The Secret to SEO is Not Keywords, It’s Search Intent

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Why is search intent the essential factor in SEO?

If you want to rank high in the SERP among all of your competition you need to put in some resources. It’s crucial to have a nice spot there for your business to be successful, as the internet has never been more popular. 

Google keeps getting smarter and with that come different elements you need to take into consideration as you’re optimising your site. One of such high-value areas of optimisation is search intent, which is one of the most critical aspects of search you need to look at.

What is search intent?

In essence, search intent is why a particular user searched a given phrase. Getting the search intent right is basically answering that question and giving the user the content he wants. Google likes that because its primary goal is to provide the exact content the user wants without any hassle. They want to give the best answer possible – that’s their main objective.

The thing is – you need to optimise for it the right way. You can’t just look at a keyword in the SERP and say – “that’s what I’m going to optimise for!”. You need to do your research and analyse the results a keyword gives and assess if your content matches them.

To illustrate, it’s next to impossible to rank your how-to blog post about, say, a popular watercolour painting technique for the phrase “watercolour shop”. The SERP will contain mostly transactional with some possible commercial investigation results. It will be much easier for you to rank for phrases that match the user’s keyword intent, such as “how to paint with watercolours”.

It goes both ways. Both Google search engine and your audience are happy when you provide content that’s the exact answer to their question without any difficulty.

Types of search intent

There are four different types of intent.

Informational intent

This is where the user is looking for information about a particular topic. Such queries often contain the words “how”, “why”, “what”, “resources”, “tutorial”, “guide”, “tips”, etc. If the user desires for some knowledge, then the intent is indeed informational.

The search results may vary, but they mostly are blog posts illustrating a topic, a knowledge box infographics or guides.

Examples of such search intent would be:

  • What is SEO
  • Lasagna recipe
  • What is China’s capital
  • How to optimise content

A knowledge box.

Transactional intent

This is where the user knows what he wants to purchase. Keywords appearing when such intent occurs would be “purchase”, “offer”, “sale”, “coupon”, “promotion”, “cheap”, “price”, etc. Whether it is a service, a product or something else – the user intent is clear, they want to spend money. They are just looking for the right opportunity, such as a promotion or a fair offer. The search results of queries with such search intent will be online stores, brand shops, product pages or direct offers.


  • iPhone sale
  • Used cars
  • Real estate auctions
  • Home furniture promotions

Shop offers.

Navigational search intent

Navigational intent is when the user knows the specific website he wants to go to, he just needs the SERP to guide him there. For example, instead of writing the exact URL, such as “”, they search for “instagram” in Google. That’s the most straightforward intent – there’s nothing more to add.

Commercial investigation

This is when the user wants to purchase something, although they are not yet sure what kind, model, etc., so they look for reviews. They want to compare similar products to find out which is the best for them, so they investigate the particular brand or model. Such search intent is partially both transactional and informational.


Commercial Search intent

Tips on optimising your content for search intent

Check the top 10

Get a grip on how the top 10 in the SERP looks like. See for yourself what kind of content is under a specific keyword. Make an effort to create content similar to your competition, so it ranks for the same or linked keywords.

See the “people also ask” box

This is a precious source of observations about search intent too. By analysing what people also look for you can assess what type of content is the most desired for a specific search query. Checking the related searches box will also tell you about what people are looking for when using a keyword.

Inspect similarity score

See how much pages from your query display in related queries. Related queries would be, for example, your keyword + “what is”. A free extension called Keyword Surfer from Surfer SEO allows you to measure the similarity score and see for yourself if the related queries serve a particular type of intent.

Analyse the forms of content

Look for different forms of content and see if a particular keyword results in videos, infographics, pictures, knowledge boxes, blog posts, etc. Then if you try to rank for it, make your content accordingly – take a shot at making similar content, or choose another keyword that matches what you’re doing.

Why Search Intent does it matter so much?

You satisfy your audience’s needs

If your content goes along the users’ search intent and you provide answers for them, they’re happy. This is why it’s so crucial for you to match the intention of your visitors. Make sure you give them what they want, as they will stay longer on your website, become a lead, possibly buy your product and review it.

You get to build your brand

The more time your audience spends on your page, the more they get to know your brand and the more likely they are to tell someone about it. Creating relevant content helps you build a name for yourself.

You get higher in the SERP

Not only your audience is happy, but the Google Algorithm is happy as well. Google has gotten good at recognising the users’ needs. It looks at parameters such as bounce rate, time spent on a page, dwell time and pogo-sticking effect. If your website provides the best answers – you will have a better spot in the SERP.

You keep the leads on your page

If you can provide your leads with detailed, in-depth information, it’s less likely they will visit other pages. Keeping leads on your page is vital for your business to thrive. Such a thing is also an indication for Google that your content is worth reading and learning about.

You get recognised

As you’ll be getting more and more leads and customers, your website will be more recognisable among your competitors. More organic traffic will be coming to your webpage. This takes time, but optimising for search intent the right way is crucial for this to happen. Make sure you meet the users’ requirements, as it will help you achieve your goal.


Search intent is one of the most – if not the most – essential aspects of SEO and content marketing. You need to deliver valuable and accurate content, even if only for a small niche to be recognised. 

Make it your prime task to provide the best content you possibly can for your audience. You can’t trick Google with keywords only, and even if you manage to do so, your page will drop fast if it doesn’t line up with your visitors’ intentions.

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