If you’re brand new to the world of SEO, you’re probably wondering two things:

  1. What exactly is SEO, and how does it impact your business?
  2. What’s this thing called ‘search intent’ that people keep bringing up?


We have some good news - we can answer these questions and give you some helpful pointers on where to begin! However, the answers are slightly more complicated than you’d think. That’s why we wanted to take some time to dive into the complexities of SEO, search intent, and what it all means concerning your business.


So, pull up a chair, have a fresh cup of coffee handy, and get ready to learn more about the inner workings of search intent.

What is SEO?

Before we dive deeper into the meaning and logistics of search intent, let’s talk about SEO. If you’ve heard this term before but don’t know what it means, we’ll explain. SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization,’ which essentially means you’re catering web content, meta descriptions, title tags, and other facets of your website to rank well in search engines. You see, chances are you’re not the only roofer, plumber, or business in your city - which means you need to include intelligent SEO tactics throughout your website. Otherwise, your competition will skyrocket to the top of Google and leave you in the dust.


SEO is designed to help your website succeed and stay relevant on Google or Bing. Without the right keywords, you’re not going to see the web traffic and high-quality leads you’ve been waiting for. The question is, how do you know which relevant keywords and SEO tactics need to be on your website?


Well, this is where a little thing called search intent comes into play. Let’s explain.

What is search intent?

Well, it’s what it sounds like - it’s the intent behind an online search. What are you looking to find? What question needs answering? Is it product drive or service driven?


As you can see, there is plenty to consider when it comes to search intent. People aren’t blindly putting in plumbers, roofers, or marketing as their only search terms. It’s slightly more complicated than that. If SEO were all about keywords, it would simply be a contest between who could put a specific word on a web page the most times and have it show up in the coveted number 1 spot on Google.


Since the early stages of SEO, Google continues to fine-tune its algorithms for individual search intent. They know that when people search for plumbers, they don’t want someone who lives in California popping up for a North Carolina resident. That’s when local SEO tactics come into play - and we’re big fans of local SEO here at Nu. But that’s another topic entirely - check out our Local SEO Checklist for more information!


So, how do you know what your target audience is searching for? By determining their search intent!

Types of Search Intent


It might seem like search intent is one blanket term, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Everyone’s needs are entirely different. Someone could be searching for cleaners, while someone else might need cleaning supplies - there’s a massive difference between the two. Clorox wipes shouldn’t result in a local cleaning company. That’s why types of search intent matter - it helps Google pinpoint what you’re looking for and list the most accurate results.


Now, let’s dive into types of search intent.


These are some of the most popular search types because they are typically driven by questions and individuals seeking solutions. For instance, ‘how to fix a broken sink’ is an informational-based search. You don’t want sinks to come up. You want a step-by-step tutorial on how to fix the sink to appear. Usually, informative blog posts and videos appear in these search results. Google understands you need solutions, not products.


Informational searches are great for small businesses. Offering customers a DIY solution will drive traction to your website and encourage them to explore what services you have to offer them.


As the name suggests, these are searches driven by purchases. Ranging from clothing to plants and everything in between, if you sell some type of product or merchandise, this is the search intent found among your customer base. You’ll find search terms and SEO keywords related to your industry and connected to this specific search query.


Ah, the good ol’ navigational search. This is typically very specific regarding its intent, which means you’ll get particular results. Searching for GAP or Old Navy will result in their website appearing first, followed by retailers that sell their products. This applies to any website, not just these retailers.


The second fold of navigational searches is, well, around navigation. ‘Clothing in Winston Salem’ results in retailers based in the Winston Salem area, not just giant retailers. This is when local SEO keywords come in handy!


These search queries are more like investigative searching. If you want to research something before you buy, you’ll probably enter a term like ‘best desks under $200.’ You’ll see a mix of retailers, bloggers, and websites that test products for you. Commercial searches take time to nurture, so it’s best to be patient.


What’s your Search Strategy?

Now that we’ve covered types of search intent think about your customer’s search strategy. Do they have questions? Do they need a product now or in a month? Are they looking for you or your industry as a whole?


Make a list of practical search queries your customers make and see if this helps, hurts, or does nothing to your business. See what keywords you’re currently ranking for and how you can continue to build momentum. Optimize your website for keywords you’re already ranking for and other potential keywords used in customer’s search intent. It’s challenging to know what they’re looking for at all times, but pinpointing a few tried and true keywords will help. Build a search strategy around these terms and potential queries your customers make.

Can you examine search intent?

This is a difficult question. There are plenty of tools that can help you audit your website and see how well you’re currently ranking, like SEMrush, but it’s hard to examine search intent. There isn’t a tool that analyzes the intent behind a keyword. That means - you probably guessed it - it has to be done manually. We have a few examples below, but try doing your research. See what competitors are up to and what appears to be working for them in search intent.

Search Intent Examples

Open a tab and search for ‘brownies.’ What comes up should look similar to this:


search intent


The results are all recipes. If a bakery were trying to rank for ‘brownies’ on Google, they’d need to target some different keywords to get found. People aren’t searching for brownies to buy them but bake them. They want recipes and walkthroughs. They want help. The intent is to find helpful information, not to order a pallet of vanilla ice cream’s perfect partner.


The term ‘where to buy brownies’ will be more successful for local bakeries in the long run. Niching down on specifics is the way to go.


Let’s try another example - ‘tea.’ Depending on where you live, you should see something similar to these results. 



Google knows that in this instance, you’re buying tea, not trying to make it. It’s directing the results towards retailers instead of recipes because Google understands the intent of your search. Brownies equal baking, not buying, while tea is the other way around. 

How does Google filter Search Intent

Google understands the power of search intent because it can read the patterns of your searches against other people. It then compiles that information, examines the meaning, and then puts out recommendations based on said intent. Hence, if you search for lots of recipes, it will start filtering results and tailoring your search results to reflect your patterns and purpose - that’s the power of search intent, folks.


Search intent is what sets search engines apart. How robust is the algorithm? How well can it examine the intent and put out suggestions based on the data? How accurate are the data and the suggestions? 


Google has invested plenty of time and resources, making sure search engines reveal the results you’re looking for, rather than presenting irrelevant search results.

How does search intent impact businesses?

You don’t want to target a keyword and try and sell something if people are typing in that keyword to gain information. Google will keep you off the first page, and it’s a wasted effort. Each keyword should be examined for intent and then targeted from the appropriate area of your site. Is the intent of the keyword to get help with something? Use your blog to target it. Is the intent of the searcher to buy something? Update your products. You (and Google) want people to find the right page the first time.  


Google is already letting you know the searcher’s intent, so take advantage! If you need an extra hand, our team knows what it takes to get to number 1 on Google, thanks to our handy SEO services, and other helpful tips and tricks like our SEO basics for everyone.

Ready to step up your SEO and search intent? At Nu, we’re prepared to help your business grow using these effective strategies, but we understand hiring an agency is a big decision. If you need help weighing the pros and cons, read our free guide Hiring an In-House Marketing Team vs. Partnering with an Agency.

Olivia Orme
About Olivia Orme

I grew up in the Northern Virginia Area, and spent my days in drama club and riding horses. Somehow, I found my way down south, and graduated from Wofford College with a degree in English and Political Science. Caught between loving the south, and missing home, Winston Salem seems to be the perfect in-between. My typical day revolves around my love for writing, and I hope to bring my love for learning and creativity to our clients!

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