What Is Search Intent?

Search intent is a broad term to describe why the user is searching through the search engine. In short, it represents the reason users are submitting that query via the search engine and what’s the purpose of it. In general, search intent is classified as informational, navigational, and transactional.

DefinitionSearch Intent, also known as user intent or search query intent, refers to the underlying purpose or goal that a person has when conducting an online search using a search engine. It is a crucial concept in search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing. Understanding search intent helps businesses and content creators tailor their online content to match what users are looking for, thereby providing more relevant and valuable search results. Search intent can be categorized into several types, including informational (seeking information), navigational (looking for a specific website or page), transactional (intent to make a purchase), and commercial investigation (researching products or services before making a decision). Analyzing and aligning content with search intent is essential for improving search engine rankings, user experience, and conversion rates.
Key ConceptsUser Goals: Search intent reflects the goals and objectives users have when using search engines.
Intent Categories: Intent is categorized into various types, such as informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial investigation.
Content Relevance: Content must align with search intent to provide value and relevance to users.
Keyword Analysis: Keyword research and analysis play a vital role in understanding and targeting search intent.
Conversion Funnel: Search intent often corresponds to different stages of the customer conversion funnel, from awareness to purchase.
CharacteristicsDiverse Intent Types: Search intent can be diverse, ranging from seeking information to making a purchase.
User-Centric: Understanding and catering to user needs is central to optimizing for search intent.
Keyword Variations: Different keywords and phrases may align with specific intent types.
Content Depth: Content depth and format may vary based on the depth of information users seek.
User Behavior: Analyzing user behavior and click-through rates can provide insights into search intent.
ImplicationsRelevance: Content that aligns with search intent is more likely to be relevant and valuable to users.
SEO Performance: Understanding intent aids in optimizing content for higher search engine rankings.
User Satisfaction: Meeting user intent leads to improved user satisfaction and engagement.
Conversion Rates: Aligning with transactional intent can boost conversion rates and sales.
Competitive Edge: Recognizing and addressing intent effectively can provide a competitive advantage in digital marketing.
AdvantagesBetter User Experience: Content that matches search intent enhances the user experience.
Higher Rankings: Optimizing for intent can lead to higher search engine rankings.
Improved Engagement: Relevant content engages users and keeps them on a website longer.
Conversion Optimization: Transactional intent alignment can boost conversion rates.
Targeted Marketing: Understanding intent enables more targeted marketing efforts.
DrawbacksComplexity: Identifying and addressing diverse intent types can be complex.
Constant Changes: Search intent can change over time, requiring ongoing adjustments to content.
Competition: Many businesses are optimizing for the same intent, increasing competition.
Limited Data: Limited data access may make it challenging to analyze user behavior and intent effectively. – Keyword Shifts: Shifts in keyword usage can impact search intent patterns.
ApplicationsContent Creation: Content creators use search intent analysis to develop articles, blog posts, and web pages that match what users are searching for.
SEO Strategies: SEO professionals optimize websites by aligning keywords and content with user intent.
Paid Advertising: Advertisers create targeted ads based on search intent categories.
E-commerce: E-commerce businesses tailor product listings to transactional intent and conduct keyword research accordingly.
User Experience Design: UX designers consider search intent when designing website layouts and navigation.
Use CasesInformational Queries: A user searching for “how to bake a cake” has informational intent, and content should provide step-by-step instructions and recipes.
Navigational Queries: Someone searching for “Facebook login” has navigational intent and should be directed to the Facebook login page.
Transactional Queries: A user searching for “buy iPhone 13 online” has transactional intent, and e-commerce sites should display relevant product listings and purchase options.
Commercial Investigation: Users researching “best smartphones 2023” have commercial investigation intent, and comparison articles and reviews are relevant.
Local Services: Queries like “best restaurants near me” have local intent, and search engines should display nearby restaurant listings.


The basic functioning of search

If you can grasp the general purpose behind users’ search intent for specific keywords, you can pretty much build a solid digital distribution for your business. 

This might seem trivial as a topic, yet it’s surprising that a few people still get that. And in reality, in many cases, it’s hard to really understand a user’s intent, and we can only guess it. 

Let’s go back then to how search engines work then by starting from Google. When Google builds up its index, it uses specific crawlers (software that goes on web pages and scans them by looking at hundreds of signals). 

Once those pages have been “scanned” (web crawling is something continuous that Google can do at scale on billions of web pages, this is indeed the feat of modern search engines), they are inserted in Google’s index. 

Within that index, those pages are retrieved based on several factors. Some factors that had a major influence on how search engines worked in the last decades are related to the so-called “keywords” and “backlinks.”

In short, on the one hand, when a user inputs a keyword in Google’s search box (perhaps I might be looking for “car insurance”), then Google will retrieve a bunch of pages from its index based on how each page has been recorded in the index. 

On the other hand, for many years, Google has scaled its index by using backlinks (a link on your site coming from another site) as a voting mechanism, similar to what happens in research papers (where academics will link to more authoritative sources for their papers’ references). 

Thus, if that page was recorded in Google’s index for that specific query, and it had enough authoritative references, Google might retrieve it from its index, ranking it among the top pages.

As a result, the way Google shows its organic listings – pages that show up on Google even if you didn’t bid on any keyword, but rather because you have a web page that relevant for that search – have remained unchanged for quite some time.

Turning into an answer engine 

However, starting in 2015-16, Google started to implement more advanced search features that give specific answers to users beyond the traditional listings. Thus, Google pretty much extracts content from web pages, and with queries that resemble more of a question:

This is relevant because it tells us that Google is more equipped now to guess users’ intent and that this also is an evolution that shows how Voice Search might look like. 

These advanced features are taking more and more space on Google’s search results, thus starting to play a critical role. 

Now back to why this matters to us. 

Inside the users’ minds

The most important advantage of targeting the right keywords through Google is that we can build a digital funnel to target our business objectives. 

But how do we guess users’ intents? There are many ways to do that. Let’s start from a fundamental but effective one. When we look at keywords, there are a few key metrics to look at.

Let’s start from three core ones: 

  • Volume: how many times per month has that keyword been searched – on average?
  • CPC: what’s the cost per click that advertisers are paying to bid on that keywords? 
  • CTR: how many times are users clicking through our pages when shown on Google?

As a general and simple rule of thumb, keywords with lower volume might also have a higher CPC.


Well, in the so-called SEO space (practitioners that try to guess how search works), keywords are usually classified in: 

  • Navigational where the users are still in the consideration phase.  
  • Transactional users know they want to buy a product/service, so they are looking for specific products/services.
  • Informational where the users are more looking to get to learn a specific topic. 

Understanding this basic difference is critical because if you target an informational keyword, you might get more traffic but fewer conversions on your product. And if you’re only targeting transactional keywords, you might be getting some conversion through, but your funnel might still be too slow. 

Thus, you want to balance the two to build a solid sales funnel. On top of that, you will have informational and navigational keywords that help users get to know a topic, understand what’s important for that topic.

And connect those pages with more transactional ones, where users will be guided in a potential discovery, understanding, and purchasing journey. 

Once you have that, you can say that search engines are also working for your business as digital distribution channels!

Key Highlights

  • Search Intent:
    • Search intent refers to the purpose behind users’ queries on search engines.
    • It is classified as informational, navigational, and transactional.
    • Understanding search intent is crucial for effective digital distribution.
  • Search Engine Functioning:
    • Search engines like Google use crawlers to scan web pages and index them.
    • Pages are retrieved from the index based on keywords and other factors.
    • Backlinks have historically influenced search engine rankings.
    • Google’s traditional organic listings are pages relevant to search queries.
  • Transition to Answer Engine:
    • Google started implementing advanced features to provide direct answers to queries.
    • Google extracts content to respond to question-like queries.
    • This evolution is relevant for understanding user intent and voice search trends.
  • Importance of User Intent:
    • Targeting the right keywords helps build a digital funnel for business objectives.
    • Guessing users’ intent is essential, and metrics like volume, CPC, and CTR provide insights.
  • Keyword Classifications:
    • Keywords are classified as navigational, transactional, and informational.
    • Navigational keywords indicate users in the consideration phase.
    • Transactional keywords show intent to buy specific products/services.
    • Informational keywords are about learning a topic.
  • Balancing Keywords for Funnel:
    • Balancing transactional and informational keywords helps create a solid sales funnel.
    • Connect informational and navigational pages to transactional ones for a seamless journey.
  • Leveraging Search Engines for Business:

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.


Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.


The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.


Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.


Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.


Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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