What is Search Intent? The latest Content SEO improvement methods

What is Search Intent? The latest Content SEO improvement methods

Google’s journey to deliver quality search results to users has been constantly evolving over the past few years. Google has evolved significantly to deliver exactly what users are looking for without relying solely on traditional SEO factors.

Throughout that process, Search Intent has gradually become an important factor, dominating search results more than old SEO ranking factors such as backlinks, and title tags… of the article. Even Domain Authority is no longer as important as it was in the 2010-2015 period.

In this article, I will help you to understand:

  • 9 main types of Search Intent today and how you categorize them
  • How to apply Search Intent to improving content with the aim of providing value to users as well as winning over competitors.
  • Share Tool test results change Search Intent on the project stuck with no growth.

Ok let’s find out!

What is Search Intent?

There are two popular classifications of search intents that have become very common in recent years.

The first type of classification that most of us know:

  • Navigation
  • Information
  • Transactional

This method originates from a 2002 review article by Andrei Broder at Altavista.

a 2002 review article by Andrei Broder at Altavista
A 2002 review article by Andrei Broder at Altavista

Broder’s article defines each type of search intent as follows:

  • Navigation: The purpose is to visit a specific website.
  • Information: The purpose is to get some hypothetical information on many different websites.
  • Transaction: The purpose is to perform some activity on the website.

In the early 2010s, Google started addressing this problem of search intent classification. They introduced the concept of “micro moment” – the moment when user intent peaks, and divided search intents into:

  • I Want To Know
  • I Want To Go
  • I Want To Do
  • I want to Buy

Compared to “Navigation, Information and Trasactions”, it seems that this division of search intent of Google is closer to users. The above two traditional classification systems help newbies quickly grasp the essence of search intent. But in understanding user search intent, they are not really accurate.

Why do I say that, because there are keywords with too broad or overlapping search intent. For example, like “short-sighted swimming goggles”, you would think that users want to learn about the concept of nearsighted swimming goggles, or want to buy nearsighted swimming glasses?

short-sighted swimming goggles
Short-sighted swimming goggles

Correctly identifying the user search intent behind each query is a way for SEOs and Content Creators to deliver better value to users, and improve the results of their work, i.e. improve the quality of SEO. And the importance of SEO I don’t need to talk about anymore.

You may not know: Optimizing content according to Semantic Search will help users better understand the article and suggest arising search intentions that users are not aware of.

So how to classify search intent so that it can be applied to effective content improvement? Let’s go to the next part!

How to categorize search intent?

OK, so how exactly do you determine the search intent of any keyword? I’m sure you have this question in your mind!The answer is: Look and analyze the SERP (search results page) returned.

1) Intention to research information

This is the most common type of intent, usually the results returned will include search terms that generate learning and research results like pages: Wikipedia, concept explanations, academic examples, very many articles or blog posts, in-depth articles, and other SERP features that help users find answers or aid in digging into a certain topic.

Featured Snippets Type
Featured Snippets Type
Knowledge Carousels Type
Knowledge Carousels Type

2) Intent to find quick answers

In a slightly different vein from research intent, quite a number folks are simply looking for some basic ideas or knowledge. They only need a quick response; they don’t want to have to click on a link and read it. Google will now display search results as definition boxes, answer boxes, calculator boxes, sports scores, etc., along with other SERPs that include variations of other reply box feature snippets. Web links will consequently have very low click-through rates (CTR) on search results pages.

Search Intent

Quick exchange rate
Quick exchange rate

Quick exchange rate – thanks to being displayed by Google in an answer box, has greatly reduced the CTR of other organic results.

Sports score box
Sports score box

Example of a sports score box, when the user wants to know at a glance what the score is and the progress of the teams to the final.

3) Purchase Intent

Users’ intent to buy or research products is pretty clear, so Google tends to show Shopping items and other purchasable features. The search results also return links of familiar e-commerce sites such as Lazada, Tiki, or Amazon… The URL displays the form /san-pham/, or the category / page. A number of shopping boxes returned on the SERPs are often a clear indication of transaction intent.

More prominent e-commerce product/category pages (besides shopping results) and product review snippets are also signs of transactional intent.

4) Search for Local places

Local packs, sets of location results, and geographic markers have recently started showing up in search results. The Map displayed is the clearest indication of this type of intent. When Google recognizes this Intent type, it will return the Local locations immediately.

Search for Local places
Search for Local places

In addition, a map will appear in the knowledge panel when someone asks about the location. Map is often at the top of search results, which is an indication of intent to search for a place.

5) Visual search intent (multiple images)

When users want to see images, the SERPs will appear in the top 100 results. If these images are in the top 10, this Intent sign is more obvious. Or, when the 2 rows of results in the first 10 positions return are sites like Pinterest, then you can conclude this is a visual demand intent that can’t be wrong!

Visual search intent
Visual search intent

The need to view images is clearly shown by the number of images appearing in the SERPs. Image appears in the #1 organic result, with the featured image pack being a sign of a strong image intent.

6) Video Search Intent

I originally intended to categorize Video Intent with images as a Visual Intent category, but when I dig deeper into the search results, it became clear that Video is actually a separate type of intent. Search results for featured videos, thumbnails, and video excerpts are now commonplace. Video is becoming so important that it deserves to be singled out as a standaloneese video slides are the most common sign of video intent we see.

Video thumbnails are another very clear indication of a user’s video search intent.

7) News Intent

When we see the story boxes appear in the top results; or even Tweet/Facebook links about the most viewed items of the days/weeks/months in the results table. That tells us that there is a huge amount of news content generated by this topic. Top Stories in search results are a clear indication that users are searching for news.

8) Brand Intent

Branding intent queries often show up as a brand homepage that links to the website. Looks like this one.

9) Split Intent

This last intent looks like a mixed intent. Split intent appears with queries that don’t have an explicit intent. So I have introduced you to 9 search intents that are clearly visible from the SERPs. Based on these signals, you can filter the search intent for the keywords you want to target and develop the article with the right components, helping to compete more effectively.

Frequently asked questions & considerations when defining Search Intent

“How to determine search intent?”

Search intent is always diverse, and the way intent is formed is also quite complex. Users may not know they are looking for a video when they search for “how to tie a tie”, but we can get to the top for that search keyword if there is a video tutorial in the article – After all, it is aimed at target user support. A user may not know what visual search intent is when searching for “beautiful house painting ideas,” but analyzing the SERPs will help you uncover his or her Search Intent for beautiful home painting patterns.

This analysis gives the very important result of understanding what users want and then tailoring your article content to have those parts!

“When do I know Search Intent has changed?”

When search intent changes, it negatively affects your content. You should be able to spot this problem with other support tools.

If this is the case, you will show that you have lost the top position for a keyword that has been at the top for the past 2 years. Your conversion rate from that page will decrease.

Those are normal things that happen every day in the life of an SEOer. And this is where your content needs to change too!

When that happens, you can sometimes look at the search results and see what’s going on (e.g. a competitor with similar content takes your spot).

“How to define Split Content?”

If the SERP of a keyword has something like
Intentions about news, current affairs

  • There is a Research Intent sign from Wikipedia, the knowledge graph box.
  • There are Visual Intent indications from video sets and Video, Image Intent suggestions in the navigation.
  • There is an indication of Place Search Intent from a set of location results in the top 20 results
  • This is probably one of the most obscure keywords I’ve ever researched.

“How to handle Split intents”

There will always be search results of the first 10 links that show clear intent on the SERPs so that you develop keywords in the right direction with the user’s search intent. And Split Intent will need an experienced SEO expert to dig deep into user intent to find the main search intent.

But you know, sometimes we still search without any particular intention. So either you choose to do more research or ignore the same intentions ^^!


Google is increasingly informative, constantly improving their search engine. Therefore, that’s why users can’t let go of their lives. As an SEOer, we will be like Google. Improve your methods and techniques. With the goal of putting the user at the center, I encourage you to apply the above knowledge that I share as soon as possible. Before being hit too hard.

Please share your results or achievements when applying new knowledge will be a great source of motivation for me and the team! Good luck!

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