What Is Search Intent In Search Engine Queries?

Search Engine

The search engine is remarkable tools of technology driven by intent. Every time a user type in words or phrases, it’s something they want to find. Search Intent offers web owners a deeper insight on billions of search engine users worldwide towards strategic and proximity-based targeting, digital marketing, and improving ROI. Each intent revelation can be incredibly valuable in building more effective KW research charts.

The queries are categorized as follows:

  • Navigational Queries
  • Informational Queries
  • Transactional Queries
  • Commercial Investigation Queries

The Navigational Query

Navigational searches are geared towards finding a certain website or webpage. For instance, a user puts in “YouTube” of “Facebook” onto their search bar. That person may not have bookmarked the URL or simply wishes to find and surf the site this way. Search engines serve as the “White Pages” to searchers who are unfamiliar with a URL in particular.

The Informational Query

Informational search queries cover a broad topic which could present a user with hundreds of thousands of options in the SERP. When a person enters such query into a search engine like Google, they are looking for valuable info and simply want to have their question answered, find some good reads and learn.

The Transactional Query

A transactional search is a clear indication of a user’s intent to complete a transaction or make a purchase, perhaps with their credit card already on hand. Queries are often comprised of exact brand or product names. It can also be generic or may directly include terms like buy, order, or purchase.

While people who do transactional searches are likely considering to check out an item they need or want, it doesn’t necessarily involve payments or wire transfers. Signing up for a free trial account, creating a new email, or finding the best restaurant in town for the night’s dinner plans are regarded as transactional queries.

The Commercial Investigation Query

A commercial investigation borders the thin line between informational and transactional intent. For instance, a company in search of potential partners for product distribution will very well do a thorough research. Finding the best brand who sells the latest cameras or high-end phones or makers of laptop bags altogether fall under investigational intent. These queries aren’t purely informational nor transactional, for there may never be an exchange of goods/services or purchase that occurs.

2 Ways To Determine Search Intent

Once you identify the keyword/s you want to rank for, determining search intent comes next. The two ways below can help you better understand user intent and develop the best business strategies.

Carefully Study the SERP (Search Engine Result Pages)

It’s not easy to tell the purpose behind each and every search query, but brilliant Google almost always knows. Examining SERPs can be of great significance in knowing searcher intent.

Simply enter words or phrases from your KW list and get a close look at the first page of the search engine. Every element leads to a clue on user intention that can help you in effectively serving different kinds of searches. You can focus your efforts on content that caters to the various intent and work on proper advertisement placement.

Make Use of Google AdWords

While an advertiser may not vie for the related words and phrases, it’s good to know how competitive it is and how much others are willing to pay. You get a bird’s eye perspective of how successful the terms have made some companies. Moreover, it only means that people entering such queries are in buying mode. The higher the competition and bids, the higher a KW’s commercial intent.

Optimizing Your Site For Search Intent

Transactional queries are undoubtedly preferred for the greater likelihood of conversions. However, optimization really depends on your business or website’s goals.

Content-based sites benefit from increased page views when they focus on providing answers to informational queries.

E-commerce sites who aim to sell the most products will gain more upon putting their focus on transactional and commercial investigation searches.

Informational and navigational queries may not immediately create a sale, but benefits all sites in ways that it promotes awareness and guides potential customers through to an educated buying decision and ultimately making a purchase.

When creating content, i.e. category or product descriptions or blog posts, craft the text for users with their search intent in mind.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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