Better understand search intent based on SERP's

Google addresses the motivation that drives people to use the search engine in their latest commercial by saying, "Every search gets you further."

What exactly it is that drives you or what you want to "get on with" varies greatly from person to person. Maybe you want to find the way to a restaurant where you have an appointment for an important dinner, or you want to find out about the continuing education that has been on your mind for so long. Whatever you have in mind, every search query is based on an intention.

To meet this search intention is the goal of Google and therefore automatically one of the most important factors for successful search engine optimization, because only if you understand the search intention and manage to serve it, you create a real added value for the users and your website is classified by Google as relevant, which in turn has a positive effect on visibility.

How to recognize the search intent behind a keyword and what the different types of search queries are, you will learn in this post.


What awaits you in this article

  • Search intention and user intention
  • Keyword types
  • Types of searches
  • SERP analysis
  • Mixed intent and secondary search intentions
  • Practical examples


Search intention and user intention

To make it clear what exactly is meant by search intent, the article starts with a definition of the terms.

In short, search intent is the intention with which a specific keyword is entered into a search engine such as Google. User intent is the overriding motivation behind it.

In order to meet the user intention, there is no way around the search intention, because every user intention is necessarily accompanied by a search intention.


Keyword types - the basics

There is a certain intention behind every keyword. Finding this out is sometimes not so easy, because a user reduces a possibly complex train of thought to just a few search terms by entering it into Google. Nevertheless, the keywords are the means of communication between the user and Google and thus the best way to understand the user and his intention. For this to succeed, it is helpful to know the different types of keywords and to be able to classify them correctly.

Keyword types: transactional, informational & navigational

The division of keywords into transactional, informational and navigational is a popular model of classification. Depending on the category, different content is required on your website in the next step.


Informational keywords are search terms that users use to learn more about a specific topic. If you decode a keyword as an informational keyword, you should provide information on your website. Depending on the topic, this can be in the form of detailed guides, checklists, tutorials, etc.

Informational keywords examples: "What is an Ayurvedic massage?" or "What is curd soap made of?"

Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)
Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)

Navigational keywords

If the user uses navigational keywords, for example, he wants to be navigated to a specific page or brand.

Navigational keywords examples: "Lord of the Rings Netflix" or "Hikes Munich Komoot".

Other keyword types

Besides Transactional, Informational and Navigational keywords, there are other ways to classify keywords. By differentiating between brand keywords, compound keywords, W-question keywords and long-tail keywords, you can become even more aware of the keyword type. And the better you understand the keyword, the easier it is to understand the user and their motivation.

  • Brand keywords are keywords with which the user searches for a specific brand, for example: "Adidas".
  • Compound keywords combine several keyword types, for example: "Buy Adidas pants" (Brand and Commercial)
  • W-question keywords are search queries that start with who, how, where, what, or when, for example, "Who is Bud Spencer?"
  • Long-tail keywords are long and specific keywords with a mostly very low search volume, for example: "45 minutes Ayurveda massage Munich and surroundings".

Types of searches

The different types of search queries are closely related to the keywords. Basically, 4 types can be defined:

Do requests

The category of Do requests includes any type of request that is intended to end with an interaction, for example, a newsletter subscription. Do requests are thus closely related to transactional keywords.

Buy requests

Buy queries are geared towards a specific action, namely the purchase of a particular product. Thus, the commercial keywords can be assigned here.

Go requests

Go queries lead the user to a virtual or real location. This includes the category of navigational keywords.

Know requests, including know-simple requests

Know queries are used to obtain information. The appropriate keyword type are the informational keywords.

In the case of know queries, a further distinction is made as to whether the user is looking for comprehensive information on a specific topic or only needs quick information or an explanation of terms (know-simple query). These quick explanations of terms are often already answered on Google itself and therefore do not bring traffic to one's own website (see the example of Bud Spencer's age).

Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)


SERP analysis

Google search itself is the most valuable tool for understanding the search intent behind a keyword. Because only what resonates well with users will have a chance to become visible on Google in the long run.

So take a close look at the top results for the individual keywords and try to find out what intention is served by the result. The keywords used in the snippets, but also the position at which elements such as shopping results, videos or an info box are integrated, provide information.

Analytics capabilities in the SERPs:

  • Snippet analysis: Which other keywords can be found in the title tag and meta description?
  • Where are individual elements such as videos, Google shopping results, etc.?
  • Google Knowledge Graph or Infobox: Which key information on the topic is crucial?
  • Google Maps result: Does the location matter?

Mixed intent and secondary search intentions

Unfortunately, search intent is not always as clear in practice as it is in theory. Mixed intent, i.e. several interests behind one keyword, one or more secondary search intentions or a possible change in the user's needs are just some of the examples that must be taken into account when classifying keywords. This is where some sensitivity is needed. By putting yourself in the users' shoes, you can best find out and interpret possible ambiguous search intentions.

Even for Google, the search intention is not always clearly attributable. All the more important to give some thought to delivering a result that the search engine classifies as relevant.


Practical examples

Practical example "Frisian mink

For the keyword "Friesennerz" there are two possible search intentions:

1. informational (marked green)
2. transactional/commercial (marked red)

Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)
Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)
Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)

The search results on Google show that, in addition to the intention to buy , users are looking for more in-depth information on the subject of Friesennerz, because otherwise the informative pages would not be so high up on the search results page. So to rank well for the keyword "friesennerz", you should not only provide a store with products, but also information about the Friesennerz.

Practical example "Fly swatter

For the keyword "fly swatter" there are also two possible search intents:

1. informational (marked green)
2. transactional/commercial (marked red)

Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)
Screenshot: Google (07/09/2021)

In addition to the purchase intention, information also plays an important role for the fly swatter. For example, users want to know how dangerous an electric fly swatter is or who invented the fly swatter. Especially from the feature box "Similar questions" many keywords can be derived, which can be included on the own website to cover the search intention in the best possible way.


Analysis of the top websites

In addition to the search results, you should also take a closer look at the websites of the top search results in the next step. Only by analyzing the websites can you find out what the competition is doing right to serve the search intent. However, you should not simply copy the top websites either. There may be important points that the competition is missing and that can give you an advantage in the ranking.

When analyzing the website, it is also very important to put yourself in the users' shoes. For example, you can ask yourself what you would want as a user to do well on the site. For example, is the information you need available or are there enough call-to-action buttons and placed in the appropriate place?

Tips for website analysis

  • Open websites in parallel in multiple taps
  • Compare similarities and differences
  • What's missing even from the top 3 search results?
  • Derivation of the most important element to match the search intention
  • Putting yourself in the shoes of the user


Analysis of user signals

User signals are a significant ranking factor. This is because user signals such as click-through rate, bounce rate, dwell time, etc. allow Google to understand whether the website is helpful for users and whether they will find what they are hoping for by searching there.

If the users are satisfied, Google is also satisfied, because the users will also return to Google the next time, which increases the importance of the search engine and thus increases advertising revenue through Google Ads.

Thus, it should be clear that the search intention is directly related to the user satisfaction and thus also to the rating of the own website by Google. Analyzing the user signals of the website can therefore also be a good way to check the relevance for the users.



To understand the search intent behind a keyword, it is helpful to be aware of the different keyword types and types of search queries. Also, keywords should be checked for ambiguity.

An informative first step is the analysis of the SERPs. The first page of search results already reveals a lot about the user intention. In the next step, the highest ranking websites should also be analyzed to best match the search intention, but also to find possible topics that the competition is still missing.

There is no way around keyword tools and user signals analysis for a deeper analysis, but the free opportunities in Google search itself should never be underestimated, because ultimately that's where you want to see your website in the future.

Another important keyword is empathy. At the end of the day, users on Google are just people like you and me who use Google search every day on different devices. Be aware of what motivations, expectations, hopes, and doubts might be driving the users and you will also understand the search intent.


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