Life is often one big mystery, but figuring out what customers and search users are really looking for doesn’t have to be mysterious at all. And once you understand user intent, you can maximize your content marketing strategies and e-commerce campaigns as well as speak to your target audiences better than ever before. 

Sounds pretty good, right?


Let’s break it down.

What is User Intent?

Also known as:

  • Search intent
  • Buyer intent
  • Query intent

As a digital marketer, it is crucial to guess the intent behind a consumer’s actions as they go through the buyer’s journey. This way, you can customize your ads, landing pages, websites, email and social media campaigns, and more to be more relevant to a specific user search query. And the more relevant your copy and campaigns are to a specific search intent, the more likely you are to see the click-throughs and conversions you want.

In other words, you want to understand why someone is searching for something online. Is the user looking for a new iPad (i.e., to buy something)? Is the person looking up information about the Great Emu War (i.e., to gather information)? Knowing the answer to these questions can guide how you shape yourself as an authority to search users: you have all the answers and solutions they need—all they need to do is click on your ads and content!

(It’s also critical to match intent since it will play a key role in Google’s search algorithm for its Helpful Content update.)

5 Types of User Intent

First things first: there are different types of search intent! Top digital marketers know how to craft different campaigns and copy that are relevant to each type of intent.

The five main types of search intent are as follows:

1. Informational Intent

Informational queries are by searchers who want information. Informational search query examples include “What is NATO?” and “Why are Apple iPhones so good?” Informational searches are often the first step someone takes in the buyer’s journey; it is the stage when someone is first beginning to understand a subject or realize that there is a problem (that you can ultimately solve by marketing your services or products).

  • Examples – “Queen Elizabeth net worth.” “Why are Samsung Galaxies so good?”
  • Stage in the buyer’s journey – Beginning.
  • Customer awareness – Customers are just now becoming aware of issues and ideas.
  • Tip – As users gain awareness of a certain issue (e.g., they don’t have a quality cell phone), make sure to establish yourself as an authority on the issue. That way, the users will trust your information and come back to your website at a later time (and hopefully become a customer or brand advocate).

2. Commercial Intent

Commercial search queries are completed by people looking for the best products and brands. For example, commercial queries can be something like “best Apple iPads.” They are the next step users take along the buyer’s journey after collecting information and want to explore potential solutions, services and products. However, people at this stage are not quite ready to fully commit to a purchase.

  • Examples – “Best Samsung Galaxy cell phones.” “What are the best streaming services?”
  • Stage in the buyer’s journey – Middle.
  • Customer awareness – User becomes aware of a product, service, brand, or solution.
  • Tip – At this stage, users are now realizing that they need a solution to some problem (e.g., they need a cell phone they can trust). Be sure to emphasize in either your ad copy or web page that your product or service is the solution to the users’ woes (e.g., writing a web page that highlights your business, service, or product’s benefits and ease of use to potential customers).

3. Transactional Intent

People complete transactional queries when they are looking to complete a purchase. One example of a transactional search query is “Apple iPhones for sale.” At this stage in the buyer’s journey, someone is ready to complete a purchase.

  • Examples – “Samsung Galaxy for sale.” “Buy a life-size cutout of Bernie Sanders.”
  • Stage in the buyer’s journey – End.
  • Customer awareness – Customer is now aware of and committed to a product, brand, service, or solution.
  • Tip – Make a strong call-to-action (CTA) in both your ads (e.g., Get 50% off your next Samsung Galaxy!) and your product pages/landing pages (e.g., Feel the Bern with this Life-Size Senator Sanders Cutout!), so potential customers are encouraged to become actual customers.

4. Navigational Intent

People complete navigational queries when they want to go to certain web pages or specific websites. Simply typing in “Reddit login” or the like is an example of a navigational search query.

  • Examples – “Tumblr login.” “Etsy.”
  • Customer awareness – People are aware of a brand, product, service, or solution.
  • Tip – Make sure to provide a quality user experience to potential customers by providing them with high-quality content, easy-to-use interfaces, and the like. Taking advantage of SERP features like featured snippets can also help you perform better on search engine results pages (SERPs) by helping users (and search algorithms) better understand what your content is about.

5. Local Search Intent

People complete local search intent queries when they want to find a specific product or service near their physical location, such as “Where can I find a McDonald’s near me?”

  • Examples – “Samsung Galaxy for sale in St. Louis.” “Best digital marketing company near me.”
  • Customer awareness – Customers are trying to find solutions, products, brands, and services near them.
  • Tip – Local SEO (search engine optimization) can help you win in local organic and paid search. Optimize your business on Google (Google My Business) by including relevant information about who you are and what you do, such as phone number, address, and business hours. Doing so helps you appear higher in local organic search results and appear more trustworthy to searchers.

Do Your Campaigns Match Intent?

The following metrics can help you discover if your organic content strategy, SEO strategy, or paid campaigns are relevant to certain queries—and how you can maximize your efforts for the right user intent.

Bounce Rate

Definition Bounce rate refers to how many people (expressed as a %) leave your website without completing any action. The higher this rate, the higher the odds are that you are not optimizing your page for that user’s intent.

Solution to High Bounce Rates Look at other metrics to see what, exactly, about your campaign and landing page is not aligning with query intent. Alternatively, your website could be offering a poor user experience due to any number of issues (like slow loading times), which leads to users leaving your page quickly. In this case, the solution is simple: improve your site’s user experience to reduce bouncing.

Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Position

Definition SERP position is what position a page holds on a given search platform’s results page, or the page that appears after someone completes a search query. The higher your SERP position, the better optimized your page is for a certain search term (and the more likely you are to get better click-through rates[link to CTR blog when published], organic traffic, and conversions).

Solution to Poor SERP Positions – A low SERP position indicates that you need to change your SEO strategy, which can take many different shapes: conducting keyword research for terms with better search volume, optimizing current pages for your chosen keyword, crafting more trustworthy content, creating a better user experience for site visitors, and more.

Conversion Rate

DefinitionConversion refers to how many people on your page complete a desired task, such as completing a purchase. Conversion rate refers to how many conversions you have divided by the total number of visitors to your page. Low conversion rates can indicate that there is a mismatch between search intent and the copy/experience you are providing users.

Solution to Low Conversion Rates – Say, for example, you are running a PPC campaign with the intent to sell life-size Bernie Sanders cardboard cutouts. Your landing page is designed to get users to buy this particular masterpiece. You are optimizing the page for the key term “Bernie Sanders.” You notice, however, that you are not getting the conversions you want.

A low conversion rate tells you that your target keyword/phrase, “Bernie Sanders,” is not aligning with what you want your page to accomplish (sell cutouts). In other words, you assumed incorrectly that people searching for this term were looking to buy this cardboard king, or that they had transactional intent. Your conversion rate suggests that the keyword intent of this term was not transactional, but likely informational instead.

One solution could be to change your target keyword to something that you believe is coming from users with transactional intent, such as “Bernie Sanders merch.”

Final Thoughts

People are complicated, which means understanding user intent can be a tricky business. We’ve been in this business for years, which means we have experience with guessing intent and maximizing marketing efforts for different kinds of intent. Need some assistance decoding what people are really after online (and how you can use that to your advantage)? Give us a call—we’d love to help your campaigns thrive.

Kristen Greif

Learn more about Kristen Greif

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