The Search for Search Intent

search intent - social definition

A Journey Through the Wild World of Keywords

“Search intent” refers to the reason, the purpose, or the goal behind why a user is searching for something online. This is deduced from the user’s actual query and from other signals, such as the user’s location and their search history.

Understanding a user search intent allows search engines, such as Google, to try to match the user’s query with the most relevant and useful results, and to understand what the user is trying to accomplish so that it can provide a better overall search experience.

The four main types of search intent are:

  • Informational search intent
  • Navigational search intent
  • Commercial search intent
  • Transactional search intent

Why is Search Intent Important?

Understanding the different types of intent is important because it informs how your website, and content, is designed and made better for the users. If you know why people are searching for something, you can make sure that your website, and content, gives them what they want, making their experience on your site more enjoyable and satisfying.

For example, if people are looking to buy a product, you want to make sure your website is found, is easy to navigate and appropriate having all the right content they need to make a purchase.

On the other hand, if people are just looking for information, you want to make sure your site is found, is organized and appropriate having the information they need in a clear and easy-to-understand format. By understanding search intent, you can improve the overall experience for the users of your website.

The Four Main Types of Search Explained:

Informational Intent:

When a user’s search has informational intent, they are looking to learn more about a specific topic or answer a question. These types of searches are often phrased as questions, such as “What is the speed of light?” or “How does a jet engine work?”.

Consequently. informational searches are typically researching a subject and are not necessarily focused on making a purchase. Websites with content that matches this type of intent should be well-organized, easy to navigate, and provide accurate and in-depth information on the topic being searched.

Here are some examples of keywords that have informational intent:

  • What is SEO
  • Why is the sky blue
  • How to change a bicycle tyre
  • Best way to lose weight
  • Types of Pasta
  • Pros and cons of Air Fryers
  • Difference between hybrid and all electric cars

Navigational Intent:

When a user has navigational intent, they are searching for a specific website or page. These types of searches often involve the name, or brand name of a company or website, such as “Google homepage” or “YouTube login page.” Navigational searches are typically made by users who already know what they are looking for and want to quickly find a specific page on a website.

Here are some examples of keywords that have informational intent:

  • Amazon
  • Gmail login
  • Starbucks store locator
  • LinkedIn support
  • BBC homepage

Commercial Intent:

When a user has commercial intent, they are actively searching for products or services with the intention of making a purchase. These types of searches often include search intent keywords such as “buy,” “order,” or “purchase”.

Websites that match this type of intent should have clear and detailed product, or service information, easy-to-use navigation, and a secure purchasing process to help convert users into customers.Here are some examples of keywords that have commercial intent:

  • Deals on air fryers
  • Compare LinkedIn plans
  • Discount hotels
  • Where to buy stamps
  • Order stationary
  • iPhone 14 reviews
  • Twitter alternatives

Transactional Intent:

When a user has transactional intent, they are looking to complete a transaction, such as booking a flight, purchasing tickets, or making a reservation. These types of searches often include words such as “book,” “reserve,” or “buy.” For example, “book a flight to Paris” or “buy concert tickets.”

Websites that match this type of intent should have a clear and streamlined transaction process, with all the information needed to complete the transaction easily and quickly available on the site.Here are some examples of keywords that have transactional intent:

  • Purchase now sports pass
  • Motor Homes for sale
  • Accountants near me
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator trial
  • Shop for software
  • Online travel service
  • Order Pizza online

How do the Four Stages Map onto a Sales Funnel?

It is possible, and useful, to map the four types of search intent to the different stages of a simple AIDA sales funnel:

Awareness Stage:

Informational intent searches often occur in the awareness stage of the sales funnel, where a user is researching a topic and gathering information.

Interest Stage:

Commercial intent searches typically occur in the interest stage, where a user knows what they want and is now actively searching for products or services and comparing options.

Decision Stage:

Transactional intent searches occur in the decision stage, where a user is looking to complete a transaction, maybe narrow down a selection of candidates, and make a purchase.

Action Stage:

Navigational intent searches can occur in any stage of the sales funnel, but are often associated with the action stage, where a user is searching for a specific website or page to return to for future purchases or interactions.

As a prospect journeys through these funnel stages, their search intent can change. For example, a user may start with an informational search in the awareness stage, move to a commercial search in the interest stage, and then make a transactional search in the decision stage.

This is powerful stuff! Understanding search intent can help you tailor your marketing and sales efforts to the changing, and variable needs and interests of your target audience as they journey towards becoming a client.  With your marketing and sales efforts ‘tuned’ to just what best suits the prospect at the time that they are engaging.

How do You Determine Search Intent?

We have seen that keywords can be used to determine a user’s search intent, for example, Why is the sky blue’ is Informational intent. It’s great when a search is as obvious as this example, sometimes it’s not so clear. Remember, search intent, “is deduced from the user’s actual query and from other signals, such as the user’s location and their search history”.

There is help available, many of the subscription-based keyword research tools calculate search intent automatically for every keyword. At the time of writing, you can use the SEMrush FREE account keyword tools to detect search intent automatically. You can create a free SEMrush account and try!

Can We Help?

Search engine indexing, keywords and the whole SEO spectrum is a big subject, there is a lot to take in and it can often become overwhelming, even for the more technically minded, so you may be looking for some help.

The articles published on the social:definition website are about everyday subjects that we deal with. We’ve done all the hard work, read the documents, and put everything into practice. We’ve learned a lot ourselves through continued research, our own development and practical experience. All this experience goes into the work we carry out for our clients, so, if we can help, we’d be only too happy to.

You can contact us directly through the form on this page or using any of the details throughout our website.

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