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What is User Intent and Why Does it Matter?

what is user intent and why does it matter

When someone plugs a query into a search engine, they have a reason for doing it. For example, a user might type in “pasta” and hit search. They may be hoping for a top ten list of pasta recipes, the nearest takeout pasta place, or even some information on the history of the dish. Whatever their reason, their satisfaction with the search results is based on whether the search engine understood their intent.

Understanding user intent is crucial for ensuring that your website, services, and products show up when a user enters a related query. As experts in search engine optimization, FirstPage Marketing knows that understanding user intent can help you build a long-term digital marketing strategy. That is why we have compiled some information outlining what user intent is and why it matters.

Read some tips for building a long-term SEO strategy.

What is User Intent?

Also known as search intent, user intent is the purpose behind a search. Is the searcher looking for something specific, like a brand or product? Are they performing research or browsing for information? Do they want to make a purchase? Understanding user intent is crucial for ensuring that your website content is tailored to your audience and what they are searching for. Focusing your SEO strategy on intent is key for improving your SERP rankings and increasing conversions.

Types of User Intent

User intent can be classified into the following four categories:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial

Informational Intent

If a user is searching for an answer to a question or a specific fact, they have informational intent behind their search. Users with informational intent often phrase their searches as a question and will typically exit the SERP once they get their answer.

While you may think this type of website visitor isn’t valuable since they are not likely to make a purchase or inquire about your services, they are still worth targeting. Being able to answer informational intent searches is a great way to improve the relevance of your website by proving that your website has expertise, authority, and trustworthy information.

If your website provides a lot of information about certain products, services, or the industry you serve, you may want to create a strategy for targeting informational intent searches. Let’s say you manage a blog about digital marketing, for example. Many people who are either learning about this topic or are experts in the field may be searching for information on this topic. If your website provides insightful information that could answer these questions, you will want to target these searchers as you can give them the information they need and build trust in your company.

Examples of informational intent include:

  • How to build a deck
  • Are cordless drills better than corded?
  • What’s the weather forecast?
  • When is Labour Day?

Navigational Intent

If a searcher is looking for a specific product or brand and is trying to navigate to their site, they have navigational intent behind their search. For example, a user may type “Amazon” or “Netflix” into the search bar since it is sometimes easier to search for a company rather than typing in their URL.

It’s a bit of a gray area whether navigational intent searches should be included in your SEO strategy or not. On one hand, if someone is searching for one of your competitors, they may not be interested in your company. On the other hand, if users are searching for your company, you want to make sure they find you instead of one of your competitors.

Examples of navigational intent include:

  • Netflix
  • Gap t-shirts
  • Amazon books
  • Godiva chocolate

Transactional Intent

When a searcher is interested in purchasing something, they have transactional intent. While this person has already decided they want to make a purchase, they may still be looking for the best deal or different options. If a searcher has a specific idea of what they want, they may include a brand or product model in their search. For example, an individual will likely type in “Dyson vacuum” if they are looking to purchase one.

Transactional intent searches are highly valuable for SEO strategy because a click could likely lead to a purchase or a contact form submission. If you have an eCommerce store, you may want to focus your strategy on these types of keywords to enhance visibility for your products and increase your conversion rates.

Examples of transactional intent include:

  • Nike running shoes
  • Bed Bath & Beyond coupons
  • Cheap clothing for kids
  • UV protection sunglasses

Commercial Intent

Commercial intent refers to individuals who are looking for a specific product or service but have yet to fully research their options. In other words, they’re likely still looking into different brands or options. Searchers with commercial intent might search for “best vacuum cleaner” or “Dyson vs. Shark vacuum” as they may be interested in reading reviews or comparisons to help them decide. Commercial searches can also be location specific. For example, users might be looking for the top restaurants near them or the best hotels in their next vacation destination.

Examples of commercial intent include:

  • Top restaurants near me
  • Best hotels in Hawaii
  • Android vs. Apple phones
  • Honda vs. Toyota

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to make sure your SEO and content strategies are focused on your target audience. SERPs are focused on providing users with the best experience while searching and seeking answers. To ensure that you show up on SERPs, the best thing you can do is focus on your users and provide them with content or solutions that matter to them. This is what user intent is all about. A user-focused content strategy will lead to positive results in your domain ranking, increased website visitors, and additional website conversions.


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