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What is search intent, and why does it matter?

There is one thing that Google wants above all: to satisfy the needs of its users. Hence, only sites that are capable of understanding people’s search intent will succeed on Google.

Millions of inquiries are made on search engines every minute. Users try to find answers to any question or need they have, and the challenge for search engines is in their ability to offer the best result in the shortest time possible.

Therefore, today we will see what search intent is in SEO, and we will analyze the different types that exist. In addition, we will delve into how you can optimize the content of your website so that your site is the chosen one.

What is search intent in SEO?

We can define search intention as the type of content or response that a user really wants to find when making a specific query in an Internet search engine.

Because it is not the same to search for general information on any subject than, for example, a list of the best hotels in New York. And this is something that Internet search engines must know how to interpret in order to better satisfy these intentions.

Google has long been adapting its algorithms to machine learning, with the aim of understanding human language and. the real needs of users, in the case of semantics with Hummingbird and RankBrain’s artificial intelligence.

But it is not only the task of search engines to know how to interpret users’ search intentions; you must also know it and decipher it in order to offer content that satisfies their curiosity and, consequently, improve the SEO positioning of your website.

What types of search intent are there in SEO?

The study “Determining the informational, navigational, and transactional intent of Web queries,” carried out at Penn State University in 2004, at that time classified users’ search intentions into 3 general categories:

Informational: the user wants to know something specific.

Transactional: it is the query in which users intend to do something or buy something.

Navigational: when users directly type the name of a brand or page.

It is currently known that Google’s algorithms can distinguish different types of content according to the specific theme of each of the searches carried out by users. This is why search intent matters for SEO!

Types of Search Intent

Let’s take a closer look at this classification of search intention that Google theoretically does.

1. Know (Know / Informative)

»Know Simple Query
“Know Simple” searches are all the queries made by users who want to know very specific information, and Google can more easily know what is being requested.

The answers offered by the search engine are ultra-specific, as well as short and concise.

»Know Complex Query
The “Know Complex” are more complex searches, which require a more developed response, which depends on the person who performs them and which can sometimes be ambiguous for the search engine or have more than one suitable answer.

In this type of search, a very important factor for SEO content usually comes into play, such as Google’s EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).

2. Do

The search intention “Do” is all the activity carried out by the user with a specific purpose and action. And this can include anything from making a phone call, downloading or running an application, to making a purchase or reservation, among others.

»Buy / Obtain / Download / Interact
They are those that can be easily understood by Google since the user reveals the action that he wants to perform within the query itself. The offered result reveals what the actual search intent of the user was.

To position here, it is essential that the website that offers the result allows you to carry out the specific action that is being requested in the consultation: buy, reserve, download, etc.

»Device Action
Actions must be carried out from the same device from the moment they are generated.

Within this type of search, intent are all the actions in which the user requests their phone or device to do something, such as, for example, opening an application to listen to music or make a phone call.

3. Find

Google thinks more about local every day. Therefore, here are collected the queries made by users and are related to the physical location of the result. For example, “where is restaurant X” or “where can I get money.”

In this type of query, in order to give the exact answer to users, the location of the device where it originates is taken into account. In addition, for this, the search engine relies on its integration with Google Maps.

This includes the searches made by users who want to find a specific website. The search range is so wide that it can go from putting the name of the brand or the web to writing a keyword plus the name of the brand that owns the web.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine that the user puts in the Google search engine “thrillers on Amazon.” This transactional intention is also included within those of the Website type because the user wants the information they need to come from a single specific source, in this case, Amazon.

4. Mixed

Although we cannot define it as a specific User’s search intention, the mixed one cannot be missing from this list.

Let me explain myself better… On some occasions, user queries can be easily classified into one of the previous categories. But, at other times, the search may have different intentions at the same time.

This is often the case when it comes to very generic search queries. In the case of mixed, Google can combine intentions. For example, you can mix information with sales content.

IMPORTANT: keywords alone are no longer enough. Today it is also necessary to take into account the search intention that users have in order to offer them the answer that best suits what they really need to find.

How to optimize web content to respond to the user’s search intention?

When creating the content that you are going to publish on your website, you have to do it by thinking about giving a response to the user. This does not consist of choosing a keyword and writing, without more, about a specific topic. You must also interpret the intention of the person who will make the query that will be answered with that content.

Keywords play an essential role in optimizing your content. If the keyword is informative, the user may be looking for an article, news, or wiki. In the case of transactional keywords, it is very likely that the user wants to see results from an eCommerce or sales page.

Now, I am going to give you some tips that will help you optimize your content strategy to satisfy the user’s query.

1. Research the first search results in depth

The first thing you should do is a detailed analysis of the web pages already positioned in Google. Thus, you will understand what he is showing to the users who make that query and create your content accordingly.

Analyze, observe and read the suggestions of related searches that Google shows. Use SEO tools that show you all the questions and queries that users write in relation to the keyword and its results.

2. General analysis of the SERPs

The results pages offered by Internet search engines do not always show the same content, as they change periodically.

Basing your content on a single analysis of results during a specific moment can hurt you. To avoid this problem, look for the results history of the keyword you are analyzing. This will help you to have a more general vision.

When it comes to analyzing the history, you will find that there are keywords whose list of results does not change much over time and others that do change with relative ease.

3. Study of the type, format, and presentation of the content

Once you have your localized keywords, and you have already analyzed the SERPs, observe and study the content that is positioned by those keywords, taking into account these aspects:

-Type of content

What kind of content tops the search results for the keyword? It can be a blog post, a sales or subscription landing, etc. See which one predominates and create the right type of content to satisfy the query.

-Content format

A tutorial, a comparison, a video, etc., are some of the content formats that you can find.

For example, the keyword “potato omelet” returns many results that teach how to do it step by step. However, in the keyword “Milky Way,” there are informative results, such as articles or curiosities.

Differentiating elements of the content

Looking at the first search results, you will see how they are created and why they are in those positions.

Going back to the example of the potato omelet, where the first search results are recipes. It is not the same for the user to read “Potato omelet recipe” as it is to read “Simple and delicious potato omelet recipe” or “How to make a potato omelet in 3 easy steps”.

In addition, you should also analyze if these contents include videos, images, or some other format that has a greater informative and pedagogical value to it.

4. Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO plays a very important role if you want to make it easier for Google and that it can better understand what you are talking about. In addition to keywords and their synonyms, it is important that you work on the thematic context of all content.

It is no longer necessary to repeat keywords. Work the semantic field of your texts. Google will know how to interpret it, and if it understands you, you will have a better chance of appearing in their results for the correct query. In this way, you not only improve your positioning but also the experience of your users by offering relevant content for them.


Knowing how to respond to the user is one of the keys to success to win over your customers and Google. Knowing your search intent gives you the key to knowing what your audience needs, what you should write, and how you should present it to them.

Do in depth keyword research, curate content and, above all, watch the changes in the SERP actively. At the end of the day, it is the users who decide what content they consume, and listening to their needs gives you the key to improve and maintain your positioning in Google.