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search intent seo

What is Search Intent in SEO? A Guide to Writing Content that People Love

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Search intent is the motivation behind a person’s search query.

It answers why they google-ed their search term in the first place. What is the person truly looking for when searching for this keyword phrase?

  • Are they looking for information
  • Are they looking to purchase
  • Are they looking to go somewhere
  • Are they looking for a specific brand

Serving up the right answers to people’s search queries is very important to Google.

Google takes search intent very seriously. It has released tons of search enhancements to achieve this – featured snippets, knowledge graph, rich results, sitelinks, etc.

All to ensure its search results are giving people the best possible answer to their query. Thus taking great care in understanding and learning intent behind people’s search.

That’s why we, as content creators will have to take search intent very seriously too.

What is Search Intent in SEO?

Search Intent is the purpose behind a person’s search.

And every search is a keyword query.

So search intent is the purpose behind a keyword query.

When somebody searches for something on Google, are they looking for information? Or are they looking to make a purchase?

Somebody searching for “cheap coffee machines” is likely looking to take action to make a purchase.

You’ll notice Shopping Ads on search results –

search intent shopping seo

You might also see Local Maps on search results –

search intent local maps seo

This indicates that the intent for “cheap coffee machines” is transactional in nature. Google is giving us valuable hints on its search engine results page (SERPs) already:

  • Shopping Ads
  • Local Maps
  • Google My Business Listings
  • Google Ads

Search intent is key to creating the right content type to rank on Google.

If we want to rank for “cheap coffee machines”, informational content like blog posts would not satisfy this purchase intent and that’s why blog posts are not dominating search results for this keyword.

The right content type would be product pages. In this case, a cafe or commercial website where people can actually purchase a coffee machine. That’s why we see Google ranking e-commerce websites and coffee brands ranking high on SERPs.

The three common types of Search Intent

search intent SEO

The three common types of user search intent are:

  • Informational: The intent to look for information or to learn something.
  • Transactional: The intent to take action such as to purchase or download a freebie.
  • Navigational: The intent to look for a specific brand.

What is Informational Intent?

informational search intent keywords seo

Informational intent is the motive to look for information, hence the name.

People are searching with the intent to look for information or to learn something. 

They are searching with keywords like “acai berries” – the user is looking for a simple answer about acai berries.

They could also be searching with more comprehensive queries like “how to make an acai bowl from scratch?”, where the user is looking for a recipe or step by step guide to learn.

Informational intent keywords belong at the top of the funnel, where the user is in the awareness stage.

  • acai berries
  • what is an acai
  • benefits of acai
  • how to make an acai bowl

    seed keyword
    keyword + what is
   keyword + how to

 

Informational intent keywords are hard to monetize. Because people are not looking to purchase yet.

What is Transactional Intent?

SEO transactional intent keyword

Transactional intent is the motive to take action.

People are searching with the intent to make a purchase or sign up for something.

You can tell if someone is searching with transactional intent with the use of call to action words.

Transactional intent queries:

  • cheap coffee machine
  • best coffee machine
  • coffee machine review
  • buy coffee machine

    keyword + call to action

 

Transactional intent queries could also have the brand name in the query. Such as “best paulig coffee machine”.

People searching with transactional intent are ready to take action, and are at the bottom of the funnel.

navigational intent seo

Navigational intent is the motive to look for a specific brand. In this case, I am specifically searching for the Sambazon acai brand. Not just acai bowl, but Sambazon acai bowl.

People already have a particular brand in mind when searching.

Navigational intent queries:

  • sambazon acai bowl
  • frozen sambazon acai
  • sambazon review
  • sambazon acai calories

    branded keywords

 

Navigational intent queries are branded keywords. They are keywords with a specific brand term attached.

People searching for branded queries already know the brand they are looking for and are more conversion-ready than informational keywords.

So navigational intent queries belong near the middle to bottom of the funnel.
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How to target search intent with the right content type

We can target search intent by creating the right content to match.

Creating the right content that is aligned with search intent is as crucial as it ranking on search results at all.

If we look at the search results for the keyword query, “cheap flights to finland” –

seo-commercial-intent-search-results

We see 3 Google Ads, travel booking websites (Skyscanner, Expedia) ranking on the first page. Not a single blog post is ranking.

This tells us a strong transactional and commercial intent. 

You don’t want to corner yourself into a dead end by creating a blog post. That would never rank simply because it is the wrong content type.

Google has a good understanding of what answers people are looking for when they search for a particular keyword query. Our content has to be optimized for search intent as well.

How to target informational intent keyword queries?

The best content to target informational keywords are blog posts.

Genuinely helpful and relevant content that can provide valuable answers to users.

When it comes to information, the broader the better. If you have a pillar article that comprehensively covers a keyword topic, it could rank for many related keywords, synonyms, and long-tails.

Think about Wikipedia, Britannica or Investopedia.

These websites are packed with information about everything and anything from A-Z.

Because of that, they drive millions of search traffic simply because their content answers generic keyword queries. 

How to target transactional intent keyword queries?

The best content to target transactional keywords are local SEO results, product pages and also Google Ads.

  • Local Maps
  • Google My Business
  • Reviews
  • E-commerce pages
  • Sales pages
  • Service/Product pages
  • Shopping Ads
  • Search Ads
  • Display Ads

Transactional intent queries are looking to take action.

Optimizing for local SEO is key to targeting transactional intent queries.

Local SEO keyword queries with transactional intent:

  • “sushi near me”
  • “best sushi bar”
  • “cheap sushi buffet”
  • “best sushi buffet reviews”

People searching for such queries are definitely ready to make a purchase. So optimizing your Google My Business listings and appearing on local maps are important to show up for purchase-ready keywords.

If you don’t have a business storefront, you can target transactional intent keywords with product pages too.

Optimize your sales pages and BOFU content

Blogs and online businesses can target transactional keywords with bottom of the funnel (BOFU) content.

Bottom of the Funnel content is conversion-driven.

  • Service page with a list of offerings and customer reviews
  • Webinar, opt-in page
  • Case studies
  • Sales page

Keywords with transactional intent:

  • “download checklist”
  • “free marketing consultation”
  • “product demo”
  • “XXX company review”

Ranking your BOFU content for such transactional intent keyword queries would drive high-value traffic to your site.

Optimize your Google ads for transactional intent

Transactional intent keywords are not just for SEO and organic traffic, but they are incredibly valuable for promoted campaigns, especially paid search.

Because transactional intent keywords possess the highest potential for ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).

That’s why when we search for transactional intent keywords, there is no shortage of Google Ads, Shopping Ads on the search results.

Advertisers will not miss out on prime real estate on the search result (Google Ads) which appears at the top of the fold for high ROI keywords.

So if you are also running ads on search, always consider transactional intent keywords in your campaign!

Navigational intent keyword queries are pretty straight forward. Navigational intent keywords are branded keywords.

People are searching with a specific brand in mind already.

In terms of paid search, you could bid for competitor’s branded keywords.

But in terms of organic search, you would simply want to rank for your own branded keywords. This is more relevant for brands that already have a strong brand presence.

“Caudalie organics face mask” is a navigational intent query, and obviously Caudalie’s website should be ranking in the first position on organic search results.

Brand specific content should be optimized for navigational intent keywords

Optimizing your brand’s content to target certain keywords would be the right strategy here.

If you notice your content is not ranking at the top of search results for your branded keywords, then something is off.

Usually, you’ll have to look into on-page SEO first. Check your titles, headings and page content.

Then, check out your search competition and how they have managed to outrank your website for your branded keywords.

Any questions about search intent for SEO? Let me know in the comments below!
SEO for Beginners Bootcamp blog post

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Author: Leanne Wong

Leanne Wong has taught over 4,000+ entrepreneurs and bloggers how to successfully market and grow their business online. 

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8 People reacted on this

  1. Wow, this is really a great post and very informative. SEO is really important and challenging but definitely helpful.

    1. Thank you, Diana! So glad to hear my article has been helpful for you. Absolutely – SEO is probably one of the most misunderstood topics on the planet but if you work at it correctly, the results will certainly come your way.

    1. Absolutely! SEO can sometimes be challenging to grasp at first but when you start implementing optimizations especially in content, the results will come. Hope all is well with you, Angie.

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