what is search intent

What is search intent? You can think of it as a way to provide your audience with the content they want when they want it.

You see, when most people think of creating SEO content, they think of keywords. While keyword research is essential, it alone doesn’t answer an important question — why is your market searching for that particular phrase?

Search intent will help you answer this question, and with it, you will be on your way to higher rankings as well as increased traffic and leads.

🔍 Below, we’ll discuss what it is, why it’s essential, and the different types there are. We’ll also share detailed tips on how to create content with user intent in mind.

What is search intent?

Search intent (aka user intent) is the goal a user has in mind when they type in a certain search query. In a nutshell, it describes what the person is looking to find on the search results page.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to get back into shape and want to start working out every morning. But you only have 15 minutes to spare for each workout session.

So, you head to Google and type in “15-minute workout videos.”

As the results come back, you might click on a video and find it’s 30-minutes long. But that’s not what you’re looking for, so, you’ll quickly leave that and head to the next option.

If the following search result is a 10-15 minute workout video, that’s the one for you! So, you’ll click on it and stay there for your workout.

🎥 The more people who search for “15-minute workout videos” click on the same video you chose, the higher Google will rank this video.

Why is search intent important?

In a nutshell, Google wants to ensure that people get what they want from search queries, and it uses RankBrain to help.

RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that analyzes factors like location, past search queries, and the combinations of words used whenever a query comes in. After examining these factors, RankBrain helps Google return the most relevant results to the user.

Using the above workout query example, let’s say you’ve done some keyword research and have decided to target “15-minute workout videos.” But, you choose to create a blog post about this topic and title it “How to make the most out of 15-minute workout videos.”

It could be great content with really insightful tips on this topic, but this won’t rank because the users don’t want to sit and read a blog post. They want a workout video. This means that no matter how well-written or optimized any of your content is, it simply won’t rank if it doesn’t meet search intent.

So, creating content that meets user intent is the perfect way 😎 to work with (and not against) Google and rank higher.

Four different types of search intent

There are four main types of search intent:

Let’s go through them…

A navigational query happens when someone is looking for a particular website. They’ll just type in a brand’s name and search for it.

So, instead of typing in the full URL (e.g., www.themeisle.com), which is time-consuming, a person can just type in Themeisle and hit the search button.

Some navigational intent users may also be looking for a particular page.

For instance, if you type in “Themeisle blog,” Google will recognize that you’re not searching for Themeisle’s website in general but our blog page. And so, the top result will display that.

Search result - Themeisle blog

Navigational queries are also helpful when someone doesn’t know the correct spelling of the brand. Google can recognize this wrong spelling and give them search results for what they want.

It’s almost impossible to outrank a brand’s name for these type of navigational intent queries (nor is it particularly valuable to do so in most situations), so you’ll typically want to avoid it or find long-tail variations that do let you rank and have more favorable search intent.

2. Informational intent

Informational queries are specifically for people who want to learn more about a topic.

These people may type in:

  • How many legs does a spider have?
  • Directions to LAX
  • What’s the quickest way to lose weight?

We searched for “what’s the quickest way to lose weight.” Google instantly categorized this as an informational intent query and returned search results to help give more information on the topic, such as blog posts, articles, and videos.

Search result - what's the quickest way to lose weight

3. Commercial intent

This query is for users who are interested in making a purchase but not at that specific moment. At this stage, they may have just a few options they’re considering and want to make comparisons.

These users may search for:

We searched for “best content management system.” The results are filled with reviews to help users be better informed before making their purchase decision.

Search result - best content management system

4. Transactional intent

As the name suggests, a transactional query is when a user wants to buy something.

This query often comes with certain keywords like “best deal,” “price,” “purchase,” “buy,” or “quote.”

For example:

  • MacBook charger price
  • Best deal for iPhone 14
  • Washing machine quote

We searched for “best deal for iPhone 14,” and because Google recognized this as a transactional query, all the results were for shopping.

Search query - best deal for iPhone14

Now that you’re clear on what user intent is, here are our five tips to use it when creating content.

Five tips for search intent optimization

If you try to fight Google when it comes to search intent, it can be very difficult to rank your content.

To make sure you’re factoring in search intent properly, follow these 👇 five tips…

  1. Check the first page of Google’s SERPs to see what’s ranking
  2. Study the “people also ask” section
  3. Note the different content formats (video, text, etc.)
  4. Organize your keywords by search intent
  5. Plan content to meet search intent

1. Check the first page of Google’s SERPs to see what’s ranking

When it comes to marketing, playing guessing games isn’t a good strategy. So, instead of assuming what the user intent for a particular keyword is, you can always let Google tell you.

How? By paying close attention to the first pages of the search results (SERPs) Remember, the higher the pages rank, the more relevant they are for that user intent.

For example, let’s say you’re a healthy foods blogger, you’ve done your keyword research, and want to rank for “easy vegan lunches for work.”

Search result - easy vegan lunches for work

As you can see, this search term is an informational intent query because the first page is filled with articles for vegan lunch recipe ideas.

So, you’ll need to give the people what they want — articles with lots of vegan lunch recipe ideas.

2. Study the “people also ask” section

The “people also ask” section can be content gold for you. That’s because these questions are related to your keywords and are what people are also searching for.

Search query - easy vegan lunches for work, people also ask section

A great way to create content your audience wants to read is to answer these questions through blog posts or website pages.

3. Note the different content formats (video, text, etc.)

Sometimes you may find YouTube videos that show up on a search query.

This may highlight a couple of things:

  • Users are not just looking to read recipes. Some also want video guides
  • The videos need to be short, quick, and to the point

With this in mind, creating quick and easy vegan recipe videos will be most relevant for your audience if you have a YouTube channel and want to target this keyword.

4. Organize your keywords by search intent

One of the most important things to take away from this article is the importance of creating content that meets different user intents.

This way, no matter where your audience is in the buyer’s journey, they can always find something relevant from your website.

Where do you begin?

First, get your keywords together

Using the health blogger example, here are some keywords you may consider:

  • What is a plant-based diet?
  • Plant-based vs. vegan
  • 40 healthiest lunch recipes
  • Vegetarian breakfast recipes
  • Vegan dinner recipes
  • Healthy smoothie recipes
  • Plant-based diet books to buy (your product)
  • Best plant-based food brands
  • 30-day plant-based diet plan (your product/service)
  • two-week plant-based diet plan (your product/service)

Second, sort your keywords by user intent

Informational intentCommercial intentTransactional intent

What is a plant-based diet?

Plant-based vs. vegan

40 healthiest lunch recipes

Vegetarian breakfast recipes

Vegan dinner recipes

Healthy smoothie recipes

Plant-based diets books to buy

Best plant-based food brands

30-day plant-based diet plan

two-week plant-based diet plan

5. Plan content to meet search intent

Now, you can create new content or refresh old posts to meet user intent.

For example, from the “Informational Intent” column, use the keywords to create blog posts, how-to guides, etc.

From the “Commercial Intent” column, use the keywords on your product pages or in product roundups.

And from the “Transactional Intent” column, use the keywords for your sales pages and landing pages.

Simply put, this is all about knowing when to use a specific keyword to get the most relevant traffic that converts.

Start thinking about search intent today 🏁

Online content creation is about putting the needs of a user first.

What type of content are they looking for?

Are they interested in buying something or would they prefer to read a blog post right now? Or maybe a video is what they’re looking for.

Search intent can help you meet your market’s needs and this may help improve your search rankings by driving relevant traffic to your website.

Here’s a quick recap on how to optimize your content using search intent:

  • 👨‍🎓 Study the top SERPs to see what the user intent is for a keyword
  • 🙋 Use the “people also ask” section to create informative blog posts and articles
  • 🤓 Pay close attention to the different types of content on the first page
  • 🔎 Categorize your keywords by search intent
  • ✍️ Create content that meets user intent

📌 For some other tips on creating an effective content strategy, check out our guides to building a blog content strategy and ideas for engaging content.

Do you still have any questions about what search intent is or how to use it to improve your SEO efforts? Let us know in the comments!

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