What Is Search Intent? A Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Search Intent

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Did you know that keywords have qualities to them? That’s right! Similar to you and me, keywords are made up of different characteristics and qualities—one of which is search intent.

Search intent is simply the purpose of a user’s search, aka the intent behind what they’re searching for on Google. It’s one of the most important ranking factors that Google considers and by understanding the 4 different types of keyword intent, you’ll be able to create better content for your audience.

So let’s dive into this complete guide to keyword search intent in SEO!

What is keyword search intent?

In simple terms, search intent is the purpose of a user’s search. And if you’re wondering, “Is search intent the same as user intent?”—yes, yes it is! It’s often referred to as user intent or keyword intent.

There are 4 types of search intent—all of which we’ll get into in just a minute:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial (aka Commercial Investigation)

Why is search intent important?

So why is search intent important when it comes to selecting keywords for your site and content? Well, because Google cares A LOT about it…it’s kind of the entire point of Google.

And if it’s the primary goal for Google, then it should be top of your list, too!

(Don’t believe me—you can check out section 12.7 of Google’s extensive Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. It’s an entire section dedicated to user intent and how to identify the 4 different types.)

Yes, Google has over 200 ranking factors. But search intent is one of the most important ranking factors Google has. If your page or content doesn’t satisfy the purpose of a user’s search, it’s not going to rank well…or at all.

Simply put, your content needs to be relevant to what users are searching on Google.

Think about it…

A person searching for a “grilled pizza recipe” has a very different intent than a person searching for “pizza delivery” or someone searching for an “at-home pizza oven.” Sure, each of these keywords is related to pizza but the intent or purpose behind them is vastly different.

(Can you tell I’ve got pizza on the brain?! I had homemade pizza rolls for dinner last night and they were amazing!!)

So the more knowledgeable you are on keyword intent, the better content you can create and the more value you can provide to your audience (that keeps them coming back for more!).

And I always suggest actually going to Google and searching the keyword you’re thinking of using…just to be safe. Sometimes what you think a keyword means, even if the search intent is aligned, may not be what Google and your potential audience think it means.

I actually encountered this myself earlier this year.

I was doing keyword research for a new free resource — a blog post checklist for SEO — so I could get the copy written and the page wireframed and designed.

So I thought, hmm…I wonder if there’s a way to make this seasonally relevant and tie in with all things spring cleaning.

And what do you know, I stumbled upon what I believed to be a seasonally relevant keyword: blog post spring cleaning checklist. It’s a zero-volume keyword and has a keyword difficulty of only 20% so it’s really easy to rank for.

I’m doing a little keyword happy dance and thinking the keyword stars have magically aligned.

So then I took a look on Google at the top results for the seemingly seasonally relevant keyword I stumbled upon…

And nope, not a match at all.

I quickly spotted endless results of blog posts…

…with checklists…

…about spring cleaning…

…from Martha Stewart, Task Rabbit, roofing companies, cleaning companies, blogger A, influencer B, and so on and so forth.

(Immediately removes “blog post spring cleaning checklist” from potential list of keywords.)

Not exactly the clever spring cleaning checklist for blog posts keyword I thought it initially was!

And that’s why checking Google juuuuust to make sure your keyword intent is as aligned as you think it is is so incredibly important.

If I hadn’t done that and I went ahead and used that oh-so-seasonally relevant sounding keyword, I would have been hit with an influx of website traffic from people who want to spring clean their house and life, not their blog posts—which doesn’t do me (or them) any good.

Types of Search Intent

Now let’s get to the good stuff! There are 4 main types of search intent that you should know, and I mentioned them very briefly at the beginning of the post. They are…

  • Navigational
  • Informational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial (aka Commercial Investigation)

So let’s dive into each type in a bit more detail.

Navigational Search Intent

With navigational search intent, a person is looking for something specific. They already know what they are trying to find—be it a specific brand or website, for example. Navigational searches are also often branded, meaning they are branded keywords, one of the 7 main types of keywords.

Some examples of navigational search intent are…

  • Crate & Barrel Sofas
  • Syracuse University address
  • IKEA customer service
  • Semrush keyword research tool
  • Apple Care
  • SPAC parking map
  • On running sneakers

Informational Search Intent

Next up is informational search intent. With this type of search, the user wants to learn something. A user’s search may begin with a question word like who, what, where, when, why, or how.

Informational searches make up a majority of searches on Google, but they can vary in style. It may be a zero-volume keyword search like “how old is Tom Brady” or a long-tail keyword like “how to add a custom font to Showit.”

If I had to guess, most of your blog content falls under this informational search intent category. Creating informational and educational content not only positions you as an expert, but it helps to increase your visibility and build trust with your audience.

They may not be ready to buy from you right now—be it a product or service you offer—but getting them into your space through informational keywords is a huge step in the right direction!

Transactional Search Intent

Now let’s explore transactional search intent. This is when a user is looking to do something specific. You can think of these as your money-making or converting keywords.

And although “transactional” sounds strictly commerce-based where a user is making a purchase, it also includes things like email signups, form submissions, etc.

Examples of transactional search intent are…

  • TheSkimm newsletter (they want to sign up for the daily newsletter)
  • Movies near me (they want to go to a local movie theatre)
  • Buy the new iPhone (they want to, well, buy the latest and greatest iPhone)
  • Flodesk free trial

Commercial Search Intent (aka Commercial Investigation)

Commercial search intent is a combination of transactional and information. The user wants to make a purchase but is looking for a bit more information before doing so.

With commercial keyword intent, you want to show your audience what you have to offer AND give them the information to convert.

Examples of commercial search intent are…

And there you have it—a beginner’s guide to search intent, aka keyword intent, for SEO! Understanding the purpose behind a user’s search will help you to create even better content and increase your visibility in Google search results. It’s a win-win all around!

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Hey there, I'm Stepf—Google Superfan & Passionate Educator

And the showit website designer and seo strategist you’ve been looking for

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