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What is search (user) intent in SEO?

Author: Rick Seidl
7 minutes of reading
25. 8. 2022
Table of contents

When it comes to SEO, understanding search intent is key. 

What is search intent?

Search intent, also called user intent, refers to why someone is typing a particular query into a search engine. Are they looking for information? Trying to find a specific product or service? Hoping to be entertained?

Answering these questions can help you optimize your content to better match what your target audience is looking for, making it more likely that they'll find and engage with your site.

Now, roughly, there are generally four different types of search intent:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Commercial
  • Transactional

In this article, we will take a closer look at each of them, how to optimize for them, as well as the benefits you can get when focusing properly on search intent.

Search intent types

Informational intent

Informational intent simply refers to a searcher's goal when they conduct a search. For example, if someone searches for "how to make a cake", they likely have an informational intent - they want to learn how to make a cake. 

On the other hand, if someone searches for "buy cake", they likely have a commercial intent - they want to buy a cake.

As an SEO, it's important to understand a search's intent to provide the most relevant and helpful results. If you can give someone the answer they're looking for, you're more likely to earn their business.

Here are some other examples of informational searches:

  • How to fix a leaky faucet
  • What is the capital of France
  • How to make an origami crane

As you can see, informational searches can be about anything under the sun. As long as someone is looking for information, you have the opportunity to provide it.

So, how can you optimize for informational intent?

The first step is understanding what information people are looking for. This can be done through keyword research. Once you have a good understanding of the keywords people are using to find information, you can start creating content that meets their needs.

Remember, your goal is to provide the searcher with the information they're looking for. This means your content needs to be comprehensive, accurate, and helpful.

If you can do this, you'll be well on your way to meeting the informational needs of your audience - and earning their business.

Navigational intent

Navigational intent refers to the intention of someone who enters a specific query into a search engine. In a way, you can look at it as finding the purpose behind the search query. 

Intent itself can focus on navigating to a specific website or page, finding information about a particular topic, product, or service, or quite literally finding a location.

Maybe you're looking for a restaurant, maybe you want to find local SEO companies that can help you with search intent itself. 

Some examples of navigational intent queries include:

  • “How to get to _____”
  • “Where is _____ located?”
  • “What is the best _____?”
  • “How do I _____?”

Furthermore, these keywords can also include brand names, service names, product names, etc…

If you can identify what someone's navigational intent is when they perform a search, you can then tailor your content to address their needs specifically. This will help to improve your search rankings and ensure that those who click through to your site are more likely to find what they're looking for and convert into customers or clients.

There are a few different ways to go about identifying navigational intent. 

First, you can look at the query itself and determine what the person is looking for. This can be tricky, especially if the query is short or vague, but it's worth taking a few moments to think about what the searcher could be hoping to find.

Another way to identify navigational intent is to look at the search results themselves. If you see a lot of results that are very specific to what you're offering, then it's likely that people are looking for exactly that. 

On the other hand, if the results are mostly general or seem unrelated to what you offer, then the searcher's intent is probably something else entirely.

Finally, you can also use our Keyword profiler to get an idea of what people are searching for. 

Try below: 

This can be helpful in understanding overall trends, but it's important to remember that not every single person who searches for a certain term will have the same intent.

Take the time to understand navigational intent. You can drastically improve your SEO efforts and ensure that you're always providing the right content for those who are searching for it.

Commercial intent

Regarding SEO, there are two types of intent that often get confused: commercial and transactional. 

Commercial intent is when people have buying intentions in the future and are conducting their online research about the desired thing or a service. 

Knowing the difference between these two types of intent is important because it can help you determine which keywords to target in your SEO campaigns. 

For example, if you're selling products or services online, you'll want to focus on keywords with transactional intent. On the other hand, if you're providing information about your products or services, you'll want to focus on keywords with commercial intent.

Here are some examples of commercial vs. transactional keywords:

Transactional keywords:

  • buy iPhone
  • purchase car
  • order flowers

Commercial keywords:

  • iPhone reviews
  • car comparisons
  • flower delivery

Knowing the difference between commercial and transactional keywords can help you fine-tune your SEO campaigns and get the most out of your marketing budget. 

So, if you're not sure which keywords to target, take a look at your website and determine what type of intent your visitors are likely to have.

Then, target those keywords accordingly.

Transactional intent

Transactional intent is when a user is looking to complete a specific task or transaction, such as making a purchase or booking a service. This can be contrasted with informational intent, where a user is simply looking for information about a topic, and navigational intent, where a user is looking to find a specific website or page.

Transaction intent keywords are generally more specific and have a higher conversion rate than informational or navigational keywords. 

For example, someone searching for "buy red shoes" is likely to be further along in the purchasing process than someone who just searches for "red shoes."

If you're optimizing your website for transactional intent keywords, it's important to ensure that it is set up to facilitate transactions. This means having a clear and easy-to-use purchase or booking flow and ensuring that your website is secure and trustworthy.

Some examples of transactional intent keywords:

  • "buy red shoes"
  • "book a hotel room"
  • "schedule a doctor appointment"
  • "order takeout"

As you can see, these keywords are all specific to a particular task or transaction that the user is looking to complete. If you're targeting these kinds of keywords, it's important to make sure that your website is set up to facilitate those transactions.

If you're unsure which keywords to target, looking at your website's analytics data is a good place to start. You can use this data to see which keywords people are already using to find your site, and then optimize your site for those keywords.

Transactional search intent example

The benefits of maximizing search intent

When it comes to SEO, intent targeting is key. Here are three benefits of intent targeting that can help boost your SEO efforts:

Helps you target the right keywords

By understanding the searcher's intent, you can target the right keywords for your website. This way, you're more likely to appear in the search results for relevant keywords to your business.

Allows you to create more relevant content

If you know what people are searching for, you can create content that's more likely to address their needs. This way, you can attract more visitors to your website and improve your chances of ranking higher in the search results.

Improves your conversion rates

If you're able to target the right keywords and create relevant content, you're more likely to convert visitors into customers or clients. This can lead to a significant increase in revenue for your business.

It can help you build relationships with your audience

If you're able to provide helpful and relevant information to your audience, you're more likely to build relationships with them. This can lead to loyalty and repeat business, which can be extremely beneficial for your bottom line.

Maximazing search intent

Conclusion

Intent targeting is a vital part of any successful SEO strategy. By understanding the searcher's intent, you can target the right keywords, create more relevant content, and improve your conversion rates. So, if you're not already incorporating intent targeting into your SEO efforts, now is the time to start.

As long as you understand the main differences between these four types, you will be that much closer to maximizing your goals. 

Be thorough and consistent, experiment as much as possible, and keep your eyes on the prize.

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