Keyword-based content optimization requires an understanding of searchers’ intent. Is it to buy, to learn, or to find a specific site? Search engine optimizers call those options “commercial,” “informational,” and “navigational.”
Hence, depending on the intent, a content strategy for search engine optimization should focus on:
- Driving an action,
- Providing answers,
- Helping people navigate to your site (brand queries).
The fourth type of intent is “transactional,” reflecting the transition from informational to commercial. Those are queries from folks who don’t intend to buy but may if they receive satisfactory answers.
Optimizing for intent is giving searchers what they seek.
In most cases, identifying search intent is more or less common sense. A query for “affordable running shoes” is likely commercial intent. “How to clean running shoes” is informational. “Road Runner Sports” is navigational.
Searching on your target keyword can provide clues to Google’s interpretation. For example, most informational queries on Google produce “featured snippets” (i.e., “answer boxes”), whereas commercial queries generate shopping results.
Another useful signal of search intent is a keyword’s cost per click in Google Ads. Advertisers are willing to pay more for keywords that drive sales. Hence commercial and transactional keywords tend to be more expensive.
But how can a merchant know the intent of hundreds or thousands of keywords?
Fortunately, a few SEO tools have integrated search intent into their keyword research toolset. None are perfect, but all are better than nothing.
Keyword Tools for Search Intent
Semrush launched its intent analysis feature in 2021. Users can filter their entire keyword lists by intent and identify which drives the most traffic to competitors’ sites.
Semrush integrates search intent in a few of its reports, including “Keyword Magic Tool,” competitive reports, keyword gap analysis, and position tracking.
Here’s an example Keyword Magic Tool report for the keyword “ecommerce” filtered by informational intent.
CognitiveSEO is another tool that assigns search intent to keywords via its “Keyword Explore,” “Ranking Analysis,” and “Content Assistant” tools.
Automated spreadsheets. A site called “Sheets for Marketers” provides tutorials and templates for building spreadsheets.
Semrush and Cognitive SEO do not disclose how they identify search intent. But a tutorial in Sheets for Marketers does. Titled “How to do a quick search intent analysis using Google Sheets,” the tutorial assumes:
- Queries containing question words (what, why, how, where) are informational.
- Queries containing “best” or “versus” are transactional intent (the tutorial calls this “commercial” intent); folks are researching a purchase.
- Queries containing “buy,” “cost,” and “cheap” are commercial (what the tutorial calls “transactional”); searchers are ready to buy.
Everything else is labeled as “other” for the user to change manually.
It’s a simplistic way to assign search intent, but it’s helpful nonetheless. To use the tool, copy the spreadsheet and then paste your list in the first column. Remove the “Search Volume” column or add your own to store more data in the sheet.
Many keywords have double or even triple intent. For example, a search for “how to buy a laptop” could be from someone researching the process or looking to buy.
So keep multiple meanings and intent in mind when using automated tools for content optimization. Very often, words have informational and commercial intent. Thus a manual review is essential when inserting keywords based on automated suggestions.