What is Search Intent in SEO? And the 4 Different Types

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What is Search Intent?

Most webmasters understand the importance of SEO, and the benefits it can bring for any business.

It brings more organic traffic to your site, improves the user experience, and ensures your content is matching the search intent of your customers.

It allows you to shape your content format and ensure you are providing answers to the queries your customers are searching for.

But, exactly what are the user’s search intents?

When it comes to implementing effective SEO, understanding a customer’s search intent is extremely important.

How Does Search Intent Impact My Business?

Understanding different intents can act as the basis for you to create the right type of informational content for your customer and give you a guide for how to structure your product pages.

A customer’s search intent will also inform the target keywords you include on these pages.

Putting in the effort to determine the user intent behind searches for your keywords, can make or break your conversion rate.

Intent is the emotion and context behind user searches, and it dictates which links they will see on Google search results, and determines which they are more likely to click on.

For example, two people searching for relatively similar queries may have very different intentions.

A customer who performs a specific search for “car insurance”, will have different intentions than someone who performs a Google search query for “online car insurance quotes”.

This article will tell you exactly how to infer different types of search intent and help you maximize your potential when using target keywords within new or existing content. This will all help to direct potential customers to your website.

Google Hummingbird, RankBrain, and BERT have all been adjusted to see how users interact with keywords, to provide them more relevant results based on their particular need or search objective.

Understanding the keyword intent can be helpful for a company because it identifies potential customers or leads at various stages of the conversion funnel – essentially identifying who they are, as well as why they’re searching.

This allows you to adapt your website and optimize for search intent within your content.

Why Does Search Intent Matter for SEO?

Matching user intent within search engines, with the content and information you are providing on your website, is a surefire way to build your business as an authority in your field.

Providing relevant information that fits a potential customer’s specific query not only tells them you have what they’re looking for but also lets them know you’re knowledgeable about your particular niche and industry.

This not only satisfies search intent, but also builds on the trust you are trying to create with your customers.

Increased trust and engagement when matching search intent can lead to higher rankings within search results pages and ultimately gives you authority within Google search results rankings.

Different Types of Search Intent

Understanding the different types of search intent and how they can make a drastic difference to what pages of your website appear in search results can most certainly point you in the right direction when optimizing the important pages of your website for lucrative and important keywords.

Navigational Search Intent

This is a user intent that shows the customer knows where they want to go or the specific website they want to visit next. They may have an exact site or destination in mind.

People who perform navigational queries are searching for a specific website they have in mind, and likely won’t be sidetracked from this.

Navigational searches are often used to find specific web pages.

They can be in the form of a brand name or URL and include additional criteria that help narrow down results. For some users, navigating Google is easier than typing out URLs or remembering web addresses.

For example, the search query “Nike store” refers to a specific web address for Nike’s online shopping site.

A user does not have to input the exact website URL in order for you to infer that they have a navigational query.

Think of all the websites you intend on visiting each day, how many of those do you input the exact URL for?

When people search with a navigational query, they are still likely to use keywords rather than input an entire URL.

 Example of navigational keywords:
  • “Apple Music Login”
  • “Facebook”
  • “Amazon Homepage”

Informational Search Intent

This type of user intent is seeking an answer to a question and is carrying out an informational query. They could be searching for anything from a “how-to guide”, to instructions on how to cook a certain dish.

Informational search intent includes users who are not searching for a particular website. They may be carrying out research or looking into various web pages without a specific URL in mind.

Ultimately informational searches are looking for an answer to a specific question, and the user may not pay much regard as to what site this search result comes from.

They will likely access a site within the current top-ranking pages, as these pages are considered to have high domain authority and appear trustworthy.

They have a few different options when it comes to which site they choose to access, and when your content answers their query in an effective way, then you may have just earned yourself a click.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “informational queries” are defined as a search for information on any topic.

When researching any topic online, people will use informational keywords to find the results that can help them to make a decision easier, or increase their knowledge in a subject.

For example, searching for an answer about how to cook salmon, or how search engine optimization works, are both considered informational queries.

Informational queries are where users typically want in-depth content, like blog articles or guides, rather than quick answers.

Example of Informational Search Queries:
  • “What’s the difference between a gourd and pumpkin?”
  • “How to identify different crystals?”
  • “How to activate Google Voice Search”

This is what makes determining search intent important and valuable for your business.

It allows you to provide the type of informative, useful content customers are searching for.

This not only satisfies the Google algorithm, and may land you on the top-ranking pages, but can also keep customers coming back again and again.

Commercial Search Intent

A user who performs a commercial intent search is likely planning to buy a product or service in the near future and is researching this specific item.

They are carrying out a commercial ‘investigation’ into a potential purchase.

They may still be on the fence about the product they are buying and could be swayed depending on the information their research turns up.

For example, a person who searches for “iPhone 12 features”, has different intentions to a person who searches “buy iPhone 12”.

The former could be seen as researching the product before a potential purchase, whereas the latter is more likely to have made a definite decision about purchasing the product.

Commercial intent is when someone wants more information about a product, service, or company.

Commercial intent searches are usually longer and more detailed than transactional intent searches because the user has shown that they have an interest in what you’re offering.

They could be searching for reviews on your products, trying to find out where to purchase from, or determining if there are any other comparable options available right now. For example, somebody searching ‘B2B SEO Services‘ has entered their niche and requested service, showing us that they know what they want, and where they require that service to be fulfilled, getting closer to the point of purchase.

All of these types of queries show commercial intent!

Other examples of commercial search queries:
  • “Best third party tools for elite dangerous”
  • “Apple Watch vs Garmin”
  • “Macbook Pro review”

Transactional Search Intent

A user who carries out transactional queries likely has the intent to purchase a product online.

A transactional query could look like “Buy iPhone 11”, and you could reasonably infer search intent here as being transactional in nature.

Search results that appear for transactional queries will likely be an e-commerce store product page or landing page.

Now that we have an overview of the different types of search intent, and the importance of understanding search intent, let’s take a deep dive into the mind of the user performing each.

We’ll also discuss how to create content that can best match searches performed by potential customers, maximizing your chances of appearing

Transactional searches are the most valuable type of searches that you need to optimize for. They have the greatest potential to bring conversions to your business.

A person who uses keyword phrases like “buy,” “coupon,” “discount,” and “shipping”, with specific product names in their query, is ready to make a purchase!

These types of queries tend to show up product listings ads (PLAs) that are tailored exactly to what they are looking for.

Example of transactional search queries:
  • “Buy iPhone”
  • “Buy Nike Air Jordan online”
  • “Purchase Garmin watch”

How To Determine Keyword Intent

For webmasters, judging search intent based on keywords used by customers can help you to infer the type of information they are seeking.

Users with a specific intent will search for their query by using keywords, which can give away the context of the search.

It may be beneficial for webmasters to consider the search volumes of specific keywords when deciding to implement them within their content.

The ideal keyword that a business should implement will be relevant to their target customer’s intent – search results will reflect these.

By considering the type of keywords your customers are using, and what keywords are most relevant to your customer’s queries, will help your content to rank higher and be more easily discoverable by potential clients.

SERP Features

Understanding a user’s search intent allows you to mirror keywords, and utilize key SERP features.

Google implements tools like answer boxes or featured snippets. Appearing within this framework can maximize the chance of your content appearing high up in search rankings.

Featured snippets, or ‘Answer Box’ as they are also commonly known, comprise of those short, informative ‘cards’ Google displays for certain queries.

They are displayed at the top of SERPs and make it easy for users to access the information they are looking for instantaneously.

Featured snippets appear before links on a search engine results page, and give the user an instant answer to their question. They can be a large driver of traffic to your site.

Analyze Keywords Within SERPs

Another way to determine search intent is by performing keyword research.

This allows you to find out what information Google deems most relevant for each term in your target keyword’s SERP rankings.

Type in the keywords you’re targeting, and see what kind of results come up.

These will let you know what type of qualities and information that users are looking for when they type a keyword into their search bar.

This gives you a guide when creating content and implementing keywords, and allows you to ensure you’re providing customers with high-quality information that stands out from the competition.

Keyword Ranking

Webmasters should also consider keyword difficulty when performing this research. This refers to how hard a website may find it to rank for a specific keyword.

What are other sites offering for your target keyword, that users are more interested in clicking on?

What do the top-ranking sites include on their landing page that keeps users coming back?

Google Analytics can provide you with great insight into the behavior of users when they reach your website and the elements that they enjoy engaging with. It can also show you the elements of your site that may be encouraging users to bounce away.

Think bigger and smarter than your keyword competition, and watch your rankings grow.

How To Optimize for Search Intent

Use your content’s title and summary to identify what type of search intent you’re aiming at. This will inform the keywords you use.

For example, if you were writing a blog post about “What Is Search Intent in SEO?”, then your keyword should be informational search queries.

Write the article with that specific audience in mind, by using their terminology and language.

This will make them more likely to engage with you because they can relate better to what you are saying and feel their query was answered.

Let’s explore how to optimize your content for each type of search intent.

Optimize for Navigational Intent

Aside from your homepage, the key to optimizing for navigational intent is to make sure you have landing pages for your products, brand story, offers, and services. 

You can optimize all the pages by placing your brand and services in strategic positions, such as in the page title, the meta descriptions, and the subheadings. 

By following these simple steps, you will be able to optimize for navigational intent.

1- Title: make sure to place the product keywords in the title, including the company’s name so that it’s clear what your website is about. 

2- URL: make sure to optimize your URL so that it shows both the Title and the URL (Except on the homepage as there won’t be additional slugs to optimize into the URL) 

3- Description: here you can expand slightly to mention your product categories, which is a strong way to say who you are and what you have to offer. 

In a nutshell, make sure your landing pages clearly state who you are and what you do. This is primarily what users want to know before they buy from you.

Optimize for Informational Intent

The best way to rank well for an informational query in a search engine like Google is to create high-quality content that people are looking for.

In other words, you want your page to answer the searchers’ questions as quickly and easily as possible.

Include informational words like “how”, “what”, “when” and so on in your title. This makes it clear that this is an article about answering those questions.

Make sure to create headings with well-defined questions followed by concise answers.

Use bullet points when possible. Add in images where appropriate; they can provide an engaging experience more than text alone!

Optimize for Commercial Intent

Commercial intent could be the hardest type of search to define and is also explained differently from one source to another.

However, it is quite simple. Commercial intent means the person looking for a specific product has already done their homework and has decided to make a purchase.

At this point, searchers are looking for final information before making a transaction. Here are some examples of commercial search intent:

  • Brand comparison, such as “Nike vs. Adidas”
  • Non-brand searches, such as “best SEO tools” or “best women training shoes” 
  • Review research for a specific company, service, or product.
  • Researching a company’s background and culture.

Commercial searches usually include words like “top”, “best”, “comparison”, “cost”,”vs.”.

It only gets tricky to explain when including search words that might be interpreted in more than one way.

This means the search engine algorithm will have to make the final call on what results to show the user.

Optimize for Transactional Intent

Make sure your product name and description are clearly stated in the title and elsewhere on the page.

You should aim to create a strong emotional appeal through copy and images that speak to your customer’s needs or wants by showcasing products that they want to purchase.

The heavier, more dense information should go into downloadable content. This makes it easy for customers to make a snappy decision and glean only the information they want to know.

You could also use an accordion-style design, where thin content slides out from elements underneath where more detail is needed.

Pro-Tip: You should never optimize a blog post for transactional intent!


Creating content that is SEO optimized for any search intent is simple, however, it may appear difficult at first glance.

We hope you can follow these guidelines, and implement them to help you present content in the best light to your target customers, in the context they are looking for. 

Reach out and let us know your tips for determining a user’s search intent!

How has it helped your business?

FAQs about Search Intent

Search intent is the process of checking what search engines have determined a user wants to see when they perform a search query. This can be a determining factor of what keywords you should attempt to optimize your website for in order to increase organic traffic.

There are 4 main types of search intent that the majority of keywords can be broken into. They are Navigational search intent, Informational search intent, Commercial search intent, and Transactional search intent.

User search intent is another term used for search intent. Search intent is always based on the user, so both ‘user search intent’ and ‘search intent’ essentially mean the same thing.

This would fall under Navigational, Informational, Commercial, and Transactional. Each type of search intent can also display different features on the search engine results pages, which can also provide an opportunity to take up further real estate and stand out.

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