Why search intent is important for marketers

To acquire more leads and increase sales, you need to be familiar with search intent.

Let’s say Sally runs a search for ‘chocolate cake’. What do you think she’s hoping to find?

Sally’s search could have different meanings. She could be looking for recipes, where she can get (eat / buy) the best chocolate cake in town, or where to order a custom chocolate cake.

That’s where search intent makes a difference—and why every marketer needs to be able to address it.

What is search intent?

Search intent, also called user intent, is the goal – the purpose or reason – behind a person’s specific search.

In other words, is the searcher looking for answers to a question, for a certain website, or to make a purchase?

Let’s go back to Sally for a moment.

The search results she gets will depend on – and change with – the modifying words she uses in combination with ‘chocolate cake’. Those keywords shed light on her intent.

Types of search intent

Informational Intent

Informational search intent

This type of search involves wanting to know more about a topic or to have a specific question answered. The goal here is to find relevant and useful information.

These types of searches would contain words like:

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

Navigational Intent

Navigational search intent

This type of search is all about getting to a specific website. Searchers have a destination in mind and they’re using search to go there.

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

Transactional Intent

Transactional search intent

This type of search has the goal of making a purchase. Searchers know what they want and they’re now looking for the best way or place to buy it.

This type of search includes words like:

  • Buy / Book / Hire
  • Service provider
  • [XYZ] service
  • Free shipping on
  • Free consultation
  • Comparison of [XYZ]
  • Reviews
  • Where to buy
  • [XYZ] near me
  • Affordable
  • Discount
  • Cheapest
  • Coupon
  • Best

There’s also what’s known as commercial investigation. That’s when the searcher has the intention to buy but not right now. They’ll first use the internet to research their options.

types of search intent: commercial investigation

It’s also important to note that search engines will interpret keywords according to three categories:

  1. Dominant interpretations – what the majority of searchers mean with a specific search query
  2. 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.
  3. Minor interpretations – these are less common and / or vary according to location.

Related: What you need to know about the customer purchase journey

Is search intent important?

Absolutely! Here’s why:

  • It’s necessary for marketing. Knowing what people are looking for helps you plan your marketing. It also gives you a starting point from which to develop your content strategy.
  • You can create better landing pages. When you know what your audience is looking for, it’s easier to create highly-targeted content that will resonate with them. This type of insight is incredibly valuable because it allows you to better cater to your audience’s needs and desires.
  • It allows you to give people what they want. And when you give people what they want, that leads to more click-throughs and a higher conversion rate.

At the end of the day, you’re creating content for a reason. You want it to be found. You want it to be read. And you want it to convert, whether that’s in the form of more subscribers, more inquiries, or a boost in sales.

Extra Reading: Search Intent in Action

Want to see the different ways search intent manifests itself in real life situations?

Think with Google has some great examples to show just how unique each customer’s purchase journey is and how that’s reflected through intent.