You are currently viewing Marketing Defined: Explaining Search Intent and Its Relationship to SEO

Marketing Defined: Explaining Search Intent and Its Relationship to SEO

Every Google search happens for a reason. From searching for silly facts, to locating a place of business, to setting out to make a purchase, you came to Google with a goal in mind. Did you know—there’s a technical term for that! It’s called search intent. In explaining search intent, we’ll touch on why it’s a useful concept for brands in their SEO efforts.

Explaining search intent

It’s a simple term that describes a simple concept. Put plainly, search intent refers to the reason for someone doing an online search. Flipping the terminology, it’s the intent behind the search.

Easy enough. Think about your last Google (or another search engine) search. What did you type in, and why? Were you looking for a location on a map? Were you doing your holiday shopping? Were you trying to prove to your best friend that dolphins really do sleep with one eye open? (It’s true, look it up.) Each of these represents a different type of search intent.

Since Google is super smart, its algorithm makes it a point to anticipate a user’s search intent and display results relevant to that intent. With that thought in mind, we’re getting warmer as to how search intent can be useful to SEO (more on that in a minute).

Side note: you might see “search intent” referred to as “audience intent” or “user intent” in other instances.

Types of search intent

The examples we have described so far in explaining search intent fall into certain categories. Here are the main types of search intent.


Though you might think “Google maps” on this one, this is actually describing people navigating the internet itself. With navigational search intent, people are looking for a specific brand’s website. For example, if you type “mcnutt partners” into the search bar, our website appears at the top of the results. As a brand, this is what you are striving for to make sure users can find your website quickly and easily.


Arguably the broadest search intent category, informational search intent refers to people looking for information about a particular topic. For example, “why do dolphins sleep with one eye open” represents informational intent. Google recognizes that the intent here is informational and will in turn display results relevant to the query. Everyday searches like the weather and directions also fall into this category.


Beyond looking for information about a topic, investigatory search intent refers to doing commercial research with the eventual intent to buy. As a brand, your SEO strategy will determine whether or not you show up as a suggested vendor in a relevant search. For example, if you are a florist in Atlanta and someone searches “best florist in Atlanta,” you would hope to appear on the first page of the search results.


From buying later, to buying now, transactional search intent is when a user comes to Google ready to pull the trigger on a purchase in that browsing session. The immediacy of this type of intent often indicates that the consumer already knows what he or she wants to buy and is simply trying to navigate to the place to do so.

Why search intent is relevant to brand SEO

From a brand perspective, you need to think backward when considering search intent. You’ve got your website pages, but what keywords do you have associated with them? And do those keywords match the search intent of your target audience?

Using keywords that are specific to search intent can give your pages a better chance of ranking in search. Going back to the florist example, if you have a page that gives information about the types of Valentine’s Day bouquets you sell, but doesn’t actually have an ecommerce function to place an order, then you might connect it to keywords like “information about Valentine’s Day flowers in Atlanta” or “types of Valentine’s Day bouquets.” On the other hand, if you allow customers to place an order through your website for bouquets, then the keywords might instead be “buy Valentine’s Day bouquets in Atlanta.”

The main thing to keep in mind when explaining search intent and its relevancy to SEO is whether the content on your pages matches up with the search intent that you would like to rank for. If your ecommerce page uses keywords that are more informational, then you may not rank as highly as you would like for the “buy flowers” search terms, and you should likely make some changes.


The intent of this blog? To explain search intent and how thinking about it can work to your benefit when crafting your SEO strategy! You don’t have to strategize alone. Let our team help you!

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

Leave a Reply