/she just wants to be redirected to a specific website. It will also try to determine if people want to actually buy the product or service. The different kinds of searches conducted by the user, in turn, play crucial parts in every user-journey.

Suppose you’re in need of an instant answer; the list of results displayed by the search engine will differ from the results displayed when you search for a particular site. The keywords included in the search might be similar in both cases, but the difference in intent determines how Google lists the results.

To sum up, search engines such as Google tend to provide search results not only based on the relevant keywords but also the intent or motive of the search.

Keyword Research Matrix

Does Search Intent Matter?

Search intent does matter in SEO; after all, Google’s primary focus is to provide you with the most relevant results for your search query. That’s where its success story stems from. If you wish to rank higher in Google’s SERPs, you’ll need to pay attention to relevance through keyword research.

Search Intent By Sembyotic

This doesn’t mean that you force keywords into your content in order to get your website’s landing pages to rank in the SERPs. You need to create relevant content that aligns with a user’s search intent through proper keyword optimisation. This is the key to improve user experience and achieve SEO success in content marketing.

Types Of Keyword Search Intent

Here we’ll discuss the different types of keyword search intent, starting with the three commonly used types of search intent.

1. Informational Intent

When a user conducts a search for relevant information, then that’s referred to as informational intent. For example, it might just be a brief answer to a simple question or even an in-depth answer to a more extensive and broad-based question related to HTML, football, the weather or even directions to an airport.

Once a user types in queries like "what is keyword intent?" or "how do you optimise a website for SEO?" Google begins compiling a list of the top and relevant sites that may best answer these queries.

These long-tail keywords and modifiers (how, what, etc) used to conduct informational searches are basically referred to as informational intent keywords and initially, they rarely progress to a boost in conversion rates. Rather, they help in identifying the problem and finding a quick solution.

Keyword Intent Search Modifiers

Keeping this in mind, every website should include content, answering a few questions relevant to their business. This will improve local and national SEO rankings and build your brand name, placing the business as an authority in the industry.

2. Navigational Intent

Here the searcher conducts a search for a specific website, so he or she already knows which site landing page they want to visit. It would probably be quicker if they simply typed in the website URL on the Google search bar, but they might not know the exact web address.

For example, if you want to visit social media platforms, you’ll probably conduct searches for Facebook or Twitter. Or suppose you know a few details of a particular music concert, including its name, dates and location, your search will resemble something like "music concert Sydney new years."

As a result, Google will identify the concert and present you with a list of websites. Your intent behind the search may not be to buy a ticket; you might just want to know about the musicians performing or the other important details.

So, like informational queries, navigational intent may not lead to a conversion but it’s definitely the first step to help brands build an online presence. Visitors may eventually want to buy something from your website.

3. Transactional Intent

Transactional search intent is when a user is conducting a specific search with the intention of buying a product or service. Ideally, they already know what they wish to buy. But they might not know where to buy it.

So, if you wish to boost your conversion rates and sales, optimise your landing page with transactional intent keywords. They are also referred to as "buy now keywords" and help enhance eCommerce sales by huge margins.

For example, people searching for products and services with words, such as "buy," "coupon," "discount," "free shipping," and "cheap" in their transactional intent phrases will more likely want to buy them. As such, if you can use relevant transactional intent keywords to make your brand visible to these people, there’s a high chance of conversion.

Transactional Intent Examples

It’s always a good idea to develop your landing page keeping the user’s transactional intent in mind. This will help attract highly-motivated searchers and potential customers.

4. Commercial Intent

In most cases, the intent behind a search is to buy something; the user might be looking for information related to the specific product with transactional intent. The combination of transactional and informational intent is referred to as commercial investigation.

A user might be looking to buy something, but he/she might not be sure about making the purchase immediately. As such, they’ll be looking for customer reviews and comparing brands offering the same product or service.

Individuals will be more willing to buy the product after being properly informed. For example, queries such as "top 10 LED TVs," "top restaurants near me," and "best toasters" - are conducted by users searches with commercial intent in mind. They are probably looking for the best option before committing to any one of them.

Capturing The Right Keyword Intent

As an SEO strategist, it’s important to understand the user intent behind a search. This will help you optimise your website content in a way that helps you rank higher in SERPs and attract potential customers.

Identify the specific terms people use when they are looking to buy something. If they use words like "buy," "coupon," "order," or "purchase," they’re more likely conducting a commercial investigation with transactional intent.

On the other hand, users with an informational intent will be conducting searches using modifiers like "how to," "what is," "the best way to," and so on. These users may come back to your website with the intent of making a purchase in the future. So make sure you provide content in a way that answers their queries.

Search Demand Curve

Targeting Keyword Intent

Make sure you understand your target audience before creating a landing page for your website. Those conducting an informational intent search will prefer blog posts and articles that address their queries. Then again, this type of content wouldn’t be ideal for people with the intention of making a purchase. You’ll need to direct them to your product pages.

Defining A Target Audience

So, for businesses selling furniture, you’ll want the eCommerce website to cover all bases, including "buy a sofa" and "how to choose the best sofa set." This way you’ll be attracting users with both transactional and informational intent.

High-Intent Keywords

Without a proper understanding of keyword intent, even the most funded Google ad campaign is bound to fail. However, with keyword intent, you can definitely increase traffic to your site.

Coming to high-intent keywords, they signify a strong commercial intent of a searcher to conduct a navigational, transactional, or informational search. That said, commercial intent keywords only pertain to transactional queries and can be considered as powerful "signals" from promising and potential customers.

Low-intent keywords, on the other hand, can be either informational or navigational in nature. The commercial or transactional intent of this type of search is quite low. People using these keywords may not be looking or planning to buy a product; however, you can use them to drive organic traffic to your website pages.

That said, there are two types of commercial intent keywords - "product" and "buy now" keywords. Out of all the "buy now" keywords, "buy" has the highest intent as it signifies the strongest intentions of people willing to make a purchase.

Even "product" keywords, such as "cheapest," "review," "best," "top," and "comparison," indicate a commitment to purchase. The terms "review" and "comparison" may not appear that strong; they can still lead to a conversion. However, as an SEO strategist and advertiser, you might have to work a bit harder for the conversion.

Competition Vs Conversion Graph

On the contrary, keywords specific to the product and branded searches, being comparatively more competitive, improve SEO rankings and convert significantly well.

Identifying High-Intent Keywords

It’s a good idea to use WordStream Advisor to identify relevant high commercial intent keywords that will work for your business. This tool can also identify negative high-intent keywords and recommend some of the best ways to optimise ad text to boost conversion rates and reduce unnecessary expenses.

Keyword Search Intent And Keyword Research

Businesses conduct keyword research so that their SEO rankings are higher in Google SERPs; in turn, it allows their products or services to be easily found by target audiences. That’s the first step when any company starts their content marketing campaign.

After all, website content and blog posts lacking in relevant keywords related to the particular business won’t be able to capture a suitable position in the search results pages. There are various tools that can help you with keyword research, such as Google Keyword Planner and Ahrefs. These will help keep track of the keywords that have high search volumes and those having lower competition.

However, it’s a bit more challenging to outrank big and reputable brands, so you’ll have to search for both long and short-tail keywords. Finally, you can use tools like Google Analytics to see how your site is performing compared to competitors using similar keywords.

Ahref Keyword Difficulty Scale

How To Build Intent-Based Keyword Lists

Before you begin thinking about search intent or even before creating content surrounding it, you’ll need to build a list of intent-based keywords. Once the list is made, you’ll have to add "modifiers" to signify the purpose or intent to the search engine.

Like we mentioned earlier, tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Answer The Public, Ahrefs, UberSuggest, and Google Search Expander can help identify the core keywords. Just make sure you refrain from using auto-generated keyword lists.

You could also go to Google’s "people also ask" box after typing in a few of these keywords in the search bar. The questions included in the "people also ask" section can be added as intent-based keywords on the list.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that keywords tend to vary based on your location and language. For example, for people living in America and Australia, the spellings and choice of words differ. As a result, the specific keywords used in both regions might be different. For example, "sweater" is known as "jumper" in Australia, while "optimisation" is spelt as "optimisation" in the US.

So if you wish to capture the international market, you’ll have to target the keywords of both areas accordingly. Once your keyword list is ready, add suitable modifiers, depending on the intent. For informational queries, you’ll want to focus your content surrounding searches like "what is (product)?" and "how does (product) work?"

On the contrary, transactional queries should centre around words like "sale," "low cost" and so on. You can also try to be more specific while conducting keyword research. If you sell clothes, such as jeans, colour-based keywords like blue, black, grey, etc and size-based keywords like small, medium and large can be used to attract the target audience.

How To Do Keyword Research Graphic

Final Thoughts on Keyword Intent

The first step to building a successful content marketing campaign is creating a list of keywords based on the purpose of the search. Once that’s done, you’ll have to shortlist the ones to keep based on search volume, relevance, ranking opportunity and competition.

It’s better to opt for high-intent keywords; by using them, the searcher makes his/her intention of buying the product clear. They are also more cost-effective, saving you from the wasted expenditure and they help boost conversion rates.

All you have to do is choose a suitable advertising format that will attract searchers with commercial or transactional intent.

Photo of Danny Mahoney

Danny Mahoney

Danny is head of web design at sitecentre and uses user-behaviour metrics to improve UX/UI and accelerate conversions. Using his unique combination of skills, Danny is able to deliver award-winning websites to SMB’s quicker whilst delivering better results.

Find them on their website: sitecentre, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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