Search Intent: What It Is and How to Use It For Your Business

search intent

User searches provide businesses with a wealth of information. By evaluating people’s queries, you can actually get an idea of where they are in the buying process. You can also discover what problem they are trying to solve, what information they need, and what’s driving that search. This is all called search intent. Google leans on search intent heavily and provides results that align with it.

Understanding search intent is the key to unlocking how well your website delivers what your customers are looking for. The more your website fulfills the needs of your potential customers, the more website traffic you will get, which leads to higher search rankings, more visitors, and more conversions. In this article, we’ll give you a thorough understanding of how search intent can help your business fine-tune its content, utilize the right keywords, and improve the structure of its web page to gain more customers.


The 4 Categories of Search Intent

The intent behind someone’s online search varies.  Because of this, the way they search will also vary. You can break up search intent into 4 Categories:

  • Navigational search intent: Trying to find something (e,g, “Sanpeggio’s pizza website”)
  • Informational search intent: Trying to learn more about something (e.g., “what are good running shoes”)
  • Transactional search intent: Trying to complete a certain action (e.g., “buy a new water heater”)
  • Commercial search intent: Trying to gather more information before making a purchase decision (e.g., “Samsung washer vs. GE washer”)

These different categories also help identify where users are in their buying journey. Think of it as the stages of dating. Users will probably use informational intent searches when they are warming up to you and trying to scope you out. If they are considering doing business with you, their searches will become more commercial. When they are ready to move forward, that’s when transactional keyword searches come into play. It’s important to pay attention to tactics, so you don’t hinder your SEO strategy and hurt your online rankings. Let’s break these four categories down further.


Navigational Search Intent

Navigational is a pretty straightforward-forward type of search. The user wants to find a specific page, website, location, etc. They know exactly what they are trying to find. In general, all the type of information in a navigational search is what would be located on a Google Business Profile that is shown in Google’s knowledge panels. For example, if a user is looking for the address of ABC Plumbing Company, Google would show the snippet from the GBP from ABC’s business profile.

How to Target Customers with Navigational Intent

For search phrases like these, make sure your local listings are accurate and up-to-date across the board. In addition, ensure all your location and contact information are also listed on your website. Be sure to clearly label each navigational keyword with page titles, tags, headers, and descriptions that tell the user what information they will find there.

Every product or service that you offer should also have a dedicated page highlighting the most relevant information such as product names and service brands. You also want to include other applicable search terms like the type of product or service and the problems it can solve. Finally, optimize your URLs to be descriptive and easy to read.


Informational Search Intent

As we stated earlier, informational search intent means the user is trying to learn more and gather information. These types of searches are often phrased as questions and start with “who, what, where, when, why, and how.” Google’s SERP features are now structured to answer the question for the user, so they won’t even have to leave the search results page.  An example of an informational search intent would be “how often do I need to change my air filter?”

Informational search intent makes up a large portion of queries performed on Google. Folding some of these target keyword search queries into your website content is a great way to increase visibility with potential customers. You’ll also build trust and credibility with prospects by providing valuable and educational content. This, in turn, creates a lead opportunity you can work to covert.

How to Target Customers with Informational Intent

To target keywords with informational intent, pay close attention to exactly how users are searching. Then take a look at how that query is displayed in the SERPs. For example, a keyword search of “how to fix a water heater” is displayed using the “how-to” query along with a bulleted process. Whatever your topic or question, make sure you’re structuring it in an easy-to-follow format with different headers, descriptions, numbered lists, and visual graphics.


Transactional Search Intent

Transactional means the user wants to take a specific action. They may want to register for an event, sign up for a newsletter, find soccer shins guards, etc. With these types of searches, the search may be very direct, but the intent behind the search can be unclear. For example, if the user just searches the name of a specific product, such as an “iPhone watch,” the search results will include a variety of different features to help the user navigate to what they are looking for. This mix of commercial, informational, and transactional results includes user reviews, price comparisons, related questions, and local places to make a purchase.

Transactional intent searches are your money makers. These come from users who are ready to take action in some form or fashion. A great opportunity to attract potential customers would be by optimizing a landing page with transactional keywords and an easy purchase process.

How to Target Customers with Transactional Intent

The key to targeting the right keywords with transactional searches is to first pinpoint what action you want the customer to take. Do you want them to fill out a form, buy something, or subscribe? You’ll then want to make the conversion process extremely easy and straightforward by providing only the relevant information that the user is looking for. Your site page should include all the main ingredients for a clean appearance: page title, headers, descriptions, and CTA button, and all laid out in a way that simplifies the decision process in an engaging way. Don’t forget to use structured data so Google can understand the contents of your page as well.


Commercial Search Intent

Last but not least is commercial search intent. Think of this as the research before the decision phase. It’s a combination of informational and transactional. This is where the comparisons come into play when the user is trying to narrow down their decision. Using the prior example of “Samsung washer vs. GE washer,” the SERP feature will provide you with information to compare the two products, along with relative information that users might look for: online reviews, technical details, “best of” lists from brand agnostics, free trials, and other authoritative sources.

Commercial keywords are directly related to showcasing what you have to offer and why you’re different. You want to provide content that demonstrates your product or service’s credibility as well as what others say about your business. If they find this information useful, they are more likely to convert.

How to Target Customers with Commercial Intent

The driver with Commercial search intent is to give the users exactly what they are asking for, then structure your page so they can find that information quickly. Put the most valuable information at the top, along with a more thorough breakdown below. This can be best accomplished by including side-by-side charts or bullet points and the overall review with a link to see all the reviews in detail. The philosophy behind commercial intent is “what information can I provide that will help them make a decision?” If they are looking for a new water heater, give them a clean layout and description of all the water heaters you offer, the technical specs, and helpful recommendations of what each is ideal for. Finally, make it easy for them to purchase with links to checkout.


Final Thoughts

Informative content wins with users, especially when it’s presented in a way they can understand. The biggest leap to getting your customers to your website is by understanding their intent and delivering a solution on your site. When down correctly, you see more qualified traffic and better conversions.

Search Intent is a crucial part of your SEO strategy. If you have questions about SEO or want to find new ways to increase your online visibility, please reach out to our team directly.