Nov 28, 2022

Search intent: What is it and why does it matter? (A complete guide)

Suman Samal, Asst. Marketing Manager
Suman Samal
Search intent: What is it and why does it matter? (A complete guide)
Suman Samal, Asst. Marketing Manager
Suman Samal
Nov 28, 2022

Search intent: What is it and why does it matter? (A complete guide)

Understanding search intent helps cater to audience needs and rank on SERPs. Learn about the types of search intent and how to identify and incorporate them.
Search intent: What is it and why does it matter? (A complete guide)

Table of contents

Are you churning out stellar content only to find that it doesn’t rank well on search engines? Incorporating keyword search intent might be the missing element. 

Understanding Google search intent and making it part of your content strategy is pivotal in today’s world. Search engines are filled to the brim with content, all of it competing for the same thing, the user’s attention. 

What is the best way to get their attention? The answer — providing them with exactly what they are looking for. To understand this better, let’s dive into search intent and its relationship with SEO practices.   

What is search intent?

First, we start with the search intent definition. Simply put, search intent or keyword intent is the motivation behind a consumer’s search on Google or any other search engine. It is the purpose behind a user’s search with a specific query or the problem they are trying to solve.  

The importance of understanding keyword search intent

Understanding search intent is crucial. Just incorporating keyword research in your content does not yield the desired results anymore. Pages do well (and, more importantly, rank well on SERPs) when they cater to the audience’s needs. 

By understanding search intent, you take into account what the audience is looking for and strive to provide that. There are different types of keywords associated with different types of intent (which we shall explain in the next section). 

It is paramount to understand the search intent associated with a keyword. This helps one reach the target audience, improve SEO, and rank on the SERP. This is because incorporating keywords in the content that match the search intent of a consumer increases the chances of a consumer seeing that post. 

Tracking how integrating keyword-related search intent reflects on SERP results also helps one incorporate better keyword clues in the content. This, in turn, helps improve SEO and SERP rankings. 

Types of search intent with example

As with most things we do, there is always a goal behind taking a particular action. So when a user queries with a particular term on a search engine, they have a purpose behind it, a purposeful intention. 

This goes to say that search intents can be of different types. A consumer looking to buy a terracotta pot does not have the same intent as a consumer looking at different planting options, such as trough planters or grow bags. 

One is looking for a pot (which could be for various reasons), while another is looking to explore planting options. 

Let’s look at the different types of search intent and search intent examples and analyze what each means to understand better how to categorize them.  

Informational intent

Informational intent pertains to general information. As the term suggests, users with informational intent are seeking information. This could be information on a particular topic, or they could be asking a certain question related to a specific product or service. 

Their search intent could pertain to lawnmowers, planters, search engine optimization, or the UV index—the list is endless. 

An example of informational intent is someone looking for more information on keyword search intent. They might type in ‘Google search intent’ if they want to know more about how to rank better on Google, or they might type in ‘search engine SEO' if they want more general information on how search engine optimization works. 

As you can tell, informational intent is when a person wants more information about a particular need or problem and how they can solve it. Some other examples include the following:

  • If a person plans to adopt a cat, their current need is more information on how to take care of cats, so they search for ‘how to care for a cat.’
  • If they need a definition of a word, they search for the meaning or definition of that word. 
  • If they need a recipe, they search for it using the ingredients or other keywords such as ‘quick dinner recipe’ or ‘low carb meal.’

Transactional intent

Transactional intent is when people want to buy a product or a service. In other words, they are looking to make a purchase. This means that the consumer is at a stage where they know what they are looking for. They have researched the available product options and know which brand they are looking for. 

An example of transactional intent is when someone is looking to buy a particular brand of, say, a facial moisturizer. They know which brand they want, either from research or from years of using it. The user intent is to use a search engine to browse through different sites, trying to look for a good deal on the product. 

Google has a ‘shopping’ tab under their search results, which is one of the ways they might choose to browse. They might choose to look at the main search results page if they know which store they want to buy it from. 

People with transactional intent typically look for product and brand names, along with search terms like ‘price’, ‘deal’, or ‘sale’. Some examples include the following:

  • If someone wants to buy the product in bulk, they might search for ‘pack of 20 betterway bamboo toilet paper.’  
  • If a consumer is looking for a particular sunscreen, they will search for, say,  ‘Neutrogena sunscreen special offer.’
  • If a person is looking for an AI content platform subscription plan, they will search for ‘Scalenut pricing plans’ or the like.

Navigational intent 

When consumers look to navigate to a specific website or product page, they are exercising navigational intent. They might find it easier to navigate directly through Google, or they might not know the exact URL. 

Sometimes, they are searching for a brand website, or they might want to search for a product or service on a particular page.

For example, a consumer might search with ‘down jacket at Uniqlo’. They know that they want a down jacket, and they want the brand Uniqlo, so they might directly search for that. 

As you might have noticed, the search results with navigational Google search intent tend to be home pages or product pages of particular brands’ websites. Some more of these search intent examples include:

  • A searcher who wants to navigate to YouTube might search for ‘YouTube’ on Google instead of typing out the URL.
  • A searcher looking for a movie review could type out the movie name along with ‘IMDb’ to jump straight to the movie’s IMDb page
  • A person looking to go to Apple’s home page might look it up on the search engine.

Commercial intent 

Commercial intent is when people look for information with the intention of buying. This is different from transactional intent because the consumer is looking for pertinent information to purchase something. 

In these cases, the consumer is looking to research or investigate with the ultimate aim of buying a product or service. This could be information that guides them and helps them make a purchase decision.

An example of commercial intent could be a comparison blog that helps someone decide between two types of laptops. The consumer is researching different brands and what they have to offer. So they might look up a comparison blog comparing two brands. This will give them all the information needed to make a decision. 

With a commercial search intent, the searcher might look for information in various ways. The queries could be as simple as ‘Best brands for’, or more direct phrasing such as using a brand name coupled with ‘versus’, ‘vs’, ‘or’, ‘comparison’,’ etc. Some examples of commercial intent are:

  • A consumer searches for a review of a burger restaurant near them. 
  • A searcher looking to choose between two web hosting services; the search might end in a blog comparing the two brands they have in mind.
  • A consumer who wants to buy eco-friendly trash bags might search for ‘Best biodegradable trash bags.’    

How to find the search intent of the keyword (Step-by-step process)

We now have an understanding of search intent, keywords, and their relationship with queries and search engines. Let’s now break down the process of pinpointing search intent through target keywords.

Step 1: Do a thorough analysis of the top 10 URLs 

This is the most important step in recognizing search intent. You must analyze the top 10 search results for the target keywords displayed on the SERP. Search for the keyword on Google or another search engine and look at the search results.

Scan the first 10 results on the SERP to understand what the search intent is. If a majority of the results share the same type of user intent and match the desired intent, there are higher chances of ranking well. This also means the topic at hand is in line with what most searchers associated with these keywords.

For example, take the query, ‘hire freelancer’. If one wants to write an article on how it is to hire and work with freelancers (informational intent), but the top query results show only firms offering to hire freelancers (transactional intent), then there might be a mismatch in intent. In this scenario, it is unlikely that the planned article will rank well.  

Scalenut’s SERP analysis feature takes into account the top 30 SERP results for a topic  and generates NLP-extracted key terms to be included in the content for better ranking. It also provides important performance metrics data such as word count, H-tags, and readability information to ensure the best content quality.

Step 2: Don’t forget to check out “related searches” and people also ask section on Google 

Google features a section at the bottom of a SERP called “related searches”. This section touches upon other common searches conducted by users. It also features a “people also ask” section, which displays related phrases frequently or repeatedly asked by other searchers. 

When a keyword is queried, these two sections also appear on the SERP. They give you an understanding of what other related keywords are and what people are looking for. 

If the search intent derived from these two sections matches the search intent of the target keywords for the content, there will be a favorable chance of a high SERP rank. Otherwise, alternative keywords will have to be considered. 

In the previous screenshot, we see that the “people also ask” section covers alternative ways in which people might be approaching the keyword. As the questions are informational in intent, it can be inferred that there might be a demand for informational content.

Result 6 on the SERP shows an informational page, which means that people want to see this content. However, due to the nature of the keywords, it might never rank in the top three results. 

Step 3: Look at images and video content for a better understanding

Written articles and blog posts make up only one type of content. Sometimes, people search with queries looking primarily for images or videos as part of the intended results. 

For example, someone could be looking to renovate a room, or they might want to look up ‘how to tie a tie.’ In both these instances, the written word will not help. They would prefer to look at a video or pictures. 

Now, it is clear that the search intent for these keywords is connected to the image or video results. Hence, expecting to rank well for these keywords with heavy, written content is not realistic. 

In the above screenshot, we see the results for the search query ‘How to tie a tie.’ The first result is a video, and the other results show landing pages with detailed step-by-step pictures. Thus, an educational article with no images will obviously not rank well for this keyword. 

Step 4: Identify similar keywords and analyze the SERP results for them as well 

One should look at similar keywords and look at what the SERP results include. For instance, instead of ‘‘How do I”, someone might search with “what is the process” or “what is the procedure” to do something. 

If one notices that the user intent more or less remains the same (informational, in this case) for similar keywords, then the chance of ranking well is high. (Again, the user intent reflected in the SERP results should match the intended intent for the content.)  

Continuing on with the freelancer example, here we see that if we analyze similar keywords or add more specific long tail keywords, the SERP changes to reflect that. We can see more results of informational intent, which might signify a space or knowledge gap for such articles as well. To learn more about long tail keywords, check this blog on 10 smart ways to find long tail keywords with low competition.

Step 5: Classify keywords based on intent and start writing content brief 

Once the above steps are taken for the target keywords, it becomes quite clear what the general intent associated with the keywords is. If the intent of the content matches the user intent found (from keyword analysis), there are favorable chances of the planned content ranking well on the SERP. 

It would help to classify the keywords based on user intent and to use the keywords associated with the favored intent. 

For instance, when writing about a particular topic with informational intent, the keyword analysis (detailed in the previous steps) shows a transactional intent in the search queries. Then, one must modify the keywords or rephrase the content accordingly. 

Let’s take an example. 

Suppose one wants to write about cat toys (informational intent) on their website, but the analysis reveals that most of the SERP results reflect the selling of cat toys (transactional intent). In this case, it might be beneficial to write about top cat toys with affiliated links and match the transactional intent, so the page ranks better.  

How to optimize content for search intent?

Optimizing content for search intent consists of identifying the search intent and pinpointing keywords that reflect your desired intent. 

One should look to optimize for content type and content format. Make sure to match the content type and format to the search intent (user intent) obtained from the SERP analysis. For instance, if the majority of the content is in the form of informational articles, make sure your content type and format align with that.

Another point is to optimize for content angle. Take into account the stand taken by top-ranking results on the SERP. For example, if one Googles the word ‘salsa’, they would find it is associated with the sauce rather than the dance. It gives a clear idea of what people value most or associate with certain keywords. 

It is always a good idea to tweak content to reflect this or look at alternate keywords closer to the desired intent. 

What are the SEO benefits of keyword intent targeting? 

Even though keyword research is still prudent in this day and age (read this blog to understand how to do keyword research for SEO and PPC (step-by-step)),  it has to be complemented with keyword intent targeting to see SEO benefits.

When one optimizes content to match search intent, the following SEO benefits are derived:

  • Increased traffic: You give people what they are looking for, which drives more organic traffic to the page and improves visibility.
  • Comprehensive information: People receive all the information they need from the page, which means they spend more time on the intended page, which helps with the sales funnel and ranking.
  • Customer trust: Matching the content with the prevalent search intent means people come to view the page as a reliable source of information, lending your brand credibility and authority.

Scalenut’s SERP analysis feature is here to help

Scalenut’s SERP analysis feature curates important data from the top-ranking pages on the SERPs. The consumer’s search intent is taken into account, which results in content closely matching the searcher’s queries. 

It includes a keyword research tool and provides a list of NLP-extracted key terms to be included in the content, their frequency, and their importance, which results in better ranking. It assists in identifying the content format, content outline, and recommended word count. 

The tool also provides a guided workflow to help you create a content outline through important information that includes headers, subtopics, primary and secondary keywords, and other relevant keywords. Over time, a tool such as this Improves consistency in content creation and boosts ranking on search engines. 

Click here to create a free account and explore the many features of this tool.

Suman Samal
Asst. Marketing Manager
ABout the AUTHOR
Suman Samal
Asst. Marketing Manager

Suman Samal is a Asst. Marketing Manager at Scalenut. She is a technology enthusiast with a keen interest in content marketing and SEO. She truly believes that with the right set of tools every organization can improve the ROI of their content marketing campaigns. She spends her time managing content operations at Scalenut and ensuring that everything we publish is of the highest quality.

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