Search intent a matter of SEO – how to use intent in the SEO process

Bartłomiej ŻydkiewiczBartłomiej Żydkiewicz
Published: 12.12.2023
15 minute

Search intent (interchangeably also user intent) is simply search intent, that is, the user’s intent or need in searching for a particular piece of information or product. Understanding this process, or “getting inside the head” of a potential customer, can prove unexpectedly important in the SEO process. Search intent SEO puts its stamp on SEO foundations such as technical optimization and content marketing. A proper understanding of intent will build an effective and efficient SEO strategy. Incorrect user profiling will “burn through” your promotion budget and prolong the process of building your site’s search engine visibility..


4 types of search intent


A common division distinguishes 4 types of online searchers. This is the most common system of shuffling user intent. They can also be referred to as micro-moments, which define the need of the moment – that is, what the user wants to get when he or she enters a query into the search box..


Informational intent (informational)


This is the most popular form of query typed into search engines. This group of people is looking for more knowledge on a variety of topics – recipes, tutorials, definitions or simply information, if only on SEO or AI. Google in this case often matches the search result, displaying the information in addition to specific rich snippets (result extensions) or snippets with the answer..


search intent | screen from Google |


For example – for the phrase macaroni and cheesewe will get a result with recipes, answers to related questions, as well as photos and nutritional values for the searched dish..


Navigational Intelligence (navigational)


Users with this clear intention know their goal and need to find the address of the relevant website in the search engine. These are often branded queries – for a company name or tool. Their source also comes from other advertising channels like radio or TV and the product or service names heard in them. .

An example of such a phrase is SENUTOor Adidas..


Transactional (transactional)


The most relevant search intent for e-commerce. These are users browsing the Internet with the intention of buying an item or ordering a service. Often, this means that when they type in a query, they know exactly what product they want to buy, so they are looking for a store or a review. .


search intent | screen from Google |


In the above example, the search results clearly answer the intent of the product query. The user gets images, a product comparison or a set of reviews..


Intent of advertising (commercial)


A related intention to transactional and informational. This is the “in-between” moment, when the user is looking for information about a product they want to buy or have heard about. This is not the time to buy, but the time to research and gain valuable information. .


search intent | screen from Google |


The result of such queries are not only product advertisements, but often opinion aggregators, thematic blogs or popular compilations and rankings. .


What does Google say about this? User intent in guidelines for raters


User intent is an important element for building quality Google search results. The importance of intent is addressed in the guidelines for ratersfrom the Mountain View giant. In them, he breaks down the importance of queries, the intent of users, as well as links between other parameters like location.

The Google search intent documentation distinguishes 5 general queries in the context of intent, each of which can be attributed to the aforementioned 4 search types.

  • .
    • Know / wants to know – these are classic informational queries, and they usually result in pages with a comprehensive answer.
    • Know simple / wants to know more precisely – these are exact queries, such as about the weather or a particular characteristic of a person; the result is often given using snippets with the answer in short form.
    • .

    • To query / wants to do something – is a query corresponding to shopping activities, using services or searching for movies.
    • Website query / wants to find a specific site or URL – a query analogous to navigation; these are often domain or brand phrases.
  • Visit-in-person / wants to visit this place in person – queries related to the location and service provided at a given location, i.e. mainly transactional in nature, but also informational or navigational.

Google’s guidelines indicate that intent can combine, and that the search result itself is also determined using other data from the user (such as location or demographics). This is all done to best answer users’ questions. As a result, the quality of the SERPs increases, and the results themselves receive more and more rich snippets. Machine learning algorithms such as BERT or RankBrain are responsible for determining intent, and they are perfectly capable of getting into the role of humans and sensing their intent..


How to “sense” intent in the SEO process?


Learning the theory behind search intent is the foundation in determining effective phrases and using them to build positions in search results. Here are ways to determine intent and set an effective path to SEO promotion..


1. “Ask the customer”.

The foundation of building any business is knowing the target customer. Even before creating the website itself, we should identify the persona that will be the target user of the site, and study their intention. .

How to use the customer to determine intent and use that in SEO?.

  • Determine your KPIs and put yourself in the shoes of the customer – if your goal is to sell in an online store, try to find your product through a search engine and the path to purchase, record phrases and difficulties encountered.
  • Suggest to your co-workers and friends – ask them to go through the same process as you did before, while making notes.
  • Do A/B testing – test several variations of site navigation – such as a shopping path – and test on a specific audience.
  • Gather feedback from customers – ask about impressions, ask how they arrived at your site, how they search for products and what they type into the search engine.
  • .

After gathering good intelligence, group key phrases and comments by purchase path or site interaction. Phrases can be grouped by intent and thus build relevant content on the page. In addition to SEO-ready keyword phrases, you also have a ready recipe for improving UX on the site..


2. Analysis of key phrases.

Intention can be sensed in keyword phrase analysis, and especially in choosing long-tail for promotion. By determining the purpose of the search (whether someone is asking questions or looking for a restaurant locally), we can add pronouns and refine short keyword phrases. The larger the cloud of matching phrases, the greater the chance of improving the visibility of the site..


3. Analysis of search results.

Just enter a phrase into a search engine and we already have a clear answer as to how the user’s intent is evaluated by Google’s algorithms. Analysis of the blocks and sections appearing in the SERP for a given query will indicate the content or techniques to be implemented on the site..

Example for a query – how to make a pizza..


search intent | screen from Google |


After the results themselves and analyzing the phrase, we determine the search intent as “Know” (dominant), which quickly expands to “To” (enough for the user to add video, but even in this case he didn’t have to). The nature of the query is informational. The results served by Google are tutorials and pizza recipes. In addition, you can see how efficiently the algorithms work, immediately suggesting a list of videos that show a recipe on how to make a pizza. In the context of SEO, we know that we should take care not only of the content in the form of the recipe itself, but also think about preparing video content, and use the titles of the videos themselves as headlines or long-tail phrase builders for the text form of the recipe. Complementing the study is analyzing the competitionand verifying their choice of phrases and the construction of the pages they rank for. We verify that for a given phrase a guide or product sub-site is ranking – the prevailing type in the top 10 is our type to promote..


4. SEO tool .

When determining intent and selecting key phrases, commercially available SEO tools like Semrush or Senuto come in handy. In the Keyword Magic Tool from Semrush, with the help of filtering, we can divide phrases precisely in terms of intent, which we get as if on the palm of our hand. On the Polish market there is a solution from Senuto – Content Suite AIwhich will build a content plan taking into account the intent of the key phrases. Already at the phrase selection stage, the tool displays search intent, helps categorize articles and makes it easy to add or discard phrases before building a plan.


search intent | screen from Senuto |


Senuto, in order to make phrases easier to understand, defines two additional intents compared to classic divisions. In addition to navigationaland transactionalthere are:.

  • Research – reference to informational intent, these are phrases that answer questions and the intent of knowledge seekers
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  • Local – expressions with local context, where search results also include Google maps
  • .


5 Ask ChatGPT.

If it’s trepidation, go to ChatGPT – a great benefit of using ChatGPT for choosing subject matter or key phrases is its artificial intelligence system, which is also used by search engines such as Google to determine search intent. All you have to do is create a query with a dose of intent knowledge and you get a ready-made list of phrases by intent or an index of topics for a blog. .

Remember to match these answers with your own knowledge or with other SEO tools. ChatGPT is still a tested solution, without Internet access, so let’s keep a proper distance. Let’s treat it as an assistant, not a substitute to do our jobs .


Search intent SEO – how does it help in the SEO process?


As you can see, search intent has a huge impact on the SEO process. Knowledge of search intent SEO improves the process of strategy planning, site building or topic clustering and content plans. It also comes in handy at the later stage of promotion – analyzing SERPs and matching a site to the latest search results is an ongoing process. Below are the areas of SEO of particular relevance to search intent..


Selecting phrases


According to the motto – how you make your bed, so you sleep. Choosing phrases and knowing your intentions is a key process in your site promotion strategy – if you get it wrong, it will affect every subsequent stage of SEO. What in particular to pay attention to when choosing phrases?.

  • Determine the intent of the phrases and group them according to them (persona building will help).
  • .

  • Based on general phrases from each group, build further longer long-tail phrases (don’t forget to use SEO tools).
  • If your phrases are mainly informational, build a list of phrases that are questions by adding pronouns: “how,” “who,” “where.” – according to the topic of the site.
  • Match the intent and phrases to the theme and type of subpage. A product page is always a landing page for a transactional intent, while a blog guide corresponds to an informational or commercial intent.
  • .


Content marketing


Determining the intent of a given sub-page significantly affects the type of content that should be included. After checking the types of pages in the top 10 in the competitive analysis, we select the appropriate forms of content. Of course, intent, phrases and content combine and work together for your effect..

How to do content matching in the context of intent? Here are some examples.

  • Informational: is longer forms of text, descriptions and definitions of services, description of historical events company description or recipes.
  • Commercial: are texts with reviews, rankings or popular FAQs with questions and answers.
  • Transactional: comprehensive product descriptions, including graphics and video, technical specifications.

Note: You can mix content types as you like – just as user intent can mix. What type of content will be prepared depends on a full analysis of the site and the industry in the SERP for a given keyword phrase..


Thematic clusters


Getting into the mind of the user helps build the specific content promotion strategy that is topic clusters. Currently, we create texts in almost unlimited quantities – at some point we are faced with the challenge of organizing content and grouping it precisely into topic clusters. This is an effective method for SEO and an equally effective way for user retention on the website. Knowing search intent will make it easier to select key topics in building a so-called pillar page, or pillar page. Their design depends precisely on the intent – whether it is an informational or commercial page. The better the selected intent – the more useful and readable for the user will be the topic cluster. And this will result in relevant traffic from the search engine..


Technical optimization

After determining the user’s intention, we should focus the technical work within the subpage 100% for the user’s convenience. Let’s make sure that the user gets the content in the right form. If he is looking for information, the text should have appropriate headings, posed questions and theses. On the other hand, for a person looking for a product, we make it easy to navigate, shorten the buying process. The user should feel at ease on our site, so that his intention is satisfied..

Don’t forget about search engine optimization. Let’s make sure the address and contact information are visible under phrases with intent visit-in-person. If someone is looking for a restaurant, the phone number and menu should be the most important sub-page content appearing in the ATF section (at first glance). Other aspects, such as the site’s loading speed, properly tailored graphics and, above all, structured data, will facilitate better understanding of the site by web bots and increase the chance of appearing in search results with a specific intent (e.g., through the previously mentioned rich snippets)..




This is a specific area for transactional intent and a topic for another comprehensive guide. Purchasing processes are also psychological processes, we should get to know the potential customer well. In the area of SEO, we need to take care of product presentation, path to purchase, image optimization and such basics as properly named product, optimal and logical category structure. The SEO specialist should take care of the background of the site – its topicality and ability to attract traffic from the level of other intentions like commercial or informational. We then increase the possibilities and the number of paths to the site. It’s all a chance for higher conversions..


Benefits of search intent SEO


The benefits of understanding the user are enormous. Empathizing with your potential customers is an opportunity for success not only in sales, but also in SEO. Search intent will allow us to spread our wings and choose the right strategy direction..

What can we gain?.

  • Conversion – if we empathize with the buyer’s intent, we will increase sales.
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  • Stability of results – in a long-term strategy, properly planned activities in terms of intent will keep us on top even longer.
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  • Growth of organic traffic – a greater number of properly targeted and ranking phrases is a chance for more organic traffic.
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  • Reduce bounce rate – a response properly crafted to the intent of the query will keep the user on the site.
  • Satisfied user/customer who got to the site and achieved their goal.


User Interaction and SGE (Search Generative Expierence) Development


Google is working hard to develop its search engine and the use of AI – all in the service of the user. SGE is a completely new approach to displaying search results with AI generating answers, while keeping classic search results as a supplement in the form of a carousel and list of results. Of course, such changes will have a huge impact on SEO, but inconspicuously, it is the intent that may be the new key to success. .

They will greatly increase shopping or local intent, the results of which are likely to show up in position 0 – that is, right in Google’s quick response. Logically, information intent may undergo a transformation, which will be mainly based on AI response. This will change the approach to building content and thematicity of sites. At this stage, these are only theses, as SGE is still an experiment for a narrow range of users, however, the impact of user intent on the quality and appearance of search results will become increasingly important..


search intent | screen from Google |


Is search intent the future of SEO?


The concept of search intent has been around for some time and will continue to play an important role in SEO. The increasingly popular artificial intelligence algorithms will not obscure the essence of search intent, but will further enhance it, as they will want to tap into the user’s emotions and needs. The repeatedly scrolling key phrases above will gradually lose their importance. They will continue to be the axis of work in optimizing many aspects of the site, but not the main focus. In search intent SEO, we should focus 100% on the user – take them on a journey through our site and provide the best possible experience. All this together is a ready recipe for success in the world of SEO..

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Bartłomiej Żydkiewicz

SEO Team Leader w Sunrise System

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