What is search intent

Search intent is the reason why people perform a search

In other words, search intent is the goal or purpose people have in mind when they enter a query into Google.

The informational intent

Someone might search for “how to change a car tire” with the intent of learning how to do it themselves.
This is the informational intent that concerns all users who search to collect information.
Informational intent is the starting point of content marketing: it’s crucial for catching users’ attention and gaining followers. Providing them with the content they look for means being recognized as a reliable source of knowledge and solutions.

Our findings show that more than 80% of Webqueries are informational in nature, with about 10% each being navigational and transactional.


Articles or web resources that aim to satisfy this kind of intent often have titles (and content, of course) like:

  • How Can I…
  • How to…
  • …from scratch
  • What is the…
  • What to do to/when/…
  • What are the benefits of…
  • X ways to…
  • Easy… guide/tutorial to…
  • Learn to…

The navigational intent

It’s when users want to look for a specific website and use a search engine to go there: queries like “Google account”, “eBay” or “Ferrari” are easy examples.

For “Ferrari”, Google shows the official website as the first organic results that answer the question (red).

Search intent example: navigational intent

A plus for this website is that Google shows some Sitelinks, also (yellow). Other results include the Knowledge Panel (blue), People Also Ask related questions (grey), and images (green).
There are Ads on the top right part (purple).

Generally, you don’t want to target users that perform such searches: how could you beat Ferrari with the keyword “Ferrari”? Also, are you sure people would search for your web pages by searching “Ferrari”?

Now, be careful here: when someone searches for a product, let’s say “Canon Selphy photo printer”, we could argue that this is a navigational intent because the user may be looking for an official page for that product… But we could also say that this is a transactional query because the search is so precise that there’s likely a will to buy just that printer.

The keyword funnel – Image: Ahrefs

The commercial intent

The following step is when the search becomes more refined: the queries show that users might have a need to satisfy. They search comparisons, charts, pros and cons…
They might search for “best all mountain skis for beginners”, “top training shoes for trail running” or “best buy smartphone 2023”.

These people are likely to look for pieces of information, but they’re not ready to buy yet. They express a so-called commercial intent.
It’s like when you go to a store to have a look around for that product you like, but you don’t want to buy it yet, you want more information… Maybe talk with the guy.

The transactional intent

The next step is when queries contain words like “rent”, “deal”, “shop”, “price”, and “buy…”. And searches look like “all mountain skis prices”, or “Maine wedding photographer price”: users are actively looking for something and they’re willing to pay for it.
Here’s the transactional intent.

Understanding Search Intent helps you to shape your content

Understanding the search intent behind a query does help you to decide what kind of content you want to deliver to your potential audience. This depends on which keyword funnel step they are in or which funnel stage you want to help them go to.

Moreover, it can help Google provide more relevant and useful results to its users.
There are a few ways that users help Google provide more relevant results:

  1. When the searches are specific, they use detailed keywords when performing a search. The more specific the search query is, the more likely it is that Google will be able to provide relevant results.
    For example, instead of searching for “Italian restaurants,” they can search for “best Italian restaurants in Camden” or “Italian restaurants with outdoor seating.”
  2. They use the “Search Tools” or “Advanced Search” options. Google provides several tools that can help you narrow down your search and find more relevant results. For example, you can use the “Search Tools” option to filter results by date, location, or type of content.
  3. They can provide feedback on their search results. Google offers a “Feedback” link at the bottom of each search results page, which allows everyone to provide feedback on the relevance of the results. This feedback helps Google improve its algorithms and provide better results in the future.

The best way users help Google in providing relevant results is to be specific and clear about what they’re looking for when performing a search. The more information they provide, the better equipped Google will be to deliver the results they’re looking for.

As a content publisher, there are several steps you can take to improve your website’s ranking on Google and earn higher rankings…

(…yes, same-old, same-old):

Create high-quality, engaging, and original content that provides value to your audience. Google’s algorithm is designed to surface the most relevant and useful results to users: the better your content is, the more likely it is to rank well.

Use keywords and phrases that are relevant to your content and that people are likely to search for. This will help Google understand the topic and content of your website and improve its ranking.

Optimize your website’s technical aspects, such as its loading speed and mobile-friendliness (remember Core Web Vitals). Google places a high value on websites that are easy to use and navigate, and that load quickly on all devices.

Build high-quality backlinks from other reputable websites. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website and are an important factor in how Google ranks websites. The more high-quality backlinks your website has, the higher it is likely to rank.

Engage with your audience and encourage them to share your content on social media and other platforms. Social signals, such as shares and likes, can help improve your website’s positioning on Google, though they’re not a direct ranking factor.

Overall, the key to earning higher rankings on Google as a publisher is to create content that answers your audience’s needs and to focus on technical and engagement factors that Google values.

To improve your website’s technical SEO and rank higher on Google, you can take the following steps:

Optimize your website’s loading speed. Indeed, Google places a high value on websites that load quickly, so it’s important to ensure that your website is optimized for speed. There are several tools and techniques you can use to improve your website’s loading speed. Examples are optimizing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript files, and using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. More and more people are using mobile devices to access the internet: so it’s important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile as well. Google provides a mobile-friendly test tool you can use to check if your website is mobile-friendly and get recommendations for improvements.

Use a secure connection (HTTPS). Google prefers websites that use a secure connection (HTTPS) over those that use an unsecured connection (HTTP). HTTPS encrypts data between your website and your user’s web browsers, which helps protect sensitive information and improve security.

Improve your website’s navigation and structure. A well-structured website is easier for Google crawlers to understand and index, which can help improve your website’s ranking. Furthermore, you can use techniques like breadcrumb navigation and clear headings, and subheadings to improve your website’s structure. All this will make it easier for users and search engines to navigate.

Focusing on technical SEO helps improve your website’s ranking. Technical SEO makes it faster, more mobile-friendly, more secure, and easier to navigate. After all, these factors are important to Google and can significantly help your website rank higher in search results.