What is Search Intent?

search intent - seo

What do you search for when you need to know something? Keywords will help you to rank higher on Google but search intent essentially will help to keep users on your site, to submit an enquiry form or to purchase an item.

Search intent is quite simply the reason why someone conducts a search online. They may be looking for a service, an answer to a question or may just want to visit a specific site. Ultimately does the content on your site fit a user’s search term?

You may be using the correct keywords but if the page your user lands on has no answer or purpose, it has no intent and therefore it’s of little quality when Google is crawling your site.

The Types of Search Intent

There are four types of search intent to be aware of and to have in mind when devising your content strategy.


Informational intent refers to queries, from knowing what the weather will be like for your holiday in Costa Del Sol to searching for the perfect sour dough recipe. It’s one of the most common types of search intent, especially as we turn to Google to find out pretty much everything. Which is made even easier with the use of voice search (this is a completely different topic for another time), so having the correct information that serves a purpose is essential. Your audience wants an answer and Google wants to ensure that the content they’re receiving is accurate, trust-worthy and of high quality.

Including images and videos in your content will always help with informational search intent. Google recognises the nature of most terms and what it is that you’re searching for due to search volume, algorithm and related search terms will display lower in the results.


Some purchase decisions take time and therefore the buying cycle is lengthy, that’s why we’re re-targeted to and why we end up seeing adverts everywhere we go online. For example, buying a car will result in a much longer buying process. Sometimes though we don’t have the time to scroll endless pages to find something, we know what we want and we want it there and then. As online shopping becomes ever easier, our patience becomes shorter.

That’s where transactional search intent comes in, if you search for something specific, ‘Barbour Jacket’, the likelihood is that is the product you want. Related products will appear but the search intent is for the product that you searched for. If a site uses transactional search intent well, you’ll probably purchase that product but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be swayed.

Barbour Ad on Google shopping showing transactional intent
‘Barbour Transactional Intent’


Navigational search intent is usually from people who already know what it is that they’re looking for and will search for that exact term. This may be because they don’t know the direct web address or they’re looking for alternatives. It’s crucial to make sure that you’re fully visible just from your brand or company name. There’s nothing worse that trying to find a business with a complicated or diluted name, if a user can’t even find you by name, there’s no way they will be able to find what is that you’re offering.

For example, if you search for ‘Apple’, the first search result isn’t of a fruity Pink Lady but of the global technology empire. Google knows that this is more than likely what you’re looking for. It could be wrong though, maybe you did just want a Granny Smith after all?

'Apple' Google Search showing Navigational Intent
‘Apple Inc. Navigational Search Intent’


Commercial intent usually refers to users that need to do some research first before making a decision. They’ll probably visit various sites and usually they will have some transactional intent in their search too. They are more than likely looking to buy in the future (refer back to the car buyer user journey that I spoke about). They will need more time and they are usually a bit harder to crack when it comes to converting.

How Do You Track Search Intent?

It can be difficult to keep on track with search intent. Monitoring the volume of a keyword isn’t always enough. Look at trends throughout the year, to create content as and when it’s most relevant.

Think about the words that are attached to your keywords too. For transactional intent, words like ‘offer‘, ‘dealbuy‘ will be used and for more informational intent, ‘the top...‘, ‘the best‘, ‘how to...‘. Monitor the performance of these pages and you will begin to get a picture of what type of search intent your users respond best to.

Ultimately, refer back to types of search intent. Think about what it is that you’re offering and what type of audience you’re trying to attract. Be clever with your content; hit those who are still doing their research with the best comparisons and reviews, then hit them again with content that is built around transactional intent.

Your content shouldn’t suit all purposes, truly think about the following:

  1. Do I want this content to rank?

  2. Do I want to inform someone with this content?

  3. Do I want someone to take action from this content?


If your answer is yes to one of these or all three, then seek advice from an SEO specialist AND a Copywriter. Utilising the skillset of both will result in content that not only ranks but that is engaging. Don’t generalise and write your own content that no one wants to actually read. If you want to stand out and get ahead of competitors, then seriously think about your content strategy and ultimately, search intent.

If you wish to know more about the SEO services that our partner, Plenty Digital offers or perhaps you want to pick Lee’s brain about search intent? Then contact us and we’ll put you in touch.





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