What is Search Intent?

And Why do I care?

The ‘Search Intent’ of a user is the specific type of information they are looking for from search engines and what terms they might use to find it. While it may not be the only factor you take into consideration when writing content, understanding search intent will help make decisions about what to write for your target audience and how to optimize the content on your site accordingly.

Search intent can be broken down into three main categories:
Navigational, Informational, and Commercial.

People often use multiple types of search intents depending on the situation they’re in and what they’re looking for. For example, if someone is researching ‘how to cook salmon’ they might look up recipes (informational), borrow a cooking book from the library (navigational) and find the cheapest price (commercial).


Navigational search intent is defined as an intention to find a specific, discrete piece of information. An example of this would be finding the number for a restaurant or looking up the hours for the museum on a given day.

This type of search intent is generally made by people who are looking to complete a task and are not in need of any other information.

A search term like ‘running’ would fall under this category because users may be searching for running blogs or news articles about the sport. These consumers could not care less about Nike shoes or any other specific product and are just browsing for information.


The search intent for informational search is when the user is searching for very specific information. This search term would be like someone searching for, ‘how do I plan a wedding’. A search term like this often means that the person doing the search is looking for general information on how to execute an event. These consumers are not looking for any specific product or service and are in search of a lot of information. Top search terms almost always relate back to basic human needs – people want to have fun, search for information, search for products and services, search for entertainment etc.

Commercial (or Transactional)

Search terms that refer to a commercial transaction or items the person is looking to purchase. This search term would be something like ‘buy a lawnmower’. People search this way for specific products or services, and many of them are actively researching these purchases before they make them.

How do Search Engines determine Search Intent?

Search engines use algorithms to assess what people are looking for. Algorithms are a set of instructions that determine how to solve a specific issue, problem, or task.

The keyword phrases that users type are the first step of how search engines determine search intent – this is called query analysis. This is when the algorithm looks for keywords, nouns, and adjectives that were typed into the search bar. Words like why, how, what are most likely informational, whereas compare, review, best are probably commercial. The algorithm will then match these words with documents on a database of sites they have indexed to find a relevant result.

Other major factors are the location of the user and the time of day.

Location is an important factor because search engines want to show quality relevant content that is optimized for the search user.

Why is Search Intent important in SEO?

If search engine optimization is aimed at improving search result rankings for brands, then search intent plays the key role in determining how search results are ranked. Search engines use search terms to determine the desirability of a website in search results.

Search intent also determines what content you create on your website. If you have navigational search intent keywords, then it’s alright to have pages that link out to other websites, but search engines will not rank these pages as highly if they are purely designed to send search users away from your site. You want search engine friendly content that answers user search queries and also adds value to your website!

Search intent keyword research is the key to understanding how search engines work and why search intent is important in SEO. It’s crucial for creating great search-friendly content for search users, improving rankings, and ultimately converting more visitors into customers!


analysis, keyword research, keywords, onpage seo, search engine optimization, search-intent

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What is Search Intent?

What is Search Intent?