What is search intent?

Search intent refers to the type of information you’re looking for on Google. Even though two users have similar searches, they might be looking for very different results. It’s the difference between a mom searching best bikes for girls (commercial), her daughter searching Schwinn bikes for girls (navigational), and her dad searching Schwinn Elm Girls’ Bike Coupons (transactional).

According to Google, 75% of smartphone users expect to get immediate information when using their smartphone. To satisfy its users’ immediacy, Google’s top results try to anticipate the intent behind your search. 

Types of Search Intent

Search intent falls into four categories: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Once you understand the intent behind a search, it’s much easier to create good content to match. But get the intent wrong, and no matter how good your content, it will never rank well. 

Informational

Informational queries are usually questions like who, what, where, and why. These types of searches are looking for something but don’t usually know what that something is. You’ll find lots of Wikipedia type pages in the results for these searches. The answers to these searches often lead to additional questions lower in the marketing funnel.

Examples of Informational Searches

  • Where is Paris?
  • What are the most poisonous snakes in the world?
  • How did the Cold War end?
  • Examples of good marketing?

Navigational

Navigational searches are looking for a specific website or tool that the searcher is already familiar with like Facebook, an app login page, or Zillow mortgage calculator, for example.

Examples of Navigational Searches

  • Facebook
  • App login
  • Zillow mortgage calculator

Commercial

Commercial searches are closely related with an intent to make a purchase for a good or service. Usually, these are bottom-of-funnel searches like reviews, comparisons, or best-of lists. This type of search is very competitive because the searcher is still making up their mind or deciding between products or companies.

Examples of Commercial Searches

  • Best SEO Course for Beginners
  • Podium vs Birdeye
  • Schwinn Elm Girls Bicycle Review

Transactional

Transactional searches are the last step in the purchasing process. These are searches related to buying something. This searcher has made up their mind about the product they’re about to purchase. 

Examples of Transactional Searches

  • Callaway Epic Flash Price
  • Buy Apple Airpods Pro
  • Quip Toothbrush Coupon

How to Infer Search Intent

Identifying the intent of each search will not only help you create better ranking content, but it also helps you prioritize which keywords are worth trying to rank for. Here’s a list of modifiers (thanks AHREFs) that signal search intent.

via AHREFs

if you’re a Zookeeper, for example, you could easily answer the search, What are the most poisonous snakes in the world. But you’ll get a lot more customers by ranking for best Zoo near me. By applying what you’ve learned about search intent, you’re going to target very specific potential customers who are right at the point of purchase, rather than wasting time with a larger audience that may never make a purchase.

How to Find Good Keywords

Search intent helps you find the right kind of keyword, but you still don’t have a list of actual keywords yet. So let’s talk about the exact formula you’ll use to find good keywords and the tools SEO experts recommend to find them. 

In a perfect world, every keyword would have high search volume, and low keyword difficulty. But in the real world. The higher the search volume, the more difficult it is to rank for. This isn’t always the case, but generally, those are the rules.

For example, best bitcoin wallet for cold storage is easier to rank for than bitcoin wallets. If you learn how to consistently find long tail keywords like these, with relevant search intent, then you’re on your way to page one rankings.

As you can see from The Search Demand Curve graphic below, the majority of searches on the internet are made up of unpopular search terms with relatively lower search volume. Even though these searches will drive less total traffic than more popular queries, they’ll be much easier to rank for. Believe it or not, of the trillions of searches on Google every day, 15% are new. So even though it’s tempting to only go after juicy high volume keywords, there’s much more opportunity in targeting new and long tail keywords, as shown below.

via AHREFs

Let’s practice finding some good, long-tail keywords to add to your content strategy using AHREFs, the industry standard for keyword research.

  • Step 1 – Open up AHREF’s Keyword Explorer
  • Step 2 – Start with a seed word like “plant-based meat
  • Step 3 – Select all keyword ideas from the left-hand menu
  • Step 4 – Filter volume greater than 1,200
  • Step 5 – Filter word count greater than 4
  • Step 6 – Sort by keyword difficulty
  • Step 7 – Filter keyword difficulty less than 34

Once you’ve applied filters for volume, word count, and keyword difficulty, you’re left with just 19 potential keywords. Depending on the type of website you’re trying to drive traffic to, there are probably 8 to 10 solid keyword ideas on this list.

What’s almost more valuable than the individual keywords is the types of keywords that appear multiple times. For example, there are several comparison keywords looking probably looking for an opinion on which plan-based meat meal is better. There are also several keywords for the specific plan-based meat menu items at different restaurants, probably looking for a review of the product.

The search volume for these keywords is high enough that if you can rank in the top 5 positions on Google, you’ll see 100+ new visitors per month. And when you create in-depth content that answers the intent of a specific search, it usually ranks for more than one keyword, so you end up ranking for several related search terms. 

One good example is the carl’s jr beyond burger. In our list of keywords, there are two variations on the same search. Their combined monthly search volume is 4,000 searches per month. So this is arguably the best keyword on that list. It also goes to show that there are dozens of variations of very similar searches. Create good content and you’ll likely rank for all of them.

As you start to do more and more keyword research you’ll get a better feel for what volume really moves the needle for your website and how difficult a keyword you can rank for consistently. Remember that difficulty doesn’t necessarily mean higher volume. There are plenty of long-tail keywords out there with low difficulty and high search volume.

But if you’re just starting out or have a brand new website, start with a keyword difficulty of 5 or less. It might seem extreme, however, it takes a long time to build up domain authority and without strong domain authority it’s nearly impossible to rank for more competitive keywords.