Boost your SEO performance using the 4 types of keyword search intent

Nikki Pilkington

SEO Copywriting & Technical SEO for UK Business Websites

What do we mean by search intent?

Not every website visitor is a buyer, and that’s ok.

Sometimes people searching on Google or other search engines are looking for something other than a product or service to spend their hard-earned money on.

Knowing what the user is probably looking for when searching using a particular keyword or phrase is an important step in defining the SEO strategy of any website.

In the SEO world this is called ‘search intent’.

Why is it important to know the search intent of users?

Knowing the search intent of users helps you to:

Create relevant content

When you understand the search intent of a search engine user, you can plan to create content that directly addresses the user’s query and gives them the information or solution they are looking for. This makes your content more useful and relevant, which can lead not only to better engagement and higher search engine rankings, but also reader loyalty, brand awareness, and eventually, clients.

Improve user experience

When users find content that matches their search intent, they are more likely to have a positive experience on a website. This can lead to increased engagement, longer visit durations, and a lower bounce rate.

Increase conversion rates

Understanding the search intent of users who are looking to actually buy can help you as a website owner to create content that directly addresses your potential clients’ needs and preferences. This can improve the chances of converting those users into customers.

Target keywords and phrases for SEO

When you can guess the search intent, you can identify the keywords and phrases that are most relevant to your target audience. This can help you to optimise your content for those keywords and improve your search engine rankings.

What are the 4 types of Search Intent?

These are the four types of search intent that are widely recognised and accepted by the SEO community as a useful way to categorise and understand the reasons behind different types of search queries:

1: Informational Intent

The user is looking for information on a product or service, or the answer to a question. These are often long-tail keyphrases such as “How do I…?”, “How to…”.  or “What is…?”

Examples include:

  • How do I submit my tax return?
  • What is Google Search Console?
  • Where can I find information on GDPR?

2: Navigational Intent

The user is more than likely looking for a specific website or webpage. In most cases, this type of search will include a brand name.

Examples include:

  • LinkedIn login page
  • Nikki Pilkington on Twitter
  • Gmail settings

3: Transactional Intent

In this instance, it is probable that the user is looking to make a purchase or perform a specific action.

Examples include:

  • Order Mother’s Day flowers
  • Sign up to SEO for Copywriters
  • Book a hotel room in Slough

4: Commercial Intent

This is sometimes called ‘commercial investigation intent’ and is usually identified when a user is researching a service or product before making a purchase. Users are generally looking either for information to help them make an informed decision, or specifically to buy.

Examples include:

  • Best laptop for graphic design
  • SEO services for small business
  • Accounting software for sole traders

How can understanding search intent boost your search engine rankings?

Search engines like Google are all about delivering the most relevant results for users. And to do that, they’ve gotten pretty good at interpreting the intent behind search queries.

If you’re serious about doing your own SEO, you should take a look at Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines – it’s 176 pages, but makes for interesting reading. Google have a whole section on user intent and how to identify different intent types. That’s why it’s important to make sure your web pages match the intent behind the keywords you’re targeting.

If a user is searching for “best dog food for pugs”, Google is more likely to send them to a blog post comparing pug-friendly dog food and giving information about why the food is good, than to send them to a page selling generic dog food. As part of your SEO and content strategy, your job is to make sure that the ‘pug-friendly dog food’ page on your blog or website has a strong call to action in order to move the user into buying mode.

A good understanding of search intent can help you create content that resonates with your target audience, and gives them what they’re looking for. By doing this, you’ll not only have a more effective content strategy, but you’ll also be able to rank higher in search results. And who doesn’t want that?

How Do I Find the Search Intent Behind a Keyword?

Most of the main SEO tools offer search intent analysis as part of their keyword research abilities. I use SEMrush – all of their keyword-related tools detect search intent automatically so you can easily get a sense of what your audience is looking for. You can create a free account and try it now.

It’s also a good idea to take a closer look at the search results for your target keyword. By doing this, you can see which results and SERP features Google has identified as the most relevant for that query. This can help you fine-tune your content strategy and create more effective, targeted content that matches your users’ intent.

So, whether you’re writing an informative blog post or selling a product or service, always keep your users’ search intent in mind. By doing this, you’ll be able to create valuable and relevant content that Google and other search engines will love, website visitors will find helpful, and potential buyers will appreciate.


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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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