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What is Search Intent?

What is Search Intent! Learn all about search intent, user intent & keyword intent SEO to craft content that ranks & resonates.

Have you ever tried searching for something on Google or another search engine and ended up with a bunch of results that didn’t really match what you were looking for? It can be frustrating, right? That’s because the search engine didn’t quite understand your true “search intent” – the real reason behind your query.

For those just starting out with SEO, understanding search intent is crucial. Equipping yourself with a beginners guide to SEO will help you tailor your content to searcher needs and improve your website's ranking.

What is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as “user intent” or “keyword intent“, refers to the underlying goal or purpose behind a person’s search query on Google, Bing, or any other search engine. When you type something into that little search box, you’re not just randomly mashing keys – you have a specific objective in mind, even if you don’t realise it consciously.

For Example: Users search for “What is___” and “How to___” is called the informational search intent, where a user is trying to learn. Similarly when a user searches for a product/service review or searches to learn more about the product or service, then it’s called preferential intent.

After 6 months of research study, Google discovered none of the users’ intent was similar nor made any sense. However, they narrowed down 3 common aspects among these users

  • Learn
  • Find
  • Buy

What are the different types of Search Intent?

There are four main types of search intent:

  • Informational Intent
  • Navigational Intent
  • Transactional Intent
  • Commercial Search Intent


Let’s look at each one:

Informational Intent

When you have an informational search intent, you’re simply looking for information or an answer to a question. For example, if you search for “what is search intent” or “how to change a tire“, you’re demonstrating informational intent – you want to learn or find out something.

Navigational Intent

A navigational search intent means you’re trying to get to a specific website or web page that you already know about. Searches like “facebook.com” or “twitter login” show navigational intent – you have a particular online destination in mind.

Transactional Intent

If your search has a transactional intent, it means you want to complete a specific transaction or action, like making a purchase. Searches such as “buy running shoes online” or “book hotel in London” indicate transactional intent.

Commercial Search Intent

The last type is commercial investigation intent. This is when you’re exploring or researching products/services with the potential intent to purchase, but you haven’t decided yet. Searches like “best laptops for students” or “affordable SEO services” demonstrate commercial investigation intent.

Optimizing your content for search intent doesn't have to be a guessing game. With the help of a free SEO Chrome extension, you can gain valuable insights into user behavior and tailor your content strategy accordingly.

Why is Search Intent Important for SEO?

Now you may be wondering – why does any of this matter for search engine optimization (SEO)? The reason is that Google and other search engines want to provide the most relevant, useful results for each particular search query. And to do that effectively, they need to properly understand the underlying search intent behind the keywords.

If you create a piece of content aimed at informational intent (like a blog post explaining a concept), but most of the people searching for your target keyword have transactional intent (they want to buy something), then your content isn’t going to satisfy those users. They’ll quickly leave your page, which tells Google that your content wasn’t a good match for that query.

On the other hand, if your content aligns perfectly with the dominant search intent for your target keywords, users will stick around, engage with your content, and you have a much better chance of ranking well in the search results.

While Google dominates the search engine market, Bing SEO shouldn't be ignored. By understanding search intent for both platforms, you can reach a wider audience.

How to Optimize your Content for Search Intent

Okay, so optimizing your content for search intent is clearly important for SEO success. But how do you actually do it? Here are some key steps:

Conduct Keyword Research

The first step is thorough keyword research to identify not just relevant keywords, but also analyze the likely search intent behind them. You can use tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner, semrush.com, ahrefs.com and others to gather data on search volumes and review sample search results.

Analyze the Search Results

Once you have a list of potential target keywords, take a close look at the current top-ranking pages in Google for those terms. What type of pages are ranking? Informational blog posts? E-commerce product pages? Business homepages? The type of pages occupying the top spots will give you clues about the dominant search intent that Google is catering to.

Create Intent-Aligned Content

After doing your keyword and search results research, you should have a good sense of the primary search intent for your target terms. Now you can create new content pieces or optimise existing ones to perfectly align with that intent. If it’s informational, provide clear, thorough explanations. If it’s transactional, optimise product pages. If it’s commercial investigation, in-depth buying guides work well.

Focus on User Experience 

Simply creating intent-optimised content isn’t enough – you need to deliver an excellent overall user experience that satisfies search intent. This includes aspects like:

  • Fast loading times
  • Clean, easy-to-navigate website
  • Multimedia to explain concepts
  • Clear calls-to-action
  • Optimised for mobile devices

Analyze Performance & Adjust

Once your intent-optimised content is live, monitor performance metrics like rankings, traffic, bounce rates, conversion rates, etc. Using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If certain pages aren’t performing as expected for their target keywords, it may signal a disconnect between your content and actual user intent that needs adjustment.

For local service businesses, search intent is crucial. Google Local Services Ads in UK can connect you with users actively seeking the services you offer, maximizing your chances of converting leads into customers.

Real-World Examples of Search Intent

To illustrate these concepts, let’s look at a few sample searches and explain the intent behind each one:

“What is SEO?”

This query has an informational intent. The searcher likely wants to learn the basics of what search engine optimization is.

“Best SEO company in London”

This one demonstrates commercial investigation intent. The person is researching and comparing SEO service providers, but isn’t ready to make a purchase decision yet.

“Hire affordable SEO services” 

With this search, the intent is a transactional query. The person wants to take action and actually hire an SEO firm.

“SEO pricing plans”

This could have a couple potential intents. It might be informational if the searcher just wants to understand typical pricing models. Or it could be commercial investigation if they’re looking to compare prices across different agencies.

“Facebook.com”

An obvious navigational query – the user just wants to get to the Facebook website.

As you can see, the same broad topic like “SEO” can have completely different search intents depending on the specific query. Crafting your content strategy and website experience to match those varying intents is essential.

What is Keyword Intent?

At the most fundamental level, keyword intent is derived from the specific words used in a query string. Certain keyword phrases clearly imply one type of intent over others:

  • how to start a business” -> Informational
  • amazon.com” -> Navigational
  • buy iphone 14 pro” -> Transactional
  • best crm software” -> Commercial Investigation


But in many cases, the same Word combinations can have multiple potential intents depending on contextual factors like:

  • Location
  • Device type (mobile vs. desktop)
  • Time of search
  • Previous search/browsing behavior
  • Personal characteristics about the searcher


For example, the keyword “pizza delivery” could have commercial intent from someone researching local delivery options in their area from a mobile device. But for someone searching that phrase from a desktop around dinnertime, it likely has more of a transactional intent to actually place an order.

Role of Search Intent in Content Marketing

Search intent doesn’t just impact your website’s SEO – it should influence your entire content marketing strategy as well. The types of content you create and how you promote it depends on what intent you’re aiming to satisfy.

For example, let’s say you sell premium outdoor grills and cooking equipment. If you want to target informational intent, you could create in-depth blog posts and video tutorials on topics like:

  • How to Perfectly Grill Steak
  • Outdoor Kitchen Design Ideas
  • Smoking vs. Grilling – What’s the Difference?


This educational content isn’t directly selling your products, but it provides value, builds trust with your audience, and allows you to capture demand from people with informational search intent related to grilling and outdoor cooking.

On the other hand, for transactional and commercial investigation intent, you’d want content that guides people further along the marketing funnel like:

  • Detailed Product Listings/Descriptions
  • Comparisons of Your Top Models
  • Customer Testimonials & Reviews


You can then promote this transaction-focused content through paid channels like Google Shopping Ads to get in front of high-intent audiences looking to buy.

No matter what you sell or who your target customers are, a balanced content approach covering all the olika types of intent is advisable. Use analytics tools to measure performance and double down on the intent types that drive the most valuable results.

Relationship Between Search Intent and Ads

Search intent is not only crucial for SEO, but it’s also a key concept in paid digital marketing channels like Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and others. Successful paid campaigns align ad messaging and landing page experiences with the intent behind each keyword.

For instance, if you bid on the keyword “buy running shoes” which has clear transactional intent, you’d want your ad copy to promote a specific shoe product or lineup, with a call-to-action like “Shop Running Shoes on Sale Now.” The corresponding landing page should be an e-commerce product page optimized for conversions.

But if you targeted the keyword “best running shoes 2024” which likely has more commercial  intent, your ads and landing pages would need a different funnel approach. Your ad could highlight a buying guide or article featuring your top recommended shoes, with a “Learn More” call-to-action that sends users to an informational landing page first before guiding them to purchase.

Google and other ad platforms look at intent signals across keywords, ad text, landing pages, and more to determine relevancy. Mismatched combinations of ad and post-click experience won’t satisfy intent well and will lead to poor quality scores, high costs, and wasted spend. Always view your ad campaigns through that intent lens.

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Relationship Between Search Intent and User Experience

At its core, optimizing for search intent is about providing the best possible user experience to satisfy whatever the searcher’s goal may be. Search engines like Google want to deliver results that are not only relevantly matched by keywords, but truly helpful in allowing people to accomplish their intended task successfully.

This means your focus can’t just be on getting visitors to your website through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You need to make sure the experience once they arrive meets their expectations and aligns with their specific search intent.

For example, let’s say you run an online clothing store and you manage to rank #1 for the keyword “buy summer dresses.” That’s great from an SEO perspective in terms of visibility. However, if the content and user experience on your top ranking page is just a broad category page listing every type of dress without the ability to easily find and purchase summery styles, it fails to satisfy the transactional search intent behind that query. Users will quickly bounce, telling Google that result wasn’t truly relevant.

On the other hand, if that #1 ranking page is an optimised category or product listing page specifically focused on summer dress offerings, styling suggestions, easy-to-use filters, a streamlined checkout process and other conversion optimizations, you’re properly catering to the transactional intent. This keeps users engaged and satisfied, which Google will interpret as successfully matching intent.

No matter how impressive your SEO is in driving traffic, you won’t be able to maintain rankings and visibility for key terms if the actual experience fails to live up to the promised intent. Search engines are increasingly using exotic user experience signals like:

  • Bounce rates
  • Dwell time/Session duration
  • Conversion rates
  • Complementing behavior (like making a purchase or account signup)


…to evaluate whether a visitor’s goal was truly satisfied after finding your content through search. If user signals indicate dissatisfaction and inability to complete their intended task, your hard-earned search visibility will erode over time.

Meeting users expectations isn’t just about general usability and aesthetics, but ensuring the right components and conversion paths are in place to let them accomplish their specific goal – whether that’s making a purchase, getting an informational query answered in-depth, easily navigating to another website, or whatever the dominant intent may be.

Prioritizing Search Intent Optimization Across the Customer Journey

Search intent impacts much more than just optimizing individual web pages for SEO and paid search traffic. It’s a critical concept to embrace across your entire digital marketing strategy and customer experience.

At each stage of the marketing funnel, from initial awareness all the way through repeat purchases and loyalty, you should analyze and optimize your cross-channel presence to ensure you’re accounting for different customer intents along their journey.

For example, in the awareness and consideration phases, you’ll want content and messaging focused on addressing informational needs like:

  • Educational blog posts and videos
  • Thought leadership content
  • Product comparisons and reviews


While in later stages like purchase decision and retention, your efforts should shift to facilitating transactional, branded and customer support intents through experiences like:

  • Optimised product pages and checkout flows
  • Account management and customer service functionality
  • Loyalty programs and upsell/cross-sell paths


Even something as simple as your website’s main navigation menu should map to common search intents, with distinct sections for blog/resources (informational), product catalog (transactional),  about/contact (navigational), etc.

Internal linking is another powerful method for on page SEO that can be leveraged to connect your content to relevant pages that address different aspects of search intent. This improves user experience, helps search engines understand your website's structure, and can even contribute to reducing bounce rates

Optimizing for Intent on Social Media

Social media platforms play an increasingly important role in how people explore and express their interests, needs and intents online. Smart marketers ensure their social strategy aligns with common intents on each channel:

For example, on visual discovery platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, your content should spotlight your products/services through engaging images and videos. Users are in more of a commercial intent and potential transactional mindset when browsing these apps.

Your Instagram posts, stories, IGTV videos, Pinterest Idea Pins and boards should all work towards moving people further down the funnel by:

  • Showcasing your offerings
  • Providing use cases and inspiration
  • Facilitating easy exploration of your website/products
  • Utilizing the platforms’ e-commerce and shopping features


In contrast, a platform like Twitter tends to cater more towards informational and thought leadership content. Users flock to Twitter to discover breaking news, insights from influencers, tips/advice and up-to-the-minute information.

So for Twitter, your intent optimization goals should focus on establishing yourself and your brand as a trustworthy, authoritative source of helpful knowledge. Effective Twitter content formats include:

  • Bite-sized advice and stats
  • Linking to long-form blog posts/guides
  • Instructional threads and hilos
  • Quick tips and hacks
  • Commentary on real-time trends


Similarly, channels like Facebook groups, Reddit communities and even TikTok require nuanced strategies tuned to those platforms’ norms and what users are looking to consume.

Ultimately, you want a cohesive presence that guides people through a singular experience as their intents evolve across touchpoints – from online communities for awareness and information to your core website for deeper exploration and transactions.

Turn website visitors into paying customers with the help of search intent and facebook ads tips! By understanding what users are searching for before they visit your site, you can craft targeted Facebook Ads that speak directly to their needs and buying intent.

Search Intent for B2B and Enterprise Marketing

Thus far, we’ve discussed search intent optimization primarily through a B2C retail/e-commerce lens. But the same core principles apply for B2B companies, SaaS businesses, enterprises, and any organization trying to be found online and move prospects through a marketing funnel.

For these types of businesses, your prospective audience’s intents may look something like this:

Informational Intent
  • Researching solutions for workplace challenges
  • Discovering new strategies and best practices
  • Learning about complex topics like cloud computing, cybersecurity, etc.
Navigation Intent
  • Finding a particular company’s website or product info
  • Logging into a SaaS application or client portal
  • Accessing support or customer service channels
Commercial Intent
  • Comparing different software/product options
  • Vetting potential vendors, agencies or consultants
  • Getting pricing details and evaluating costs
Transactional Intent
  • Signing up for a free trial or paid subscription
  • Hiring a service provider or consulting firm
  • Purchasing an enterprise product or annual license


For B2B companies, facilitating these intents means creating robust content hubs with resources like:

  • In-depth guides and e-books
  • Tutorial videos and webinars
  • Industry reports and original research
  • Product tours and demos
  • ROI and TCO calculators


You’ll also want landing pages and microsites tailored to key use cases, solutions and audience segments that map to specialized goals and inquiries.

Paid advertising often plays a major role in capturing B2B demand at different intent stages through vehicles like:

  • Social media promotion of thought leadership content
  • Remarketing and RLSA campaigns
  • Product listing ads on search engines
  • Targeted account-based advertising


Throughout the entire experience, your content and UX must coherently progress to answer each emerging question and guide users towards becoming sales-qualified leads.

That may involve nurturing prospective buyers through multiple awareness and consideration touch points before ever asking for the “transaction” of scheduling a sales call or demo. Understanding and respecting the intent
journey is key.

Importance of Search Intent for Local Businesses

While much of our focus has been on ecommerce seo best practices and companies operating primarily online, businesses with physical locations and local customer bases must also concentrate heavily on search intent.

For local businesses like restaurants, retailers, service providers and more, being visible in “near me” search results is crucial for attracting new customers and foot traffic. Queries like:

  • “Mexican restaurants near me”
  • “plumbers in London”
  • “open hair salons today”

     

…all demonstrate a localized search intent where proximity and mapping/directions are key.

To optimize for this local search intent, businesses need robust local SEO strategies including:

  • Claiming and optimizing Google Business Profile listings
  • Obtaining citations and listings in online directories like Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.
  • Encouraging and responding to customer reviews
  • Creating locally-focused website pages, content and landing experiences
  • Implementing local schema markup to highlight locations, hours, contact info etc.


The search intent behind local queries is often a mix of a few potential goals:

Navigation: Simply finding your address or directions to your nearest location
Informational: Researching and comparing local options (restaurants, lawyers, contractors, etc)
Transactional: Looking to make an appointment, reservation or purchase

So your localized SEO, listings and website presence need to seamlessly blend information to satisfy all those intents – from helpful advice content to easy-to-find location details and click-to-call functions.

For “near me” searches performed on mobile devices, where location signals are inherent, user intent is even more likely to be transaction-focused. People are actively looking for convenient options to engage with right away.

That means local businesses must also prioritize:

  • Fast-loading, mobile first website design
  • Click-to-call phone numbers and driving directions
  • Up-to-date local business information across all channels
  • Simple reservation, appointment booking or online ordering if relevant


Essentially, you need a frictionless experience that allows mobile searchers with location-based intent to easily find and engage with your business within just a few taps.

By nailing local SEO and optimizing for on-the-go search intent, businesses can attract high-value traffic that turns into foot traffic and revenue.

Let's say you run a bakery in London. Someone searching for "best cupcakes near me" has a clear informational intent. Including relevant content about your bakery's delicious cupcakes and highlighting your location would be perfect for this search intent. Check our local seo UK guide to know more..

Future of Search Intent & SEO

As search engines get even smarter through advances in AI and natural language processing, accurately deriving intent from queries will only become more important. Google’s goal is to understand the true context and meaning behind searches in order to deliver exactly what each user needs.

For example, the query “lighting stores” could have different potential intents depending on whether that search includes additional context about wanting to make a purchase, finding a specific retailer’s location, or just generally researching options. As these nuances in intent signals grow more complex over time, the best SEO professionals will be those who can create content experiences perfectly matched to each scenario.

By fully grasping the concept of search intent, considering it at every stage of your SEO strategy, keyword research process, and content development, you’ll be able to future-proof your digital presence and keep delivering the right solution every time someone searches.

How Can We Help You?

At UTDS Optimal Choice, we are a full-service digital marketing and advertising agency that can take your online presence to new heights. We offer a comprehensive suite of services to boost your visibility, engage your target audiences, and drive more leads and sales for your business.

Whether you need support across our full range of integrated digital marketing services or just want to double down in one particular area, UTDS Optimal Choice has you covered. Our team of experienced marketers, creatives, developers and data analysts are ready to be an extension of your team and drive measurable growth.

To learn more about how we can elevate your digital presence and generate more revenue, contact us for a free consultation today!

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