What is Search Intent in SEO?

Search intent is the expectation and need of the user when conducting an online search. Google delivers different results for specific search intents.

What is Search Intent in SEO?

Depending on the search intent, the search engine results page (SERP) will be shaped differently. Google uses Featured snippets, knowledge graphs, and rich results to deliver specific information that matches what the User is looking for.

How Search Intent Is determined by Google Algorithms

Google has improved its algorithms to incorporate different types of search intent. In doing so, the search results are so much better, that in many cases the user does not even need to visit the page. Users now can find what they looking for without leaving the Google Results page.

This is a rough sketch of how search engine algorithms process queries and categorize them by search intent:

How Search Intent Is determined by Google Algorithms

1. Query Refinement

The first step is to refine the query itself. Google fixes typos, finds the keywords in the query and accounts for your location and personal search history.

During this stage, the query is adjusted and keywords are identified.

Knowing your IP address, and Gmail information, Google applies a ‘personal filter’ to provide you only related results that you will find valuable.

2. Intent Analysis

Google will deliver entirely different viewports based on search intent. If the user is looking for a specific geographical location, the result will feature a map. If the user is looking to buy a product, the result will feature brands and prices.

During this stage, Google uses NLP (Natural Langauge Processing) to figure out the topic and sub-topic of the search query. NLP is also used for identifying the query format; whether it’s a question, brand, or location, Google is able to tell these apart.

Finally, based on the NLP results, Google will send information to the database suggesting what type of rich results, features snippets, and knowledge graphs it needs to serve.

3. Entity Database

Google created a library of answers based on the database they have. Actually, Google does not crawl pages each time a search query is typed in. Instead, Google uses this library to deliver fast results. When a page is re-crawled and changes were identified, that’s when Googe alters what they have saved in this database.

The knowledge graphs, topics, organization details, prices, etc., all of these are stored and delivered from Google databases. These databases are then sorted in knowledge graphs that rely on entities that incorporate keywords and inter-keyword relationships.

4. E-A-T Evaluation & Page Scoring

This is where the traditional Search Engine algorithm is activated. Here, the algorithm ranks all the pages according to the keywords and entities identified. Based on page scoring (aka Page Authority Score) and Domain Ranking, Google will deliver the most optimized pages to the front of SERPs. Google refers to this process as E-A-T evaluation.

E-A-T is a linear model that scores pages across three dimensions:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

All pages that rank #1 and get featured in rich results have the following common denominators:

  1. Lots of high-quality links pointing to the page
  2. Well-optimized for a specific keyword
  3. Well-optimized for the respective entity (the page mentions related keywords)
  4. The Page comes from a domain that ranks very high for related search terms
  5. The Page comes from a domain with a high domain authority

Here is the SERP viewport that Google shows when you search for “What iz SEO?”

search engine results featuring a knowledge graph and people also ask questions

Why is search intent important for SEO?

SEO specialists need to understand the search intent of users if they want to really comprehend how the search engine algorithm works. In order for Google to be an effective search engine, it needs to break down user behavior into variables that then are used by algorithms to deliver results to all internet users.

What are the types of Search Intent?

There are 5 types of search intents that you need to know:

  1. Informational Search
  2. Navigational Search
  3. Transactional Search
  4. Commercial Search

1. Informational search

Informational search is when the user is looking for an answer to a particular question. In this type of search, it is very common to use a question format in a specific context. For example:

  • What is Search Intent?
the search intent for what is search intent
  • How does search intent help google deliver better results?
the search intent for why is search intent important
  • Why is Search intent important?

As you can see, Google knows the search intent and provide a featured answer that tackles the query on the spot. This is one of the ways Google benefits from Search Intent optimized pages. In other words, if you are writing an article about Search Intent, you should answer questions and provide a direct response to what users might want to know.

2. Navigational SEARCH

Whenever users are looking for a specific page or an exact location, or an organization within a specified geographical perimeter, these queries always fall under navigational search. While Google doesn’t really set apart brands from organizations, it still delivers unique results that showcase brand details.

If the user is looking for a specific page online, Google delivers a navigational type of SERPs (search engine results page) that helps the User locate the page.

For example, the user may be searching for ‘Strabucks menu:’

the search intent for starbucks menu

As you can see, Google has sorted out the pages that contain menu details and made these pages available to easily navigate the SERPs and go to the desired page.

If the search is geo-sensitive, Google pulls results from their Google Maps feature:

starbucks locations featured on google maps in google serps

3. Transactional Search

Transactional search is the least understood type of search intent. Transactional search occurs when the user is looking to complete an action on a website that can usually be tracked as a conversion. The reason this search intent stands out is that Google tracks user behavior and conversions on sites.

For example, your flight is delayed, and you want to log in to book a different flight. Your query would be ‘United Airlines Login’

This is considered a transactional search. Although, oftentimes, the transactional search can be both navigational and informational. This really depends only on the action the user takes. If the user completes an action on the site, then the intent was transactional.

4. Commercial Search

Commercial search intent is unique as it reflects a clear buying intention. Google has done an incredible job understanding this type of search intent. This is so mainly because they have their own E-Commerce platform running the search algorithm.

So if you’re search for Nike cleats, you will get these results:

products featured for commercial search intent

The results showcase the products and all links lead to product pages. This is so because Google tags product pages and delivers them whenever the search intent is commercial.

Additionally, Google has a SHOPPING feature. This unique feature allows Google to provide more details, such as:

  • price
  • reviews
  • size
  • color
  • materials, and so on
prices and reviews as part of the rich results delivered for commercial search intent

HOW Search intent reveals the status of users in the buyer journey

A generic online buyer journey established by Hubspot is:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision

1. awareness – search intent: Informational Search

As the user realizes a need or a pain they need to be solved, the search for information begins. In this stage, the user is not considering any products, and certainly is not allocating resources toward buying any product yet. The user is becoming aware of the nature of the need and the pain they want to address.

During this type of information search, the user might use the following questions:

  • What is SEO?
  • Does my business need SEO?
  • Why is SEO Important?
  • When should I implement SEO?


The users are now well informed and understand very well the pain they need to be fixed. In the second stage, consideration, the user is looking for actual solutions, vendors, and prices. During the stage of consideration, you can always expect product and price comparisons, as well as cross-market alternatives.

Some common queries for users in the stage of consideration are:

  • Who does SEO?
  • Best SEO companies near me?
  • SEO Prices?
  • Can I do SEO myself?


The final stage in the buyer’s journey is Decision. Once the user has and compared prices, looked at alternatives, completed a deeper analysis (rational behavior), it is time to make a decision. During this stage, the searcher’s intent is to find a particular brand, or a concrete product, or contact an existing company.

Some query examples of users in the decision stage:

  • Aleph Website SEO
  • Upwork SEO specialists
  • Aleph contact
  • SEO agency cheap

How can I do Search Intent SEO?

As an SEO specialist, you can do Search intent SEO to help Google match the search intent and serve the results that you want to convey to users. Each search intent is unique and Google delivers different categories of results based on this intent.

1. SEO Optimization for Informational Search intent

Information search is distinctly characterized by the use of question format questions. For this type of search intent, you need to pose as an educator, providing information to specific questions that the users are asking.

You can use tools like Answer The Public, which display all the questions people use online to explore a subject. For example:

answer the public tool used for seo for informational search intent

Then identify the search volume of these questions and answer all of them clearly and directly.

2. How to optimize the page for Navigational, Commercial, and Transactional Search

For the navigational search, the user is looking for a specific page online. Google uses various API tools and features to deliver these results. Here are a few tips that will help you get featured in navigation:

Schema Markup For search intent

Using the organization schema markup, you can provide your business details directly to google:

schema markup used to improve results for navigational, commercial and transactional intent

Some of the information you can add to this markup include:

  • your social media profiles
  • working hours
  • homepage
  • contact page details
  • logo
  • business owner name
  • email address
  • telephone number

There are millions of schema markups you can use to categorize a web page and provide information specifically for Google to understand what the page is about. Based on these markups, Google forms a database that will be used to match search intent. Make sure to always provide TRUE information, and be as detailed as you can.

If you’re using WordPress, then schema markup will be easy. Just use Yoast.

Google Business Profile (ex. Google My Business)

One of the easiest solutions is to register your organization to Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business). Using this tool, you can upload images, business details, products, services, and so much more.

On-Page optimization as part of the overall SEO strategy

Optimize your web pages so that it features all the information about your business. Avoid secrecy and ambiguous details. Always try to be consistent and thorough and objectively descriptive when producing content for pages.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing SEO for pages:

  • Have a minimum of 800 words
  • Use original images and add alternative text to them
  • Add Meta titles and meta descriptions for SEO purposes
  • Build the right page structure for SEO by using Keywords in titles, headers, paragraphs, and lists.
  • Add the keyword to the URL (e.g. /contact for the contact page)

These basic SEO optimizations are usually available as SEO checklists when writing content on a CMS (content management system).

About the author


Višnja is a passionate digital marketing advocate that works with Aleph as an author, contributor, and consultant to our clients. She has a degree in psychology and a knack for content marketing.

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