What is Search Intent & Why It’s Important for SEO for Business

Reading Time: 6 mins

If you’ve been involved in SEO or have looked to improve your SEO, you may have come across the term “search intent”.

Search intent has become more important in recent years, due to a number of reasons.

But what exactly is search intent, and why does it matter for your business’ SEO?

What is search intent all about?

Search intent is what it says on the tin. It’s the intent behind a search.

Think about the last search you made. What was the intention behind your search?

  • Were you looking for information?
  • Were you looking to make a purchase?
  • Did you want to watch a video?
  • Did you want to find a specific brand’s website?
  • Were you looking for a quick answer? A long explanation?

The intent behind the term you searched is what search intent refers to.

An example – say I want a board game for a family get-together. I have no idea what to get. I Google the following:

Google gives me content around the best board games of the year. It gives me Google Shopping ads.

Now I’ve read the suggested content, doing my research. This isn’t what I wanted though. These are all niche games from the year – I want traditional family fun, not something difficult that came out this year.

I’ve found content that answers my query. I like their suggestion of “Ticket to Ride”. I Google the game to find out more:

All sounds good to me. Now I want to buy it.

And now I’m getting suggestions on where to buy it. I’ve got prices, local shops which sell it. The shops selling the game outrank the site who make the game. The Wikipedia entry has gone. This is because the intent is different.

This is a very simplified version of a typical path to purchase, but shows how my intent to buy a board game for a family game night had 4 different searches with different intents in itself, with 4 different sites. Think how many more questions, brands, product names and price comparisons people will search when buying something expensive such as a new fridge or washing machine, or a car.

Why is search intent important for SEO?

So you may have found a load of search terms that have lots of volume that’s relevant to your business. You can optimise your pages to rank for these terms, or create content that directly answers or serves these queries. That’s great, good going.

But think about the search intent behind the searches. If you are looking to get more traffic to a product page and want to optimise it for a term with a good volume of search, you need the right intent. You need to find terms where people are looking for products or to purchase, rather than information.

For instance, if you sell TVs online, if someone searches “Hisense 55 inch 4K TV” it’s likely they know they want that model, and are closer to a purchase.

But if they search “best 55 inch 4K TVs” they are in the information gathering stage. Therefore you should have content to answer this query. Their intent is not likely to be to make a purchase there and then. They are still researching.

Search queries boil down to:

  • Information queries – where they want information
  • Do or purchase queries – where that want to take an action
  • Website queries – where they are looking for a specific website
  • Navigational queries – where they want to find a specific location

Most searches will fall into these.

How do I optimise my site and content with search intent in mind?

Your landing pages should match the search intent of your audience.

For terms where people are looking for information, give them the information. Don’t try and force them into an instant purchase.

On the flip side, if people are looking to purchase something, then don’t give them a long article detailing what and where to buy. Give them the product to buy.

So if you’re selling clothes, and want a page to rank for “buy waterproof jackets”, optimise a category page featuring all your waterproof jackets for that term.

If someone searches for a specific brand, colour or other specification of coat, such as “North Face Waterproof Coat” you could optimise your individual products or sub-category around this.

And if there are searches for “best waterproof for hiking”, you wouldn’t optimise the above pages for this. You would write a piece of content highlighting the waterproofs you would recommend, and then link through to your products. You provide the information, and people may come back to you to make the purchase.

Search intent is not always clear. If you do keyword research, you will come across lots of queries that seem relevant, but really might be very broad or vague. You want to ensure the terms you target have a clear intent that makes the people searching these terms are your target audience. High quality traffic is much better than a high volume of traffic, as the quality of the audience means more people are likely to convert on your site.

What it boils down to is that good content answers search intent. If your content is poorly written or uninformative, then it’s not optimised for search intent.