The importance of search intent in keyword research

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The importance of search intent in keyword research

Keyword research is one of the fundamental building blocks of search engine optimization; that much is clear even to someone with only a passing knowledge of the field. And within keyword research, there’s one part that’s of singular importance — search intent. So, what exactly is that, and why is it so crucial? Stay tuned, as we explain the importance of search intent right here!

Search Intent 101

In the simplest terms, search intent is the reason someone is searching for something online — the “why” of it. Obviously, no one performs online searches for no reason at all. And that reason changes the kind of answer that you’re expecting. Generally, we distinguish between four different search intents, which we’ll explain in due course.

But is the importance of search intent truly that great? After all, there are plenty of methods that are essential to keyword research; there’s always another way to do it, like via social media. However, all of these rely on the central question of why someone is looking for something online. Without that context, none of your other keyword research tactics will be quite as effective.

For instance, if you Google a specific brand of ketchup, the search engine will assume that you’re looking for places where you can buy the product, rather than providing you with information about the eponymous company or its history.

Google tracks searches from particular users in continuity. That’s why the search terms and the contextual intent inform every next search we make — this is what Google refers to as an “intent profile”.

Four Search Intent Types

We distinguish between the following kinds of search intent:

  • Transactional
  • Commercial
  • Navigational
  • Informational

Informational Intent

When a user makes what we call an informational query, they’re after one thing: knowledge. They’re not looking for a service to hire or a product to buy. They want to know stuff like “Where is Belize?” or “Who was the 15th President of the United States?”.

When users search for specific, short answers, we refer to this as “know simple”. For instance — “the temperature in Washington DC” is a know simple query that will produce a very specific search result as the answer. On the other hand, a majority of searches are not simple, which only elevates the importance of search intent.

If someone searches for “How to cook pasta”, that is a thoroughly ambiguous answer. And these unclear questions are where content marketing and keyword research can thrive. Someone who is savvy at Internet marketing might use such an opportunity to lead users towards a product while simultaneously providing a tasty pasta recipe.

Of course, this sort of straight route isn’t one you always have to take. Informational queries are also a neat opportunity to build your authority on a particular topic and present yourself as a credible source of information for a specific niche.

Even if you’re not plugging a product directly, you can use the chance to build the users’ respect for your blog or website by simply providing the answers that they seek.

Navigational Intent

Navigational intent is one of the simplest to explain. In short, these refer to location-based questions; the search for a specific address, or perhaps the known locations of a brand that you’re interested in. The “Bars near me” is one of the more famous examples. But, these queries can also be more specific — like “Apple Store nearby”. When it comes to these queries, it’s all about local searches. You don’t want to compete for keywords that have nothing to do with your client geographically.

Commercial Intent

Next up, we’ve got commercial queries. These showcase someone’s direct interest in buying something. And while leads that pose these kinds of queries are already near the end of the product funnel, they’re not quite there yet. In other words, they need more information before making a call. The results for these queries are usually reviews, “best of” lists, and comparison charts.

To the untrained eye, this might seem like a query that’s identical to a transactional one. However, making the distinction is essential, particularly when it comes to content marketing. You should also remember that, even though marketing always uses the funnel model to plan out the user’s journey, it’s rarely so strictly linear in reality. Indeed, users often switch between a couple of different websites, ask varied queries, and pose questions before perhaps returning to reviews they’ve already read. Even after reading an FAQ and comparing different products, they might give up entirely before returning to the topic days later.

This is why the importance of search intent in keyword research is so great, as it is for content marketing in general. People who write copy or content need to keep in mind why someone might stumble upon their work. Plus, if you’re creating content for social media, the experience could always become interactive. And then, it’s even more important to know why users are coming to you.

Transactional Intent

While the very word “transactional” might point towards a purchase-related query, that’s not always the case. In reality, this refers to queries from users that are prepared to respond to a CTA. But taking action doesn’t necessarily involve buying something, at least not right away. Instead, it could also mean signing up for some type of newsletter or another interaction with a brand.

Searches that stem from transactional intent can be composed of particular brand names, like “order iPhone 12”. However, they’re also known to include more generic terms like “blue sneakers on sale”.


Understanding the importance of search intent is crucial for properly planning and executing any digital marketing plan. When it comes to precise search engine optimization and content marketing, realizing the intent behind each user query is essential.

Author Bio: Josh Gardener is a digital marketing specialist, focusing mostly on content creation. When he’s not working with Movers Development, he enjoys water sports and classic poetry.

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