Search Intent

When we do a search (by putting a query or we can say keyword) on a search engine, we desire to achieve something.

Well, this something could be anything. From buying a t-shirt to reading reviews of the latest MCU movies.

It is our desire that put value to a keyword and this desire is called “search intent”. Because it is our desire, hence, it is sometimes called “user intent”.

In SEO, fulfilling the needs of search intent is one of the most important tasks and in my opinion, is the number 1 Google ranking factor.

Because no search engine wants to ruin their user experience.

Once the user searches for something, the search engine tries its best to give the answer they desire in a few results.

Search engines don’t want their user to “Pogo Sticking” from one search result to another.

Credits: Backlinko

That’s why fulfilling the search intent is the best thing you can do with your content to rank it higher on the search engine.

Types of Search Intent

There are four main types of search intent:

  • Informational Intent
  • Navigational Intent
  • Commercial Investigation Intent
  • Transactional Intent

Informational Intent

Here, users are looking for general information. They are educating themselves, finding answers to their questions. Informational Intent falls in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. Keywords that fall in the informational intent are called Informational keywords. Some examples of these keywords are:

  • What is soya protein?
  • How does solar energy work?
  • Tips to grow hair fast

Question keywords mainly fall here.

Tip: When you start doing business online, the first thing you should achieve from your website is completing this stage i.e. fulfilling the user’s informational intent.

Navigational Intent

When you familiarize yourself with the user. When the user knows about your brand, then, they will find you through navigational intent. They want to quickly find the information they are looking for. Below are some examples of Navigational Keywords that fall in this intent:

  • Facebook Login
  • Google Maps
  • YouTube, etc

Navigational Intent can fall in any three stages of the buyer’s journey.

Commercial Intent

Here users are looking for products, making comparisons, and reading their reviews and recommendations. This intent basically falls in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. Below are some examples of commercial keywords fulfilling the commercial intent:

  • Top-rated gaming laptop
  • Best Budget Smartphones
  • Apple vs Android, etc.

This stage helps the user to make decisions and move on to the last stage of the buyer’s journey.

Transactional Intent

In this stage, users are looking to buy a product or service. They are in their decision stage and ready to buy with transactional search queries like:

  • Buy Nike Air Jordan
  • Order Pizza Online
  • Discount of XYZ
  • Coupon for XYZ

Relationship between Different Search Intent and Buyers’ Journey Stage

For your ease, below I have mentioned a table in which I have marked different types of search intent and where they typically fall in the buyer’s journey.

Search IntentBuyer’s Journey StageTypes of Keywords
InformationalAwareness Stage“What is”, “How to”, “Guide to”, “Tips for”
NavigationalAny StageBrand names, specific URLs, product names
Commercial InvestigationConsideration Stage“Best”, “Top rated”, “vs”, “Review of”
TransactionalDecision Stage“Buy”, “Order”, “Discount”, “Coupon”

Now, as we understand, what is search intent and what are its different types, let’s learn now, how a search engine generally understands user intent.

How does Search Engine understand User’s Intent?

Well, the search engine uses a variety of methods to understand a user’s intent. Below, I mentioned a few:

Query Analysis: Through Natural Language Processing, the search engine analyzes the words and phrases and then understands the context and intent behind them.

Search History: With the user’s search history, the search engine understands the user’s interests and preferences. For example, if a user frequently searches about recipes and then searches for “chicken”, the search engine thinks, the user is searching for chicken in the context of cooking rather than an animal. Hence, present the search result accordingly.

User Location: Search engines also take the location of a user into consideration when presenting a search result. For example, a user searching for the keyword “Pizza Delivery” in New York gets a different search result from a user searching the same keyword in India.

Click Behaviour: Search engines are looking at the user’s click behavior as well to improvize the search result. If a user quickly clicks back to the search result and tries a different link, then, the search engine assumes the previous result was not relevant.

Final Thoughts

Improving your website to fulfill the search intent is not a one-day task. In fact, a user’s search intent is changing over time, so it is important to evaluate and adjust your SEO strategy from time to time as per your target audience.

I am a Search Engine Optimization Specialist taming the elusive search engine algorithms for over 6 years now. I have created some pretty darn impressive SEO projects. While I'm not busy dominating the...

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