What is Search Intent? Why does it matter for SEO?

I’ve talked before about how search engines work, and how Google’s aim is to provide users with the most relevant result for their query. Well the words people use in their search queries gives us information about their intent, and we can use this to our advantage when creating content.

Understanding search intent for SEO - Beginners Guide

What is search intent?

When a user types a query or question into Google, what are they looking to find? Do they want to learn about a topic? Do they want to purchase something? Are they looking for a specific answer or a particular website?

Search intent is the why behind a specific search query.

Four types of search intent

1. Informational

The user is looking for information or an answer to a question. They could want a quick answer or a long-detailed read. Sometimes they’ll be asked as a question, but sometimes they won’t.

Words to look out for: Who, what, when, where, why, how, guide, tutorial, resource, idea, tips, examples, learn and how to.

Examples: “Nasty Gal founder”, “What is keyword research?”, “When does Love Island start?”, “Where is Bali?”, “stop lipstick smudges”, “How do you make an omelette?”

2. Commercial

The user may have plans to buy something but are not sure which one yet, so they search to compare products and services.

Words to look out for: Best, top, cheap, affordable, review, versus, size, colour and comparison.

Examples: “Best tripod”, “Top 10 web hosting”, “Cheap camera remote”, “Affordable ring light”, “Vlogging camera review”, “Mailchimp vs Convertkit”.

3. Transactional

The user has plans to make a purchase, but want to know where and how to buy what they want.

Words to look out for: Buy, order, deals, coupons, shipping, promo codes, discount, price, pricing and purchase.

Examples: “Buy iPhone”, “camera deals”, “ASOS shipping”, “Namecheap promo codes”, “Backup Buddy discount”

4. Navigational

The user already know what site they want to visit, but it may be quicker to Google it than type the full URL. Or they may be unsure as to what the full URL is.

Words to look out for: brand names, product names and services.

Examples: “Facebook login”, “Moz DA”, “Twitter” and “XOmisse SEO tips”

Why do I need to know search intent?

If you want to rank on Google, then you need to be the most relevant result for the query people are searching for. That means two things: you need to be researching your keywords and you need create content that aligns with search intent.

When doing keyword research you can filter results based on search intent, and then you can create your content around the users end goal. You can also look at the “People also ask” box in the search result pages and note what questions are there that you can provide answers to in your content.

Using search intent and keywords for SEO
An example of the “People also ask” box on Google

For example, informational search intent tends to be perfect for bloggers whose goal is to share information, as you can write a blog post that answers the search query giving the user the information they’ve asked for. If the search query is transactional, you can create a product page or a product category page to target that intent or a landing page with a clear call to action.

Knowing the search intent can also help with targeting content to appear as a rich result on Google. Featured snippets tend to show up for search queries with informational intent, whereas shopping results and carousels show up for transactional queries.

Featured snippet example – informational search intent


To do keyword research effectively, you need to find keywords that your audience is using. Figuring out the search intent explains why people typed in that phrase on search engines. By researching for keywords with the search intent that fits your blog, you’ll drive more traffic.

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