Why Search Intent is the Key to Understanding Keyword Research

Anyone doing keyword research with understanding search intent is running a fool’s errand. Don’t even bother. Most purchases happen online these days. But there are many steps between a user’s first search and concluding a transaction. A buyer would likely make numerous search queries along the way. If you want to capture that user and […]

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Anyone doing keyword research with understanding search intent is running a fool’s errand. Don’t even bother. Most purchases happen online these days. But there are many steps between a user’s first search and concluding a transaction. A buyer would likely make numerous search queries along the way.

If you want to capture that user and turn him into a customer, you will need to know his search intent. Work your keyword research around what your customer base needs. This will help maximize your investment. This is especially true when you’re running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign on top of optimizing an organic one.

PPC campaigns can be expensive but—when partnered with the correct search intent—will be worth your while.

Through search intent, you will be able to guide your customers down the right path to conversion. Let’s take a look at what search intent is and how it can help with your keyword research.

What is search intent?

Search intent is an essential part of keyword research for organic and paid campaigns. If you don’t understand why a user is searching for a particular term, you wouldn’t know where to begin your research. You’ll basically be throwing your money away. It’s only a matter of time before your entire campaign flops hard.

By focusing on a user’s intent, you will reach the right kind of people for your product.
Let’s look at an example. Say a guy living in Los Angeles is looking to buy a new phone. In this case, let’s say an iPhone X. There are many ways he can go about doing so.

Maybe he overheard someone raving about it while standing in line at Starbucks. He doesn’t know anything about it but it has piqued his interest. He goes on Google and does a web search. He’ll ask something like “What is the iPhone X?”.

Or it’s also possible that he knows about it but needs to see if it’s any better than his current phone, a Galaxy 8. What’s he’ll likely do is search for “iPhone X vs Galaxy 8” or something along those lines.

Another possibility is that our friend is an impulse buyer and needs no further research. He trusts the brand and couldn’t wait to get his hands on that phone. He searches “Buy iPhone X” or “Where to buy iPhone X.”

There are other ways he could phrase the query but what’s true for all cases is that the user intends to do something. He wants to learn, do further research, or purchase the phone. It’s not unreasonable to think that everyone would go about it the same way.

Focusing on search intent will help you match your keywords with what users will most likely be searching for. You’d be able to address their concerns directly. If you provide the most relevant data to your users, they will look up to you as a credible source of information.

The different types of search intent

Search intent is classified into three categories: informational, navigational, and transactional. Knowing the difference between the three will help you better define the kind of results searchers expect to find. Let’s go ahead and break each one down.


Let’s use our previous example. When the user searched for “What is the iPhone X?”, he was trying to gain more information about the product. At this stage, the user is showing some interest but not enough to buy right away. These are what we call informational queries.

Search terms that fall under this category are usually low-intent keywords. This means users are showing some signs of purchasing but not enough to justify targeting them through PPC campaigns.

All keywords that are informational in nature should be used in article pages, blogs, or video content instead. The content should match the query. In our example, a brief description of the product should suffice. Remember, Google would do its best to deliver results closest to what the user is looking for. An article page would perform better in this instance since the query is non-transactional in nature.


“iPhone X vs Galaxy 8” is a type of navigational query. The user is looking for a particular type of content like a review page. He wants to do spec comparisons and to do that, he would need a page that lists the pros and cons of each device.

Search terms that aim to reach a particular site are considered navigational. So the same user could have Googled “Apple website, ” and it still would have counted as navigational.

The user’s intent to buy is clearer in this case. Making content like how-to guides and the like would be perfect in this case. Articles like “Should You Upgrade to iPhone X” or “10 Reasons Why You Should Buy the New iPhone” could be what this user is looking for. Being able to address queries about the iPhone X and its competition would land you in the SERPs for sure.


Keywords that fall under transactional queries are what we call high-commercial intent keywords. When users use terms like “Buy iPhone X,” you know exactly the kind of information they’re after.

iPhone X

As you’ll notice, a search for “Buy iPhone X” brings up several ads in the SERPs. These are sites that launched PPC campaigns that target high-transactional keywords like this one. Of course, there are other keywords you could use like “discounts”, “deals”, “coupons”, or even “free shipping”. These are all terms someone with an intent to purchase would use to get closer to his objective.

Transactional queries have a high chance of converting. BrightEdge, an SEO company that focuses on transforming online content into tangible business results, looked into this. In an article they published called Google SERP Layout Changes, they attempted to demystify the top 3 or 4 ads you see in the SERPs today.

The study revealed the following:

  • 23 percent of all online search topics performed on the Google US search engine now features the new search page layout with four ads at the top of the page.
  • Search queries with purchase (transactional) intent are six times more likely than all other searches to display four ads.
  • Search queries with discovery (informational) intent have a 69-percent higher click-through rate (CTR) for the top five search results, as compared to purchase (transactional) intent searches.

Their research only proves that knowing search intent and identifying which ones are transactional can only benefit a business.

Ranking for the best keywords based on intent

Try to put yourself in a user’s shoes. When you Google something, you expect relevant results to pop up. Use this as a guide when creating keywords and content. Do not give them outdated content. Answer their questions truthfully. Show them all their options. Developing pages based on search intent will increase your site’s authority in your field.

For informational and navigational queries, it’s something you have to talk over with your content team. You need to come up with a strategy that would take advantage of all the keywords that’ll fit your brand.

As soon as these pages rank, users will be able to find your content a lot faster. They will use your pages to do research. As previously mentioned, this helps establish your site as an authority in your field. When they’re ready to buy, they will look to your brand as their go-to resource for their needs.

There’s also another perk to ranking based on search intent. Other sites will be quick to link back to you as they reference your content. This brings in more people to your site. It also alerts Google to the value you bring to the types of queries you are ranking for. This would lead to more prominence in the search results.

Finding keywords for transactional queries require even deeper strategizing. These are, after all, same high-value terms your competitors are trying to rank for. Any page designed to compete for transactional queries need more than the right keywords.

You need to take a long, hard look at your pages. The look of the page will dictate whether or not users continue using your site. Ask yourself:

  1. Would users find it challenging to buy from my site?
  2. Would they know where to go next?
  3. What call-to-action buttons did I put in place?
  4. Are there missing information about the product I should make available?
  5. Did I add any text that users might find offensive or unclear?
  6. Is the site simple enough to use?
  7. How secure is my site for online purchases?
  8. What policies do I have in place and are they displayed prominently on my site?
  9. Do the images I use accurately represent the product I’m selling?
  10. Do I have positive testimonials in place from satisfied customers?
  11. If I have ongoing discounts or promotions, are the information featured anywhere on the site?
  12. Are there distracting elements I should get rid off?
  13. Are there contact details present? How can customers get in touch with me if they have questions?
  14. Does my website load quickly or does it take way too long?
  15. Is my site optimized for mobile use?

If my product needs to be demonstrated, are there videos available to show users how it’s supposed to be used?

These and many other on-site considerations should be thoroughly looked at before launching.

What tool should you use to find keywords?

There are many tools you could use to find keywords based on search intent. For starters, you could use Google itself to test terms and see what type of content pops up. It’s a good place to start. Google Autocomplete, for example, would give you an idea what terms people are searching for at the moment. Then you can use the following tools to further expand your keyword list.


Google AdWords is a tried and tested tool used by hundreds, if not thousands, of SEO specialists. Inside AdWords, you’ll find the Keyword Planner Tool. While it’s mostly used for ad campaigns, they can be just as effective at finding organic keywords. You can even customize your search for different keywords.

There you can search for new keywords, know the search volume, get traffic forecasts, and multiply keyword lists to get new ideas.

You can also use ad group ideas which help with SEO. These contain related keywords that would possibly not show up in general keyword ideas. Look at the average monthly searches, competition, and other metrics the tool makes available to you. It will tell you relevant keywords you could target.



KWFinder focuses more on long-tail keyword research. The tool will show you important data like trend, search volume, CPC, as well as the level of difficulty in the results. You will also see what websites are ranking for the keywords, where those sites are linked from, their social media numbers, and traffic.



SEMRush presents itself as a one-stop shop for your SEO needs. Some of the things they do include:

  • Performing SEO and PPC research
  • Performing keyword research (related and phrase matches)
  • Doing long-tail keyword research
  • Providing regional database for international SEO
  • Doing competitive analysis

Answer the Public

Answer the Public

Answer the Public uses a “who, what, when, where, and how” type of format. It delivers a list of search terms people are using. The best way to understand how the site works is by trying it yourself. Enter a search term. Afterwards, it will show you questions and terms you could use when creating content.

It is easy to use, and best of all, it is free!


Never start your keyword research without understanding search intent. Also, remember that the keywords you end up using should be catered to your site and product. Just because your competitor uses the same keywords doesn’t mean you should too. There are businesses that highlight content to attract people who tend to buy on impulse. But then again, there are also those who would be better off producing informative, high-value content.

Use your new-found knowledge of search intent to dominate the competitive Google SERPs. Use the tools listed here to track your progress. And continuously find new keywords to use. As users search for new information, new keywords will emerge. Use this opportunity to build up your organic and paid strategies.