What is search intent?

Through the McConnells’ blog, we’ve recently been posting explanations of current SEO terminology, in a move to help readers make sense of the jargon and processes that affect both company and customer as we navigate our way around the internet.

This time, we’re covering Search Intent, which rather self explanatorily, describes the reason why people are searching the internet in the first place; whether to find the answer to a question, seek a specific product or service, or research a particular topic.

By now, most of us understand that it’s important for a website to be ranked highly by Google, and that this is achieved through a webpage’s inclusion of content (words, pictures, videos and links) that is jam-packed with what people are looking for in their searches…otherwise known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Including the right content can prove highly successful, however considering a person’s original search ‘intent’ and adjusting your webpage accordingly, can give even more information to Google’s algorithms to get you further up the results page.


To understand why, we first need to know that there are four different types of Search Intent:

Informational Intent

We all search the internet looking for general information; whether it’s about the weather, what’s on TV or what the capital cities of the world are. Searches of this type are called Informational Intent. They relate to a specific question or require information about a certain topic.

Navigational Intent

When people use search terms to get to an exact website, it’s called Navigational Intent. So, if you type in simply BBC, Google will know what website you want virtually straight away, and before you know it, you’ll be able to click onto the BBC’s website, which makes it an alternative to typing a full URL.

Transactional Intent

The next category is Transactional Intent, which as the name suggests, relates to online purchases, and people looking for the best deals by using shopping terminology.

Commercial Investigation Intent

With the internet so frequently used as a means for users to do their shopping research, Commercial Investigation Intent categorises those searches that have a long-term purchasing purpose, but where the options are still being considered.

Which term when?

How do you tell the difference between Intents? Well, Google uses the words people type (or speak of course) in their queries to select which intent is which. If words like buy, deal, offer or discount, are used, then it’s likely that person is looking to purchase something – especially if they’re also looking at specific products.

By contrast, if people are searching using words like “information”, “how to”, “best way to” or “effective”, the chances are they’ll have an Informational Search Intent.

And how to optimise

With the basic points made, how does a company or brand ensure Search Intent is included and effective?

Firstly, create and upload content that fits both the terms people are using, as well as their Search Intent and includes the information they want. Ensure your landing page fits with what they’ve asked for to keep users engaged – so if someone has demonstrated Informational Intent, don’t take them directly to a sales page – at least not straight away.

Don’t forget to optimise your product pages for commercial driven keywords if appropriate. For example, if your company sells flat pack furniture, you could include words on your product page about buying flat pack furniture; but also an article about putting the furniture together, ways to use it to its best advantage, or information regarding its sustainability.

When you’re trying to attract Informational Intent traffic, consider that search terms used could include; “what is” or “how to”, “history of” or “age”. This provides an opportunity for you to answer questions within your webpage’s body copy – directly below headers containing the questions asked.

Of course, getting in the mind of each internet user as they type in their search is a tough ask, as different people will express their Search Intent in all sorts of ways. At the end of the day, your aim is to get all searches to land on the page you want. One way to equip yourself with further understanding is to ask users what they’re looking for more specifically. A brief pop up survey, containing questions about what people are searching could give you valuable insight, which when added to regular internet research about the words that are proven to work best for your specific area or industry, could all serve to make you a Search Intent master.

Contact our Digital Department for more information. 

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