Search engine optimization is one of the best ways of driving free traffic to your blog, business, or online store. All in all, it’s not complicated as long as you are aware of some fundamental SEO basics and are correctly implementing them on your website. What’s difficult is finding high converting visitors.

By understanding why people use certain types of keywords you can more precisely target for the right audience, and start optimizing pages for high converting keywords. This should bring you closer to your online goals sooner than later – be it revenue, or simply more readers.

Today, I want to talk about a very simple concept which I think is often overlooked – search intent, or user intent.

What is search intent?

Search intent is the reason why people use search engines in the first place. Search engines are a big part of our daily lives. It’s a tool used by billions of people every single day with over 40,000 queries every second. Every single keyword they type in the search box has intent behind them.

Google searches per year from 2000 to 2012.

During keyword research segmenting keywords by intent is crucial. If done properly you’ll be able to weed out unnecessary keywords with low commercial value to focus your resources on keywords that matter the most. You’ll also understand what type of content people are looking for so you can meet this demand.

Generally, there are three types of search queries with different intent: transactional, informational and navigational. Google calls them differently – do, know, go. However, I prefer longer names as it’s easier for me to remember.

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Transactional queries

Transactional, or “do” queries are the highest converting keywords as users are intentionally looking to buy something specific. These queries have very low search volume with high conversion rates.

Sometimes they may not even show up in keyword research tools as there’s not enough volume to show data. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. If you notice a pattern where people type “nike air max 98 free delivery” make sure you use that pattern for all shoe models and optimize each page accordingly.

Here are some examples of a transactional query.

Google SERP showing Nike Air Max 98 with free shipping.

Informational queries

Informational, or “know” queries are the most popular type of search online. Nearly 80 percent of all queries are informational, the rest are transactional and navigational. Informational queries focus on answering specific questions, where the most relevant content are articles, videos and audio.

Informational queries have high search volume and can bring thousands of visitors every day, but they don’t have very little commercial value. In most cases people are looking for a quick answer.

Specific answers may pop up in an answer box like in this example.

Google SERP showing an answer box for lake Baikal depth.

Informational queries are best used for content creation, content marketing and link building since informational content may go viral. As a small business you can create a separate blog, or a complete website packed with informative content for your niche. This may help you build trust, authority and brand awareness which can lead to potential clients in the long run.

But whether it’s worth your time and resources is up to you to decide.

Navigational queries

Navigational, or “go” queries are intended to bring people to a certain page, or website. Did you know that the most popular Google searches are YouTube and Facebook? The reason is people don’t type in the address of the website they want to visit, instead they search for it on Google and click the first link.

Google SERP for Facebook. Example of a navigational query.

You can’t really do anything useful with navigational queries besides making sure your website is the one that ranks first when you search for its’ name. Usually, this happens automatically as your website becomes more popular on the web and starts earning natural backlinks.

Bare in mind that search queries are not an exact science and most of these queries can intersect. For example, people may be looking for information about a specific product – they aren’t ready to buy yet and need some convincing. This is where product comparisons and reviews shine the most.

Search intent on broad terms

If your goal is to get a lot of traffic then optimizing for broad terms may bring better results. The only problem with this approach is you don’t actually know what the majority of people are looking for as the search term is too broad to determine intent. To eliminate guesswork you can analyze what type of search results Google shows for that term.

Google uses thousands of ranking factors, machine learning, and geolocation to deliver the most relevant results. By analyzing search results for a particular term you can safely assume the type of query it is even when you don’t have the complete picture.

Here’s an example when searching for “tie”.

Google SERP for tie.

By looking at these results when can safely assume that no one who searches for the word “tie” is looking to buy any ties. Most people prefer watching videos, or reading tutorials on how to actually tie a tie.

Google understands this and shows different types of relevant content to satisfy this demand. Some users may not have access to fast internet to watch videos, but they can access a website for a text-based tutorial, say for an emergency work interview.

This trick can be applied to any generic search term. It’s quite useful when you don’t know what type of content you need to create in order to meet user demand.

For example, some niches are dominated by videos entirely and there’s no point in writing an article because it may be a waste of time and energy – it’s better to create a video instead.

Conclusion

Understanding search intent behind every keyword you target is important. It almost entirely eliminates guesswork from keyword research, it provides better understanding of your target audience, and gives you an incentive to create better content for the whole web.

While it’s a simple concept, I feel like it’s often overlooked. So before you start optimizing for SEO make sure you segment your keyword list by query types, and that each of the query type aligns with a relevant page on your website.

This is not only useful for SEO, but is also crucial in PPC advertising.

Have you found this article helpful? Do you have anything extra to share? Share it in the comments below!