What is Search Intent and Why Does It Matter for SEO?

What is Search Intent SEO?

Search intent refers to the reason behind the query that the searcher inputs on search engines. It represents the perspective and objective of the searcher. What is he/she trying to find out? What could possibly land him/her onto your web page?

Is it to find something? Is it to learn about something? Or is it for a purchase?

Type in “Best College Recipes” into Google and you get returned with a list of fast, effective, and easy-to-cook recipes for any beginner-level chef. This is because Google matches your intent of the search (finding information) with relevant information (recipes).

Search intent is used for search engine optimisation purposes, and is commonly overlooked as a ranking factor, despite its importance.

Why is Search Intent Important?

  • Search intent gives websites a better insight how to optimise their website. Your webpages need to be matched with the search intent of your potential customers. This way, Google, and your organic traffic will understand the content and purpose of your website and its corresponding webpages.

    Hence, the title of your pages should match your content accurately. Snippets you provide for blog articles will also have to describe the page’s content and information.

A blog article of “How to…” should be equipped with an informative step-by-step instruction or approach to the topic, instead of acting as a funnel for customers to make a purchase.

  • Search intent provides web owners with a better insight of the keywords they are looking to compete in or rank for. Keywords have always provided the ‘what to rank for’ element of SEO, whereas search intent is responsible for the ‘how to rank for’ aspect.

  • Search intent is important to ranking well on Google. Google’s mission is to “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Hence, in recent years of the latest decade, as Google’s algorithm and bots start to improve and change, more and more focus is placed on matching online information to search enquiries. Effectively, this means that search intent is becoming a more important key factor in ranking results. Pages that match search intent accurately will ultimately be rewarded by Google.

  • Broaden your reach across different funnel tiers with search intent.Remembering search intent allows you to create content to capture varying levels of interest. From customers who are still learning about your website to those who are on the verge of converting, search intent, as a tool, gives you the resources you need to reach them.

How to Optimise for Search Intent

Here are some tips on how to optimise for Search Intent:

#1 – Give the User the Information They Are Looking for

Include content about related questions that web users might be looking for. This can come in the form of infographics, blog pages, pictures, videos or just a list of pointers.

Make your content easy to read and digest. Aim for bite-sized content. For lengthier articles, use headlines and subheadings to guide your reader’s attention. Make the title of your page clear and concise. Engage your readers using conversational language in your writing. Remember – Write for humans, not bot algorithms.

 #2 – Call to Action

A call to action is important.

Just because a visitor is not entering your site to make a purchase does not mean that they will not change their mind. Proper content is key to convincing a prospect and converting them into a customer.

With a clear call to action, the reader knows the next few steps to proceed with, to either make a purchase or sign up for the website. They are less likely to leave the site without accomplishing these simple 5-minute tasks.

The call to action will have to be secondary in nature and done more subtly. Too much and you risk scaring away your customers or annoying them with pop-up ads and massive distracting buttons.

#3 – Adapt to Changes

Search intent are like trends. They may change over time. News, current affairs and seasonal spikes might cause a different search intent to surface and a popular search intent to die down.

Google is also struggling to improve on its understanding on the true intent behind searches. Google does not share exact numbers, but as reported by SEOTribunal.com, Google handles 3.8 million searches per minute on average across the globe. Out of these millions of searches, Google reaffirms 15% of searches are new, never-been-searched-before terms.

The sheer number of new terms makes it challenging for Google and non-human algorithms to get a grasp on the relevant intent.

#4 – Consider Keyword Modifiers

Keyword modifiers can be helpful indicators of alternative search intent that you might not have considered. There are many online tools available for keyword research and filtering them can allow you to know which keywords rank better for each specific intent.

Related keywords can help you reach a new audience that you might not have known existed.

Types of Search Intent

Search intent is commonly divided into many categories, as searches come with varying degrees of interest and intent.

Informational Intent

Plenty of searches are done with the goal of attaining information. This could be as basic as checking on prices or the nearest available hair salon or could be specific enough to be looking for instructions. People with informational intent usually have a specific question they want to find out or a specific task they require help with. This could also be triggered by viral trends or news.

Being aware of informational intent allows you to prepare your content in the right approach and direction earlier. Someone looking for ‘chicken curry recipes’ is more likely to be wanting to learn how to cook it in easy step-by-steps rather than trying to purchase a book about chickens and/or curry.

Navigational Intent

People with this level of interest are likely already invested in a specific company and are searching just to visit the specific company or website. However, keeping track of this intent, even if the customer is not a loyal follower of your brand could be useful for formulating your future marketing strategies. It allows you to try to attract your competitor’s clients and convince them to choose you instead.

Commercial Intent

Searchers under this category are looking around and shopping for information. However, unlike the generic informational intent searches, investigational intent has a deeper aspect to it. Consumers are more likely to be doing comparisons between websites and brands and looking at reviews, rather than simply shopping for educational information or reading blogs.
This group of customers are more invested into the purchase, although they might not be convinced yet, and just require one last push over the fence.

Transactional Intent

Usually accompanied with long-tail keywords and voice searches, transactional intent represents a customer’s intent to make a purchase or employ a service. Most of the time, customers at this stage are already ready to purchase, and conversations rates are noticeably higher. This category of intent represents the highest convertible tier of customers and has been the focus of marketing campaigns due to its high intent keywords.

What Are High Intent Keywords?

High intent keywords are closely related to high intent searches. They work in the same vein by showing a deeper interest on the consumer’s part. Much like how voice searches show a greater level of purchase intent, long tail keywords are signs of a different tier of web users that deserves a closer look from companies.

How to Infer Search Intent

Search intent is usually obvious form the wording of the search terms itself. Most search term uses verbs, which clearly shows the intent of the customer to a purchase, discover or interest.

Nevertheless, there are a few tips on the writing prompts that can be used to kickstart your content marketing efforts to match search intent:

  • Informational Intent
    • Guides, How-To,
    • Where/Why/Who to Find,
    • Tutorials and Resources
    • Downloadable Content
    • Examples, Tips, Tricks, Ideas
  • Navigational
    • Brand names
    • Name of a product/company/website
    • Feature articles
  • Commercial Intent
    • Comparison articles/videos
    • Reviews
    • Size/Colour/Value-for-money analysis
    • Top 10 lists
  • Transactional
    • Coupon/Vouchers/Discounts
    • Bulk purchase offers
    • Pricing guides

Performing keyword research using tools like Ahref’s Keywords Explorer can allow you to filter for your keywords with specific intent. Modifiers and filters may not be perfect, but it would help in sieving through tens of thousands of search terms to give you a more refined understanding of your customer base.

What Are Product Or Service Keywords?

Product-defining keywords are terms related to specific brand or product. These types of keywords are phrases that directly name or reference a company’s products or services, similar to branded keywords.  

Examples can include ‘Nike Tennis Shoes’ or ‘Ridge Minimalistic Wallet’. These keywords would be commonly used together and in other commercial or marketing platforms, in order to prompt web users to search for these terms.

Companies should have a keyword strategy for each of their products (or services). This can allow prospective customers to land on the product pages much more easily.

Brands should have a keyword strategy for each of their products and services so customers and prospects can find their offerings through search.

Service keywords work the same, but for services instead.

Both aspects signify a group of commercial driven keywords.

Which Search Intent Should You Optimise For?

While it may be tempting to target transactional intent as they seem more likely to be converted into leads, the answer is rarely that straightforward. Ultimately, it depends on the marketing goals and strategies.

Do you want to build your customer base?

Do you want the current marketing campaign to just boost your sales?

Do you want to test your content marketing strategy?

Do you want to stand apart from your competition?

While lower-interest search intents may not immediately lead to sales, it can create an opportunity for your brand and website to grow. Over time, more visitors may be slowly guided through your sales funnel, from brand awareness all the way to product purchase.

It is also important to note that sole focusing your efforts on transactional search intent may fall short, as it might signify only a small portion of your current viewers. This is exceptionally true for smaller and newer websites.

Tips to Optimise for Search Intent

So, how do you find out more about search intent?

  1. Examine the search results page. The search results ranking page (SERP) gives us more direction in understanding search intent. Google already understands what people want to see when they are searching. Search results like ‘name card holder’ or ‘minimalistic wallet’ have a high commercial search intent, which is evident from the search results which shows more product pages rather than information or images.

    One of the many SERP features Google has is the featured snippet section, which is commonly used to push e-commerce shopping options, video results and related answers. Google tends to show snippets for more frequently searched terms.

    Different snippets are also featured depending on the search intent. For example, searching for information on a topic nets you a information snippet from Google in response to your query. However, searching with a transactional intent, with “Buy latest iphone model” ends you up with a carousel of purchasing options from Google. 

  2. Use Google Ads to help determine the scope of Commercial Intent. In Google Ads, the suggested bid and competition is reflected by the commercial intent behind the keywords. While companies may not be ready to commit to pay per click ads yet, it is still helpful to know what your competitors are willing to pay for advertisements in your industry.

  3. Analysis your existing content. Understanding if your content marketing strategy is meeting the needs and demands of your visitors is more important than constantly churning new content to facilitate conversations. You can save both time and money by tweaking existing content.

High bounce rates from search engine referrals may be a sign of poorly optimised and mismatching content. Lower click-through rate is a similar symptom. The issue may be that the keywords you are ranked for are mismatched with your content.

  • Maximise your sites user experience. In addition to matching intent for your web visitors, you need to provide a pleasant web-surfing experience for your prospects. This includes changing your site to guide your users better and cut down on the aspects that might score or chase them away.
    • Proper navigation. Let Google and your visitors understand your site’s infrastructure and layout better.
    • Proper subheadings. Google wants their answer fast. To achieve that, they skim your content for the headers and subheadings. Having keywords in these areas can help optimise your site better.
    • Use videos and infographics. Videos offer a more passive approach in feeding the user information. The user just has to sit back and listen, instead of actively reading and digesting information. Infographics represent an effective way in providing easy-to-digest information.
  • Ask your customers. Make a small survey, containing questions on how your customers manage to find your website, what they are searching for, and what were they looking for but you do not have. Offer incentives in exchange for answers, in order to gain valuable insights into your audience.
  • Measure your results and adjust. Similar to other digital marketing campaigns, optimising for search intent requires effort and time. Trial-and-errors and research cumulate into learning processes that can be used to refine your approach. 


Search intent explains the reason behind searches. People enter a search engine with either an objective or question in mind. The goal for websites is to appear in front of these users with a friendly and informative display of information.

As Google shifts its attention to the user’s experience, search results that can provide the searcher with the best information stands to win the SERP ranking game.

Focusing on the information and questions attached to the keywords is an important marketing strategy that sets it apart from approaches which are more dated.

Updating your content and landing pages to be geared towards search intent is more important than blindly integrating keywords to your website.

Start Optimising for Your Customer’s Search Intent Today

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