what is search intent

SEO basics
What is search intent?

SEO basics: What is search intent?

SEO is a way to get more traffic to your website. By ranking high in Google, you attract more people to your site. Eventually, your goal probably is to sell your stuff, or to attract more regular visitors. A nice tactic to get more traffic to your site is optimizing your content for words people use. However, to really convince people to buy your stuff, subscribe to your newsletter or to come back to your website another time, you should take into account search intent as well. Here, I will tell you what search intent is and how to optimize your articles for search intent.

What is search intent?

Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?

Over the years, Google has become more and more able to determine the search intent of people. And Google wants to rank pages highest that fit the search term as well as the search intent of a specific search query. That’s why it’s essential to make sure your post or page fits the search intent of your audience. 

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4 types of search intent

There are a few distinct types of search intent:

Informational intent

First, there is informational intent. Lots of searches on the internet are of people looking for information. Information about the weather, information about educating children, information about SEO. In this case people have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic.

Navigational intent

The second type of search intent is called navigational intent. People with this intent try to get to a specific website. People who search for Facebook are usually on their way to the Facebook website.

Ranking high on a navigational term is only beneficial for your organic traffic if your site is the site people are looking for. A few years ago, Yoast had a Google Analytics plugin and we ranked pretty well for the term Google Analytics. It didn’t drive any traffic to our site though. People searching for Google Analytics were looking for the Google Analytics website and were hardly ever interested in our plugin.

Transactional intent

The third type of search intent is the transactional intent. Lots of people buy stuff on the internet and browse the web to find the best purchase. People who have the intention to buy are searching with a transactional intent.

Commercial investigation

Some people have the intention to buy in the (near) future, but use the web to do their research. What washing machine would be best? Which SEO plugin is the most helpful? These people also have a transactional intent, but will need some more time and convincing. These types of search intents are usually called commercial investigating intents.

Keyword intent

The words people use in their search queries will give information about their user intent. If people use words as buy, deal, discount, they are definitely prone to buy something. Also, if people are searching for specific products, they probably want to buy it. If people are searching and use words like information, how to, best way to, you’ll know they’ll have an informational search intent.

How to optimize your content for search intent

You want to make sure that a landing page fits the search intent of your audience. If people search for information, you don’t want to show them a product page. At least, not immediately. You’d probably scare them away. If people want to buy your product, do not bore them with long articles. Lead them to your shop.

Optimizing your product pages for more commercial driven keywords is a good idea. If you sell dog vitamins, you could for instance optimize a product page for [buy dog vitamins]. Perhaps you also have an article about administering vitamins. You could for example optimize that article for the search term [how to give vitamins to my dog].

It can be rather hard to determine the search intent of a query. And, perhaps different users will have a (slightly) different user intent, but still land on the same page. If you want to know more about the search intent of your audience, the best way is to ask them. You could make a small survey, containing questions about what people were searching for and make that survey pop up if people enter your website. That’ll probably give more insights in the search intent of your audience.


It’s crucial to ensure that the content you’re writing fits both the terms people are searching for, as well as the search intent of your audience. Make sure your post or page is informational, if people are searching for information. But lead people to your sales pages if they are prone to buying one of your products.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »


22 Responses to SEO basics: What is search intent?

  1. rainadawan
    By rainadawan on 27 January, 2018

    • I simply wanted to thank you so much again. I am not sure the things that I might have gone through without the type of hints revealed by you regarding that situation

  2. Sunny
    By Sunny on 25 January, 2018

    Very Good Article,Thank For Sharing Keep Up The Good Work.

  3. sasha21
    By sasha21 on 24 January, 2018

    thanks for sharing this article, it shows basic ideas about SEO, very useful for SEO beginners.

  4. Bryan Bloom
    By Bryan Bloom on 21 January, 2018

    Marieke, another great article! This will help us to better fine tune keywords and content for our clients. Our clients are all moving companies and we segment the keywords into intent based on this article. This helps us write more appropriate content.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 22 January, 2018

      Great to hear that, Bryan. Good luck with writing content for your clients.

  5. Wish
    By Wish on 19 January, 2018

    Thanks Alot. Really beneficial.

  6. Noor Alam
    By Noor Alam on 18 January, 2018

    That will be very useful for my website SEO! Just noticed a minnor typo which you might want to fix: how to give vitamins *do* my dog


    • Melina Reintjens
      By Melina Reintjens on 19 January, 2018

      Thanks for pointing that out, Noor! Fixed it :)

  7. WPHowTo
    By WPHowTo on 18 January, 2018

    Some really good tips for optimizing content. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Laura
    By Laura on 17 January, 2018

    That was very useful. Thank you!

  9. Emily Johnson
    By Emily Johnson on 17 January, 2018

    Thank you! It is really helpful for me to keep myself updated with latest SEO information. It also helps me to put my queries regarding SEO across these blogs.

  10. J Tontti
    By J Tontti on 17 January, 2018

    Good tips. I have found out that the long term keyword works best, because that guides the content writing well. And the more LSI long term search terms you use, the better. You just cannot write off the topic.

    • Melina Reintjens
      By Melina Reintjens on 19 January, 2018

      You’re absolutely right, long tail keywords are a crucial part of a keyword strategy! But actually, we’re not so sure LSI keywords are all they’re made out to be. Edwin recently wrote about that: https://yoast.com/semantically-link-entities/ .

  11. yathav
    By yathav on 17 January, 2018

    Nicely written, I see many bloggers missing the point. Attracting users with informational content and trying hard to sell affiliates products. This should be on top of my while creating an content strategy for the blog.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 18 January, 2018

      Glad you like our article, Yathav! Good luck with your blog

  12. Richard Lowe
    By Richard Lowe on 17 January, 2018

    Great information. I’m wondering how fit this concept into my blog.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 18 January, 2018

      Hi Richard, Try to find out what your target audience is looking for. E.g. Information about a certain topic, or products to buy? Make sure your content fits this intent!

  13. Michael LaRocca
    By Michael LaRocca on 16 January, 2018

    Excellent advice as always. One thing to keep in mind is not “What would I search for?” but “What would my prospect search for?” Note that I chose the word “prospect.” I did this because, as you noted, it’s not always a customer doing the searching. At least not yet…

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 18 January, 2018

      Great addition, Michael!

  14. Basit Ansari
    By Basit Ansari on 16 January, 2018

    Amazing Article

  15. اجاره خودرو
    By اجاره خودرو on 15 January, 2018

    Thanks . Greate article . Big like

  16. nexvan
    By nexvan on 15 January, 2018

    Good article
    Also, add ways to raise your old content rating

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