What is search intent and why does it matter for SEO?

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It’s common knowledge that keywords are essential to content strategy, but wouldn’t that content strategy be more helpful if you understood the intent users have when they enter those terms? We’re going to discuss what search intent is and why understanding it is important for SEO performance. 

So, what is search intent? Search intent or user intent refers to what a user wants to accomplish when searching, so understanding intent is key to SEO success. While users may have particular goals in mind and be active in their intent, it’s equally important to understand what they might want next which is known as passive intent. In order to display the most relevant information to the user, search engines like Google need to understand their intent. 

“To return relevant results, we first need to establish what you’re looking for ー the intent behind your query. To do this, we build language models to try to decipher how the relatively few words you enter into the search box match up to the most useful content available.”

Source: how Google search works

Let’s dig deeper into search intent and how it impacts SEO.

Overview of the 4 types of search intent

Although there are many different types of search intent, most searches can generally be divided into these four categories. 

1. Navigational intent

A user with navigational search intent is looking for a specific web page (e.g., Facebook login), brand (e.g., Peloton), or a particular piece of information (e.g., Comcast phone number).  

2. Informational intent

With informational search intent, users are looking for an answer to a question (e.g., what is the best time to go grocery shopping) or want to learn more about a topic (e.g., cryptocurrency mining).

3. Commercial intent

A commercial keyword is a search term that indicates a searcher’s interest in a specific product or service (e.g., best camera for photography). Due to the likelihood that these searches could result in leads or customers, these searches are usually accompanied by advertisements.

4. Transactional intent

Transactional search intent occurs when a user already knows what they want. There are two types: purchases or actions. 

When they are looking to make a purchase, these searches include specific product or service names and/or purchasing words such as “buy,” “coupon,” “pricing,” etc. (e.g., buy an iPhone)

When a transactional search is action-based, it could include making a phone call, getting directions, or signing up for a program (e.g., sign up for a target red card)

Why is search intent important for SEO?’

Search intent is important for SEO because when you align your content with your audience’s search intent, you’ll build credibility as a source of information that meets their specific needs, resulting in better SEO performance.

Benefits of search intent optimization:

  • Improved search rankings
  • Better audience satisfaction
  • Generate qualified leads
  • Maintain reader engagement
  • Become a topic authority
  • Increase brand awareness  


By understanding how to align and optimize your content for search intent, you will dominate those competitors who aren’t as in sync with their audience. 

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