Understanding Search Intent is the Key to Great Keyword Research

There are two critical aspects to keyword research: the first is the research itself, i.e. figuring out what people are typing into search engines to find businesses like yours, and the second is search intent, i.e. figuring out why people are making the search.

The way these two are linked together is simple – keyword research determines what keywords you need to optimise for, and search intent determines what types of content you need to create for those keywords.

Search Intent, explained simply

Search intent represents the user’s purpose for the search. In other words, it answers the “why” of your customer’s journey to a search engine.

Why is the person using a search engine? What are they trying to find? Are they looking for a particular product? Are they trying to change a password?

There are four types of search intent:

  • Informational – people are looking for information and answers to questions. e.g. “Snoop Dog”, “London directions”, “How to drill a hole in glass…”
  • Navigational – people are looking for a specific business or webpage. e.g. “Microsoft”, “Facebook login”, “PayPal change password…”
  • Transactional – people are shopping online. e.g. “buy iPhone 12”, “Nike Air Max sale”, “MacBook Air…”
  • Investigative – people are investigating products and services. E.g. “best protein powder”, “car insurance comparison”, “Pixel 5 review…”

Why is keyword intent important? Because it determines the types of content you need to produce for each keyword you target.

How to determine what content to create

You can figure this out easily: search Google for any keyword now. What types of content rank in the top 5 results? How-to guides? Listicles? Webpages?

Let’s take the phrase “dating for over 50s” as an example. You might expect Google to mostly show landing pages for dating sites. In reality, 90% of the results on the first page are articles. So, you would create articles too.

The importance of feeding Google the right types of content cannot be overstated. It is nearly impossible to rank a product or sales page on the first page of Google if Google only wants to show articles or something else.

Keyword research

Keyword research is easy. All you need is the right tool for the job.

Here are the two best tools we use:

To use either of these tools, just enter a keyword or phrase related to your business and they will do the hard work for you. You will get a list of keywords, with search volume data, so you can see what keywords people are using.

However, what these tools don’t do for you is determine what keywords are worth your time, or the types of content you should create.

The biggest mistake businesses make with SEO is targeting keywords no one is using. The second biggest mistake is targeting keywords that are too difficult to rank for.

Sometimes, a business will do both, get no results, and give up.

The simple truth of the matter is that anyone can benefit from SEO. The only reason an SEO strategy would fail is because of poor targeting.

Correct keyword targeting requires an understanding of search intent. This is the unsung key to great keyword research. Why? Because it unlocks the value of SEO. It goes beyond a list of keywords to answer the “why” of the keywords.


The best SEO strategies are built on keyword research that goes beyond face value to discover why people are searching in the first place.

The next time you do keyword research, assign your keywords to the four search intent categories mentioned above. Understanding the intent behind keywords will ensure that you produce relevant content in the format Google likes.

What’s the alternative? An amateur approach where you optimise your webpages and other types of content for anything and hope for the best. This will undoubtedly produce poor results and waste a chunk of your marketing budget.



I have been walking the talk with SEO for 18 years and have money-generating web businesses of my own. My background is real-world business and marketing. Search engine optimisation is not black art. If you want your website to do better, contact me.