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Search Intent Complete Guide

Colton Miller

What is Search Intent SEO & How to Optimize For Key Search Intents

Search Intent - Semantic SEO

Search intent, also known as user intent, is the underlying goal or purpose behind a user's search query. It is the key to understanding why your website isn’t ranking for the keywords you want it to.

The more specific your keywords are the higher your chance of ranking for them. But this is only half the battle. To get the most out of your SEO strategy, you need to figure out what the searchers actually want, not just what they say they want.

To do this, you need to understand search intent. By aligning your content with what users are truly seeking, you can significantly improve your SEO strategy. Let’s look at what search intent is, how you classify search queries into search intents, and how you can use it to improve the relevance of your page content.

TL;DR - Search Intent Optimization

Search intents are the purpose behind a user’s search. Search intent gives context to your content by revealing what the user is most likely trying to accomplish.

Search intent is essential for SEO because it can help you understand the user’s motivation for conducting a particular search. You should optimize your web pages for search intents because it increases the chance of ranking for multiple keyword clusters and drives more traffic to your site.

There are 4 types of search intents: Informational, Navigational, Commercial, and Transactional.

Jump straight to section: ‘How to Optimize for Search Intents’.

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What is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as user intent, is the user's goal when they enter a query into a search engine. When searching, a user has a particular goal; search intent is the term used to describe their intent.

It indicates the motivation behind the query when searching for something online, such as wanting to learn, purchase, or find a particular piece of information.

Search intent has been used in search engine optimization (SEO) since the early 2000s when Google began emphasizing the importance of understanding the context for ranking and relevance.

As search engines developed algorithms to determine the intent behind search queries, the term "search intent" came into use to refer to the user's goal behind the query. Since then, many SEO experts have adopted the phrase to discuss how to optimize web pages for different types of searches.

Google defines search intent as the reason a user performs a search query in its search engine. It looks at the overall user query and then tries to understand the context of the query and the user’s intention. Google uses search intent and other signals to determine the most relevant web pages to show in search results.

Google classifies user intents into four primary types: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. By targeting specific search intent, you can better provide users with the most relevant and helpful content to match the query that the user is entering.

Search intent signals to search engines which results are more appropriate to show the user, and can also inform marketers which type of content they should produce to meet user needs. Search intent optimization helps sites rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs) and increase the likelihood that the user will find the content they are looking for and become a loyal customer.

Why is Search Intent Important for SEO?

Search intent is essential for SEO because it can help you understand the user’s motivation for a particular search. This understanding can help you create content and optimize your website accordingly to better serve your target audience's needs.

Search intent is crucial in determining how a search query is interpreted and what results are returned. Search intents are the reason a user performs a search and can be categorized into four main categories: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.

Google sees search intent as an indication of what the user wants when they enter their query. To determine this intent, Google considers the following factors:

1. Contextual relevance - Google looks at the words used in a query to try and determine the broader context in which the query is being made. For example, if a user searches for "hiking boots," Google will likely assume the user is looking for information on outdoor boots since the query is about outdoor activities.

2. User search behavior - As users search more and more, Google can track patterns in how users search for different types of content. Google can then use this data to understand user intent better and adjust their results accordingly.

Search intents are also crucial for marketers, as they can help identify potential leads and target audiences based on specific needs or interests. In addition, businesses can better tailor their content for conversions by understanding the motivations behind each search.

The 4 Types of Search Intents

Users type millions of queries in a search engine each day. These queries can be broadly classified into four types.

The Different Types of Search Intents
The Different Types of Search Intents

1. Informational Intent

Informational search intent is when a person uses a search engine to find information on a particular topic, such as an answer to a question or the definition of a word. It is usually characterized by search queries crafted to find information about a particular topic. For example, a user might use a search query such as "What is the definition of a meme?" to get more information on the topic.

Users doing an informational search usually don’t know what website they are looking for and are just trying to gather information.

Content ideas for businesses with an informational search intent include blog posts, educational videos, tutorials, and podcasts. Creating an FAQ page and providing detailed explanations of products and services can help meet user informational search needs.

Get more content ideas with our free topic discovery tool.

2. Navigational Intent

Navigational search intent is when someone uses a search engine to find a specific website or web page. This type of search is usually done when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage rather than for general information about a topic. For example, a user may search for the Google website.

Users with navigational intent know the website’s name or the particular topic they are looking for. 

Optimize your website for navigational search intent by creating an overview of the website’s content through sitemaps, highlighting popular pages in the website's top menu or footer section, and enabling easy navigation between different parts of the website using breadcrumbs.

Businesses can also include the name of the website in the title tags and add branded keywords on key pages so that they show up in the search engine results. Explore our free AI title tag generator tool.

3. Commercial Intent

Commercial search intent is the purpose of a user's search query related to researching or finding a service or product. For example, a user may search for the best restaurant in their area.

Users with a commercial search intent are looking to buy a product or service but are still determining what product or service they want. However, they usually know the general topic they are interested in. 

Businesses can tap into this intent category by creating content that meets these expectations, such as product and service pages with detailed descriptions and pricing information and comparison pages that help users decide which product or service is best for them.

Landing pages about your product and competitor's product, featuring recent industry reports highlighting your product, and creating a buyer’s guide are advised for winning commercial search intents. Additionally, businesses can create blog posts and other long-form content that provide helpful information to potential customers and help their website rank for related search queries.

4. Transactional Intent

Transactional search intent refers to when a user is searching to buy something, such as a product or service. These searches usually include words like “buy,” “price,” “order,” “discount,” and “deals.”

For example, a user may search for the best deal on a product. Users with transactional intent are looking to buy a product or service. They usually know the type of product or service they are looking for.

Content ideas for businesses with a transactional intent include creating product guides, competitive pricing analyses, coupon codes, and customer reviews. They can also create content to help users decide, such as a comparison chart or a how-to guide.

Which search intent you want to optimize your web page depends on what purpose the page serves. For example, if the web page provides general information about a topic your brand or industry significantly focuses on, you would want to optimize for informational intent.

If the webpage is meant to be the website's homepage or intended to be a specific landing page for a targeted campaign, you should optimize for navigational intent. In addition, if the webpage is meant to be a transactional page where someone can buy a product, you should optimize for transactional intent. And finally, if the webpage is intended to be a page that promotes or sells a product or service, you should optimize for commercial intent.

How to Determine Search Intent?

To determine search intent, it’s essential to understand what your customer is looking for. Start by analyzing the keywords being used in the search query. Are they informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional intent keywords? This will help you understand their initial goal.

Once you have identified the type of query, analyze their search pattern. Are they searching for an answer to a specific question or a particular product or service? This will help you better understand their purpose for searching. You can use tools like Google Search Console to review the search query data. GSC will help you gain insights into the user’s search intent and the type of content your customer seeks. You can also use Google Analytics to review the user’s behavior on your website to understand better what they are searching for.

Lastly, consider their online behavior, like whether they’re looking to compare prices or read reviews. By doing this, you can create more targeted and personalized results. You can create content that meets their needs and ensure it is optimized to address the user’s needs.

Search Intent v/s Keyword Optimization

Keyword optimization involves adding relevant keywords to the content and URL of your page to improve its ranking on search engines. This is a fundamental aspect of SEO strategy.

However, while optimizing a page for the keywords you want it to rank for is important, you should also consider optimizing it for the user's search intent who is visiting the page. After all, it’s not just the keywords that matter—it’s also the context in which those keywords appear on your page.

Search intent gives context to your content by revealing what the user is most likely trying to accomplish.

Optimizing your page for the desired keywords and the user’s search intent gives the page a much higher chance of ranking for those terms.

The main difference between optimizing for keywords and optimizing for search intent is that optimizing for keywords is more concerned with getting content to rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs) by targeting specific keywords. While search intent optimization is more concerned with providing tailored content that meets users' needs and answers their queries.

Keyword optimization is focused on getting content to appear in search results for specific phrases. In contrast, search intent optimization is more concerned with providing the right content for the right audience at the right time.

Learn how to optimize your content without keyword stuffing here.

Why Should You Optimize Web Pages For User Search Intents?

You should optimize your web pages for search intents because it increases the chance of ranking for multiple keyword clusters and drives more traffic to your site.

Furthermore, you also increase the chance of getting those users to complete the conversion you desire, which is purchasing your product.

Optimizing web pages for user search intents can help improve your website's user experience. By understanding the purpose behind a user’s search, you can create content that is relevant and helpful to them. This can result in a better user experience and, thus, increased traffic to your website.

There are several ways to optimize your pages for search intents, but we’ll discuss the most common techniques here.

How To Optimize For Search Intents?

1. Optimize Web Pages for Multiple User Queries

The easiest way to optimize your web pages for search intents is to ensure that your website's content is applicable to a variety of user queries. This can be done by creating relevant content for multiple keyword clusters.

You should create unique content for each keyword cluster and link them together with internal links. This will help you rank for multiple keywords and improve your website's traffic and conversion rates.

When you optimize your web pages for search intents, you are creating custom landing pages geared towards specific keyword clusters. You are optimizing these pages to give the best possible results when someone searches using these words or phrases.

Read our guide on how to optimize web pages for keyword clusters to get started.

2. Beat the Competition by Filling in the Content Gaps

Another way to optimize your website for search intents is to fill in the gaps created by your competition. By filling in these gaps, you can create more relevant and valuable content than what your competitors are making.

How do you look for these gaps? Simply do a google search and see what content is being served to the users for some top queries. Look at the top 3-5 pages for each of these queries.

Find out what content your competitors create, and then create something better or different. Are there any questions or sub-topics they haven't covered? Does your product solve this problem in any way? Include all of this in your content piece.

Once you know what kind of content people want, it will be easier for you to create something better than what's already on the web. Create unique content based on user search intents so that each page of your website covers a specific sub-topic. This will help you rank for multiple keywords and improve your website's traffic and conversion rates.

3. Optimize Content for SERP Features

Finally, optimize your content for SERP features and improve your content ranking for top search intent. SERP features are the various elements that Google displays in its search results pages. By understanding which SERP features are most relevant to your topic, you can optimize your content to match those features. This can help you rank higher in Google’s search results and improve the user experience on your website.

Some common organic SERP features that you should consider

1. Featured Snippets

What a Featured Snippet looks like on Google search
What a Featured Snippet looks like on Google search

For certain specific user queries, Google likes to present the answer directly on SERP through a featured snippet entry.

A featured snippet is a box of content directly picked up from a web page. Featured snippets display the most relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy information Google can find for that particular user query.

To appear in a featured snippet, ensure your web page answers the user query in clear, simple language. For example, for a query like 'benefits of exercising', your content should explicitly state 'The top benefits of exercising are' followed by a list.

2. People Also Ask (PAA)

People Also Ask (PAA) SERP Features
People Also Ask (PAA) SERP Features lists top questions for the search intent

Google began showing PAA back in 2017. These results appear when someone searches for a question commonly asked in conjunction with your topic.

The People Also Ask (PAA) is a section generated by Google with the top questions related to the user’s search queries. The PAA is often the second or third listing on SERPs, and featuring here can boost the visibility of your content.

To obtain a PAA entry, always aim to answer as many questions as possible in your content pieces. Another way is to include a dedicated Q&A section with a FAQ schema markup.

3. Image Pack

Image Pack SERP Feature
Image Pack SERP Feature

Google displays an image pack (number of images right on top of SERP) for user queries that can be best answered visually.

To feature on the Image pack, ensure you have relevant images on your web pages and are optimized for search engines by including top keywords in the image alt text, for instance.

Identify the most common topics related to your case and then create content around those topics. You can also use these SERP featured snippets as inspiration for new ideas or concepts you want to write about on your blog or website.

Optimize Your Website For Key Search Intents With Quattr

As search engine bots get smarter, the focus of SEO efforts has shifted from keyword optimization to search intent optimization. Each search intent comprises hundreds of search queries and keywords. Getting lost in this space can be easy and make optimizing web pages for each search query cumbersome. And when you have millions of web pages to optimize for multiple search intents, the task of scaling your efforts becomes much more important.

Search intents are still a mystery that is hard to crack without the right tools by your side. Quattr, on the other hand, gives you visibility of the top search intents your website should target based on user queries and competitor data.

Quattr allows you to classify your data with an intent-driven approach and maximize your content optimization process with a clear direction. Now you know which pages to prioritize based on what intents to focus on. Then, get improvement recommendations that optimize web pages for the top search intents your business wants to maximize traffic for.

Optimize Search Intents with Quattr
Optimize your Website for Key Search Intents with Quattr

Quattr helps you focus on top keywords, optimize millions of pages for top intents, and rank on search engines to beat your competition.

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Search Intent FAQs

What is Search Intent?

Search intent in SEO is the purpose behind a user's search query. It's a critical element of SEO because it helps search engines determine the best results to return for a given query. Understanding search intent helps SEOs create content that caters to users' searches. It also helps SEOs develop effective keyword strategies and optimize content to rank for the right keywords.

How does Google See Search Intent?

Google uses various algorithms and technologies to understand search intent and deliver relevant results. Some methods Google uses to identify search intent include Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the meaning of words, analyzing user queries and past search patterns, and using Machine Learning (ML) to learn from past user interactions. Google also uses different web crawling techniques to discover and index new content on the web. These techniques, combined with user feedback and ratings, help Google deliver the best possible results for use search intents & queries.

How to do Search Intent Optimization?

Search intent optimization is creating content that satisfies the user’s query. Research the query and understand the context surrounding it. Then, create content that you think will best meet the user’s expectations for the query. Optimize the content for target keyword phrases that match the query. Finally, ensure the content is optimized for both the user and the search engines.

About The Author

Colton Miller

Colton Miller has 12 years of experience in selling, servicing, supporting, and strategizing SEO. He has dealt with thousands of sites across hundreds of verticals and has also helped create and define scaled solutions for hundreds of thousands of SMBs and enterprise clients alike. Colton writes about SEO, search engine insights, and algorithm updates.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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