Have you ever stopped to consider the reason—the user’s purpose for searching—behind the keywords you’re targeting?
That’s where keyword intent comes in.
Keyword intent, also referred to as search intent, is the reason behind the user’s query. Each query has a purpose, and knowing the intent behind keyword targets helps you create engaging content that meets users’ expectations.
So how should keyword search intent impact your keyword targeting and content creation?
In this post, I’ll review the four main types of keyword intent and why creating content that meets intent matters. I’ll explain how three major SEO brands utilize different search intent in their keyword universes (all traffic-driving keywords to a website).
What can we learn from them? Can we apply any of their strategies to our own content?
Keep reading to find out.
What Are the Main Types of Keyword Intent?
There are four types of keyword intent. They are:
- Navigational intent: Users are looking for a specific page, like a login page (e.g. “Ubersuggest login”).
- Informational intent: Users are looking to learn something about a topic (e.g. “what is search intent”).
- Commercial intent: Users are looking to research before making a purchase decision (e.g. “best keyword research tool”).
- Transactional intent: Users are looking to complete an action, usually a purchase (e.g. “sign up for Ubersuggest plan”).
Your website should target each type of keyword intent, though what that split looks like will depend on your products or services and your overall content strategy.
Although this is subjective, analyzing well-known SEO brands’ keyword universe and how they segment their content to meet various intents could help inform your own strategy.
Why Having the Right Keyword Intent is Important
When a user enters a search query into a search engine, the goal is that they will find the content they need. When the results match their intent, the user is more likely to engage and have a positive user experience. This is why search engines like Google take keyword intent seriously.
This matters a great deal to digital marketers for one obvious reason: rankings.
You create content with the goal that it will result in rankings on SERPs. This will ensure you are found by users who will, hopefully, convert.
Since keyword intent is such a part of where a website ranks, then, it makes sense that you would need a solid understanding of intent behind the keywords you’re targeting.
Using Data to Learn About Keyword Intent
The Semrush State of Search for 2023 offers an insightful breakdown of keyword intent as shown below:
From 2021 to 2022, there’s a shift in search intent from purely informational and navigational intent and towards commercial and transactional. Informational intent still has the lion’s share, but the drop in both the number of keywords and the distribution of search volume with informational intent is too large to ignore.
My team at NP Digital was interested to learn more.
Is this breakdown of search intent consistent with the keyword universe of major players like Semrush, Moz, and Ahrefs? How do these SaaS (software as a service) websites leverage search intent in content to reach their users?
To answer those questions, we used Semrush’s Domain Overview dashboard, including a keyword intent tool, to analyze keywords and the most popular search queries for each of the four keyword intent types.
Here’s what we found.
Semrush’s Keyword Intent Breakdown
When looking at semrush.com, the keyword intent appears to be relatively well-balanced between informational, transactional, commercial, and navigational intent.
What’s interesting here is that the navigational intent makes up 34.9 percent of semrush.com’s search intent. Since Semrush is a marketing SaaS solution, it makes sense that a fair amount of the website’s search intent is predicated around finding specific pages.
Two examples of such navigational queries are “semrush” and “semrush login.” The number one navigational query “semrush” leads to the semrush homepage.
An important consideration is that some of these navigational queries have mixed intent with transactional intent baked into them. These users want to complete a specific action, on a specific page.
We see that Semrush is meeting the informational keyword intent of potential users by developing blog content related to those queries. In the keyword analysis below, you can see the majority of URLs are those with a /blog/ subfolder:
Semrush’s informational intent isn’t only mixing with navigational intent, but also transactional (e.g. “image search”) and commercial (e.g. “digital marketing”).
Speaking of commercial intent, Semrush has a /website/ subfolder where they audit well-known brand websites.
One example of this is the search query “primewire” which is directing to www.semrush.com/website/primewire.id/overview.
This URL shows users the traffic stats for primewire.id courtesy of Semrush’s Free Website Traffic Checker. While reviewing traffic stats for primewire.id, users are prompted to try the tool for themselves.
Transactional intent takes up the smallest portion of Semrush’s keyword universe. Many of its transactional queries are also navigational. As mentioned previously, these two intents coalesce to find a specific page where a transaction can be made.
Overall, Semrush’s keyword universe has a well-balanced keyword intent. Due to the nature of their software, they do have higher navigational intent traffic than what is seen in the State of Search data.
Semrush clearly aligns its content with the needs of its audience, splitting it largely between navigational (for current Semrush users) and informational (for potential users).
Ahrefs’ Keyword Intent Breakdown
Ahrefs is an SEO software suite that includes tools for backlinking, keyword research, and competitor analysis just to name a few.
When looking at ahrefs.com, the keyword intent appears to be heavily focused on informational content and then commercial intent.
Why does this intent breakdown look different from Semrush?
It’s largely because the Ahrefs tool itself is hosted on a subdomain.
What does that mean?
The Ahrefs tool lives at https://app.ahrefs.com/. If the tool lived at https://ahrefs.com—the domain we’re analyzing—then we’d expect to see a similar split of keyword intents as seen with Semrush. Due to ahrefs’ site structure, a lot of the navigational and transactional keywords will go to the subdomain instead.
Let’s take a look at Ahrefs’ informational keywords:
Ahrefs is clearly leveraging informational keywords within its blog subfolder (/blog/). As one of the more well-known blogs in the SEO space, targeting informational intent within the blog makes strategic sense and allows commercial intent to be included as well.
Take the “SEO” query as an example.
The user intent behind this simple query may be to learn about SEO basics. However, SEO is a complex topic. Once the user realizes this on the page, they’ve already entered the Ahrefs funnel and are more likely to look into their services—resulting in the commercial intent.
As part of their strategy to target informational keyword intent, Ahrefs has a glossary (/glossary/) subfolder for broader, yet medium-specific, keywords. An example of this is the keyword “slug.” The URL is www.ahrefs.com/seo/glossary/url-slug which clearly shows that Ahrefs is taking the time to capture broader informational keywords in its content strategy.
While their main tool doesn’t live on the https://ahrefs.com domain, Ahrefs does have additional tools there like Site Explorer and Rank Tracker. This is likely what is driving the navigational keywords—for example, “wix” and “google analytics”—that they do have:
Transactional intent for the Ahrefs domain has a mixture of navigational intent as well. That is, users want to complete a specific action, on a specific page.
This is something we saw with Semrush, too.
An example of this is the “Ahrefs pricing” keyword where we see five different Ahrefs URLs related to subscription plans and pricing:
The implication here is that users are looking for a specific page with information on pricing, but also looking to perform an action like signing up for a subscription.
Overall, Ahrefs strongly focuses on informational intent on their primary domain. This appears to be a strategic decision, as the informational content they provide on their blog enables them to easily pivot towards commercial intent. You can see this clearly in their targeting of simple keywords, such as “SEO” and “affiliate marketing.” Their informational content gives users enough information to realize they require professional software to handle their needs.
Moz’s Keyword Intent Breakdown
Moz is another SEO software suite with tools geared towards domain analysis, keyword research, and more.
Moz.com, similar to Ahrefs, primarily targets the informational search intent. This is largely due to the website taxonomy of Moz.
Similar to Ahrefs, Moz places their tool on a subdomain, https://analytics.moz.com/, and therefore some of the navigational keywords on the main domain will be lower.
For this reason, Moz has a keyword intent breakdown that is similar, though slightly more balanced, than Ahrefs.
Similar to Ahrefs and Semrush, Moz uses informational keywords on their blog. For example, the informational keyword “google my business” leads to /blog/beginners-guide-to-google-business-profile.
Other subfolder pages capture informational intent. For example, “cro” leads to /learn/seo/conversion-rate-optimization to reach users who want to know more about CRO.
To win in rankings for these valuable informational keywords, Moz provides robust resources and authoritative search engine updates.
Navigational and Transactional
Diving into the navigational intent, we can see a variety of these queries cross-pollinate with transactional intent.
“Moz domain authority” is a branded keyword but can have both navigational and transactional intent. This is because Moz offers a free domain ranking tool that users may be hoping to find and use (navigational). However, by upgrading to Moz Pro (transactional), users can get unlimited access to said tool. As you can see, navigational and transactional keywords will have levels of overlap, similar to informational and commercial search intent keywords.
Speaking of informational and commercial intent overlap, consider the keyword “serp:”
The URL for this keyword leads to www.moz.com/learn/seo/serp-features, which is a robust informational article on the topic of SERP features, like rich snippets. However, because Moz offers SEO software, this is also a commercial opportunity. If the user can verify the brand’s SEO information, then they may be more likely to purchase their software.
At a high level, informational intent reigns supreme on the Moz website. Moz’s intent breakdown is the closest to that seen in the State of Search report, though commercial and transactional intent are flipped in terms of priority. This is likely because, similar to Ahrefs, much of Moz’s informational content transitions seamlessly into commercial intent.
What Type of Keyword Intent Should You Focus On?
After reviewing three of the top SEO SaaS websites, it’s safe to say informational intent reigns supreme. That’s not exclusive to SaaS brands, though, as this statement could be broadly applied to most websites.
This is aligned with Semrush’s State of Search breakdown of keyword intent. Informational intent is the most robust, with 52.5 percent of keyword search volume being classified as informational in 2022.
At the end of the day, Google and other search engines are looking for content that meets the needs of the searcher.
The lion’s share of this need is still informational. That is, the type of content you would expect to see on blogs, in glossary subfolders (like Ahrefs), and in learn subfolders (like Moz). We can’t ignore, though, that informational content is declining year over year. From 2021 to 2022, the number of keywords by informational intent dropped from 60 percent to 56.5 percent.
This shift doesn’t appear to be completely away from informational content, though. It’s more so that informational content is useful in transitioning to other types of search intent, largely commercial and transactional.
So what is the takeaway?
You can, and should, continue to focus on building out content around informational keywords. This is easily achieved by targeting common industry keywords, whether basic (e.g. SEO) or more complex (e.g. keyword intent for SEO). However, informational intent combined with commercial intent or transactional intent appears to be the trend going forward.
How can you achieve this?
By understanding the value add that your software or product offers to your audience, you can target informational keywords that naturally transition into a value offer or solution.
For example, if your software is an affiliate marketing platform, you can target generic informational keywords such as “affiliate marketing” to inform the user of what it is and why it’s important. You can then easily transition into why your software will meet their needs and include commercial longtail keywords (“X platform versus Y platform”) and transactional keywords (“Sign up for X Platform 7-day free trial”) to do so. This will either pique their interest in finding an affiliate marketing software to use (commercial intent) or in directly purchasing yours (transactional intent).
Search intent, also known as keyword intent, is the reason behind a search query. For example, someone who searches for “how to do keyword research” is looking for information. There are for types of search intent: navigational, informational, commercial, and transactional.
Google has a deep understanding of search intent by keyword. After all, Google wants to provide the most relevant results to users. If you want to rank on search engine results pages, you need to understand the intent behind the keywords you’re targeting. This will enable you to create content that fills the need.
User intent and search intent are one in the same. The user’s intent (e.g. navigational, informational, commercial, transactional) will be reflected in their search query.
There are various tools available to help you track search intent, but the absolute best on the market is Ubersuggest. From rank tracking to similar website comparisons to keywords by traffic, Ubersuggest has everything you need to understand your audience’s needs and your own website’s content gaps. You can also use keyword mapping with Ubersuggest to develop a more in-depth content plan that targets search intent.
It’s not enough to know what keywords your audience is searching for. You must also know the why.
As the data clearly shows, keyword intent is crucial for crafting content that fits your audience’s needs. It’s also important to target keyword intent to rank well on SERPs.
The State of Search and our analysis of Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz keyword universe shows that informational intent reigns supreme. However, you should still do a deep dive into your own domain to see the keyword intent within your audience.
What keyword intent trends are you seeing for your domain? Let us know in the comments below!
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