What Is Search Intent? How to Identify Intent for Better SEO in 2022

Informational intent

This is a generic type of intent, but it encompasses most of the search queries completed online. It’s for people looking for information, or an answer to a question, like:

  • What’s the Yankee’s score?
  • How’s the weather in San Diego?
  • How do you build a bookshelf?
  • Does Yosemite National Park allow dogs?
  • How do you make a bolognese sauce?

What’s great about search engines is that their understanding of intent runs significantly deeper than the basic information given in the search phrase. For example, Google knows that most people looking for “bolognese sauce” are likely seeking out a recipe, not the history of bolognese sauce.

informational search intent with bolognese sauce

Navigational intent

Navigational intent has perhaps the most specific aim of all (besides some forms of shopping intent). The user just wants to visit a particular website like CodeinWP.com or Instagram.com.

This type of intent is the result of people using the search engine like an address bar in a browser.

Regardless, search engines tend to provide the most exact result. So, make sure you don’t target any keywords that could overlap with this navigational intent. It’s fine to write about Google Docs, but know that the vast majority of keywords will send people to the actual Google Docs website.

search for google docs search intent

How to identify search intent so people want to click on your content

You now know how search intent works and why it’s important. But all of that is pointless unless you put this knowledge into action.

If you target a keyword that’s primarily showing product pages, you don’t want to try to rank for an informational blog post. If you optimize for a keyword with more of a search intent for research, but you send them directly to a sales landing page, you may scare away people simply trying to complete product analysis, not make a purchase.

That’s why you must examine the audience’s general search intent after selecting a keyword, whether it’s for a product page, comparison blog post, or tutorial on urban gardening.

Luckily, search engines are free, and they’re the basic tools you need for researching audience search intent.

Here’s the process:

  1. Find a relevant keyword for your content that has low competition but decent volume potential. You can use the Google Keyword Planner for this.
  2. Take the keyword(s) and type them into Google. Consider testing on other search engines as well. Engines like DuckDuckGo, Bing, and Brave Search offer their own unique results.
  3. Take note of the types of content that appear. Are they different than what you’re offering? If so, you won’t be able to satisfy the general user’s search intent. If the content is similar, you should be good to go!

Note: Keep in mind that not everyone sees the same results when they type in identical keywords in Google. You may have to adjust your thinking for certain biases, locations, and preferences.

Let’s run a test with the keyword “how to make a built-in bookshelf.” We plan on creating a written blog post with step-by-step information and pictures.

The results are promising.

You’ll notice that shopping ads are at the top of the page; that’s common for many searches on Google. They’re not a dealbreaker, but you should still keep in mind that you’re competing with those. You’re fine as long as the real search results don’t also show shopping results.

how to build a bookshelf

Next up, Google prioritizes several videos. It’s very possible that users are more likely to want videos when learning how to make built-in bookshelves. Therefore, you could consider switching your blog content to a video instead.

However, you should still have quality results if you stick with a tutorial blog post, seeing as how most of the other results are blog posts guiding how to make built-in bookshelves or the occasional list of bookshelf inspiration.

SEO tools to help identify search intent

What tools can you use to identify search intent prior to publication?

We recommend the following:

  • Google Keyword Planner: this is the first step during any search intent analysis. Use the tool to locate longtail keywords that many get more effective results. Furthermore, narrow it down to the best keywords so that you’re not wasting time on high competition keywords, or those without much search volume.
  • Your search engine: we outlined this above, but it’s important to always run planned keywords through a search engine prior to using them in content. You can also check the Related Searches section to see if the intent is actually close to the content you’re creating.
  • Keyword research tools: web apps like Ahrefs and SEMrush allow you to quickly locate high purchase intent keywords that actually relate to your business. For example, Ahrefs has a section in its Keyword Explorer called “Having Same Terms,” which lists articles and keywords that answer the same questions or problems as your keyword.
  • Customer survey tools: an alternative (though less accurate) way of figuring out the buyer’s intent is to simply ask customers. Create surveys with tools like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms or some of the best WordPress survey plugins to gain feedback and learn customer pain points. Then, you can craft content based on that.

Combine these steps to build the best possible chance of landing on the correct search intent for your content. The great news is that it only takes a few extra minutes after looking up viable keywords in the first place!

Our conclusion on search intent

To wrap things up, we’d like to leave you with an example of poor search intent from several high-profile organizations. What’s unique about this one is that there may not have been any way to avoid it in the first place. Regardless, Google tries to accommodate all parties by mashing several search intent results into one page.

The keyword “Chicago fire” technically has four meanings, four reasons for people to look for that keyword, and four search intents:

  • It’s a popular TV show about Chicago firefighters on NBC.
  • It’s the name of Chicago’s professional soccer club.
  • It’s the name of an actual fire that burned the entire city down in the 1800s.
  • And to make things more complicated, a California-based pizza restaurant decided to name its establishment Chicago Fire.
chicago fire search intent

As mentioned, Google does what it can to make sense of the madness. It essentially just dumps all of the results on the first page, with more mentions about the TV Show and the soccer club since they’re most popular. But it’s funny that the historical fire, The Great Chicago Fire, the thing that everything is named after, gets pushed towards the bottom of the page.

Luckily, Google seems to give some exposure to each of them, but that’s usually not the case if the search intent is off.

So, save yourself the trouble and spend time researching search intent properly!

If you have any questions on how to work out how to use search intent to your blog’s benefit, let us know in the comments below.

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