Search Intent: Types of Searches (And Why It Matters)

Here, we take a look at search intent and the role it plays in inbound and content marketing.

What is search intent?

Search intent may go by many names—user intent, query intent, and audience intent—but what it refers to is the purpose or end goal behind a person’s search query. In other words, the kind of information / pages the person is hoping to find online.

As you can imagine, search intent has an impact on things like your conversion rate and cost of acquisition but also, on a practical level, the kind of content you create.

That’s why, as a marketer, you want to know what potential customers actually want to find when they run a search online.

Types of searches

When it comes to search intent, keywords are, well, the key. They determine which pages search engines present you, i.e. the options that show up on search engine results pages (SERPs). They also shed light on the type of search someone’s conducting, adding context to what might otherwise be opaque or generic.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of Google searches.

#1: Informational intent

Informational search intent

This type of search involves wanting to know more about a topic. The user wants a specific question answered, so the goal here is to find relevant and useful information.

Informational search intent contains words like:

  • How to
  • What is
  • Why
  • Where
  • Who
  • Fix
  • How many
  • Meaning / history of

#2: Navigational intent

Navigational search intent

This type of search is all about getting to a specific website, hence the term ‘navigational’. Searchers have a destination in mind and they’re using search to get there.

For example: A search for ‘YouTube’, a certain ‘login’ page, or for an exact brand or product name.

#3: Transactional intent

Transactional search intent

The purpose behind a search with transactional intent, as you can imagine, is to make a purchase or do something. Searchers know what they want and they’re now looking for the best way (or place) to buy it. Transactional intent is also sometimes called commercial intent or high intent.

This type of search includes words like:

  • Buy / Book / Hire
  • [Name of service provider]
  • [Type of] service
  • Free shipping on
  • Free consultation
  • Comparison of [XYZ]
  • Reviews
  • Where to buy
  • [Product / service] near me
  • Affordable
  • Discount
  • Cheapest
  • Coupon
  • Best [product / service / location / destination]

#4: Commercial investigation

Commercial investigation is when the searcher has the intention to buy—but not right now.

Finally, there’s also commercial investigation. That’s when the searcher has the intention to buy—but not right now. The person first wants to research their options or learn more about something before taking action.

A final note on keyword search intent

It’s important to remember that search engines interpret keywords according to three categories. These are:

  • Dominant interpretations – what the majority of searchers mean with a specific search query.
  • Common interpretations – that is, the different types of meanings that keyword can have. For example: ‘Mango’ can refer to the fruit or the clothing brand.
  • Minor interpretations – these are less common and / or vary according to location.

The role of keyword intent in your inbound marketing efforts

As a business owner, you want your brand to appear in search results throughout a potential customers’ purchase journey.

One way to do that is through an inbound marketing strategy—creating content—that will drive potential customers to your website. Search intent SEO helps you craft effective pages.

For instance: Sally is planning a small birthday party for her daughter and she needs a great cake—chocolate, her daughter’s favorite flavor—that will delight the kids. But Sally’s not a great baker, which is why she heads online to search for “chocolate cake”.

Her generic query could mean many things.

  • She might be looking for recipes, so that she can bake her own chocolate cake.
  • Sally could be searching for a bakery nearby where she can order a chocolate cake.
  • Or Sally might not be ready to make a purchase just yet; she might want to start by researching bakeshops specializing in chocolate cakes for kids and then make a decision whether she’ll bake one or place a custom order.

If you’re in the business of selling custom cakes, one way to get your brand in front of Sally—and customers like her—is by anticipating her potential keyword search intent.

In this scenario, that might mean:

  1. To build brand awareness, you publish baking tips and recipes on your business blog. These might not result in sales today but you can get orders from readers in the future.
  2. You optimize your product pages for online shoppers with attractive product descriptions and a clear call to action.
  3. You also create a landing page focused on custom birthday cakes for kids. Here, you encourage readers to schedule a free consultation with cake tasting. When they’re sitting in front of you, that’s when you convince prospects to place an order.

Summary: Why user search intent is useful for marketers

✅ You can deliver relevant content during crucial decision-making moments.

✅ If you give your buyer segments what they’re looking for then you increase the likelihood of attracting marketing qualified leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers. That also translates to lower costs!

✅ Anticipating search intent gives you a starting point from which you can plan the types of content you’ll develop.

✅ It helps you with your keyword strategy.

✅ It’s easier to create high-impact landing pages that will resonate with your prospects.