Using Search Intent to Boost SEO Performance

Search intent is a commonly ignored aspect of search engine optimization that should attract more attention. Misunderstanding search intent can cause you to go after the wrong keywords, not optimize your sales funnel correctly, and get nowhere in the SERP’s. Getting it right can lead to a dramatic SEO performance boost that gives you a competitive edge over the competition.

Optimizing around the idea of search intent provides a positive user experience, which is what Google wants. Satisfy search intent and you’ll get rewarded with a generous SERP boost.

The current Google algorithm is based on RankBrain, which is a machine learning algorithm. It uses past data to modify the SERP’s (search engine results pages) in the hopes of providing a better user experience. Search intent is one of the things Google looks at when establishing the relevancy of a webpage for a specific query.

Master the practice of optimizing with search intent in mind and you’ll provide a better user experience while climbing in the SERP’s. It might be the differentiating factor between losing and winning to a rival for your primary keywords.

What is “search intent”?

In a nutshell, search intent is about identifying the reason why a particular search was conducted. Searches can be ambiguous at first glance and it’s only by digging deeper that you can figure out what the searcher is after. The term was first coined by Andrei Broader, who was an Altavista employee.

Consider a search on “PC building tools”. The user might be trying to find out the type of tools they need and how they are used to build a PC. They might not be looking to buy right away. Understanding that this is an information search instead of a commercial one will help you craft the most relevant content.

4 types of search intent

Search intent can be broken down into 4 categories, which makes things simpler when creating content. For each type of search intent, we will share the commonly used words and SERP features that are likely to appear. It will help you figure out the type of search intent for a keyword.

  1. Informational: These searches are generic and as the name suggests the searcher is looking for information. It’s one of the first stages of a sales funnel since the user needs to find out more before they decide on what they need.

    Companies that overlook providing informative content do so to their detriment. Deliver the information potential buyers need during the research stage and they are more likely to buy from you – or at the very least will look at your call to action.

    Informational searches have phrases like best ways to, what is, how, I need to, guide, study, and where do I. However, it’s not always that obvious. You can also look at the SERP’s for features such as:

    • Featured snippet
    • Knowledge card
    • Videos
    • People also ask


  2. Navigational: These types of searches do not require much optimization and are the simplest to understand. The searcher already has an idea of where they would like to end up when executing these searches. Therefore, if they don’t want to end up on your website there is not much use in optimizing for searches not related to your website.

    Navigational searches use the names of products, brand names and the name of a service. They may contain SERP features such as:

    • Site links
    • Tweet box
    • Knowledge panel


  3. Transactional: They are in buy mode when they search with transactional intent. It’s also known as purchase intent and they typically know what they want to buy. The research phase is complete so they are not looking for information.

    Grabbing search attention at this stage is easier if you were involved in the informational intent searches. Users are more likely to buy from a brand that educated them – after all, educational content makes consumers 131% more likely to buy.

    The keyword modifiers typically associated with transactional searches include price, pricing, cheap, purchase, order, coupon, and buy. You will also find a few common SERP features:

    • Adwords
    • Shopping results


  4. Commercial: Commercial intent is a mix of informational and transactional. The searcher is interested in making a purchase, but they need more information to make a decision. Reviews and comparison guides make up a large portion of commercial intent searches.

    The keyword modifiers you’ll find associated with commercial intent include comparison, review, top, best and an attribute of the product. The common SERP features are:

    • Adwords
    • Features snippet


Why search intent matters

Google uses search intent to provide relevant results to the end-user, which means you need to include it in your keyword targeting campaign. It’s no longer good enough to target KW’s using SEO – you have to provide the content the searcher is looking for.

Optimizing around the idea of search intent provides a positive user experience, which is what Google wants. Satisfy search intent and you’ll get rewarded with a generous SERP boost.

Marketers can use search intent to find the KW’s that yield the most sales potential. For example, understanding the KW’s that represent transactional intent versus informational allows marketers to make informed decisions. It would be painfully counterproductive to force a sale on informational intent KW’s. Without understanding search intent you’re essentially shooting in the dark.

If you have limited resources you might conclude that it’s best to focus on transactional and commercial intent KW’s – after all, they are the searches that lead to the most sales. However, the untapped potential for informational searches is why you should start focusing on them.

Content that satisfies informational intent searches educates potential customers about your products. They might want to learn if they need your product and why it’s worth buying. Providing insightful information positions you as an authority in your field. Therefore, you have a better chance of competing for the sale compared with other brands.

You can also raise brand awareness by providing informative content. It’s especially important for new brands that most target customers would have never heard about. Optimizing for informational intent is also cost-effective. Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing but provides three times the leads.

Optimizing for informational intent is also cost-effective. Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing but provides three times the leads.

Optimizing for search intent

Now that you understand the importance of search intent for SEO it’s time to dive into the best practices. Check off every optimization strategy from this list and you’ll be better positioned than most to capitalize on search intent. 

Check SERP’s: look at the SERP’s to get an idea of what type of webpages Google is already rewarding for a particular KW. You can figure out the type of search intent that’s at play and what kind of content you need to create. Also, look for SERP features to clue you in on the search intent type.

Optimizing for informational intent: informational searches can lead to sales directly. You first need to provide information and then get them in front of an effective call to action. Effective content types include checklists, step by step guides, infographics, how-to videos, lists and blog posts with tips.

Compare content: if you have already created content then compare it to the top-ranking pages for the target KW. You need to close the gap in terms of a content type. SERP’s provide the blueprint for the type of content that’s required. It’s your job to create the same type of content, but of better quality to outrank the current webpages that hold the top spots.

Answer all queries on one page: Google doesn’t like it when a user hops around between search results. It indicates a poor match between the search and the results. Therefore, aim to provide all the answers on one page so they don’t need to leave for further information gathering. Giving visitors fewer reasons to leave your webpage also increases the chances that they stay long enough to see your CTA.


Understanding search intent is an essential part of creating an effective sales funnel. It allows you to figure out the stage of the sales funnel a user is at, which means you can provide the relevant info to move them along the funnel. Offering the wrong info can cause visitors to leave your sales funnel before you even had a chance.

Optimizing for search intent is a no-brainer since it boosts SERP rankings, improves user satisfaction and ultimately increases your bottom line. It’s a process that is relatively inexpensive but can yield impressive results. Search intent is becoming an increasingly important SEO consideration as Google is placing more importance on this metric.  For expert help in getting your SEO to peak performance, consider working with a search engine optimization agency, like Anticipated Digital.

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