Google Search Query Intent: The Keyword Research Challenge

by SEO-Builder January 23, 2019
Google Search Query Intent The Keyword Research Challenge


  • Search Engines are essentially algorithms driven by the human intention.

  • Three types of search query intentions: Navigational, Informational and Transactional.

  • The real keyword research challenge is to understand the intent and value driving your primary keywords and pages.

  • Experienced Search Engine Optimisers apply user-centric approach and achieve high Google rankings as a consequence.

SEOs and search engines have the mutual goal of providing searchers with results relevant to their queries and keywords. Therefore, a vital component of executing a successful SEO strategy and achieving high Google rankings is to understand your audience search habits. Once you understand how customers are looking for your products and services, you will be a lot more effective in attracting and keeping those users. Understanding Google search query intents of your target audience is the main keyword research challenge facing digital marketers.

You should bear in mind search engines are essentially algorithms driven by human intention. Entering a search query in the Google search box and inspecting the most relevant results is a premeditated action by the user. It’s substantially different from adding a bookmark to your favourites or browsing the web. Searches are driven by the need of the user to find something and it’s not simply landing on a random page by accident. It’s the digital marketer’s job to predict those intents and showcase relevant results. The real keyword research challenge is to predict and understand human intention driving they search behaviour.

Types of Search Queries

Google Search Query Intent The Keyword Research Challenge - Browsing

Navigational Queries

Navigational searches are performed with the intent of finding an already known web site. In some cases, the user might not remember the precise domain name, and therefore would enter the company name.

Opportunities: Higher brand recognition, positive impression of your website

Average value: Typically low, unless the customer intents to buy something and is simply searching for your website

Keyword Research Challenge: Navigational Intent Queries

Keyword Research Challenge: Informational Intent Queries

Informational Queries

Informational searches involve a large variety of queries—for example, the weather as shown in the picture, biographies, events, details on the most recent SEO conference, or simply checking how long a trip from point A to B will take. Informational searches are primarily non-transactional. Although, potential customers might be researching a product or a service. And let’s not forget that customer’s journey could start from casual web browsing and end as a converted lead.

Opportunities: brand reputation; educating your audience about your products and services; attract links to your website;  spark interest in journalists/researchers; (smaller probability) more sales.

Average value: Medium. Informational queries that are researching a product or service have a high value. On the other hand, a query about the weather has limited value.





Transactional Queries

Transactional searches don’t involve only MasterCard or wire transfers. These types of search queries also include creating free trial accounts, registration and contact forms. Even simply reading about the restaurant you’re going to tonight is a transactional query.  Examples of transactional queries are: register for email, dentist contact, buy SEO service

Opportunities: expand your userbase, more registrations on your website, sales and revenue growth

Average value: Extremely high.

Table 1. Google Search Queries Summarised

User Intent Purpose Example
Navigational To reach a particular site that user has in mind. airport of Chicago
Informational To find information assumed to be available on the Web. how to apply for passports
Transactional To perform further interaction in a site. printable maps of NC counties

University research on Classifying Web Queries by Topic and User Intent shows that 80% of the web searches are informational in nature and roughly a tenth of all Google searches are transactional or navigational.

The researchers also developed an algorithmic rule to automatically classifying searches by the query nature and structure. After the trials, the algorithm showed remarkable results of 75% accuracy. The other 25% were caused by vague user intent. The same algorithm is nowadays used by Google in its search results shown in the pictures above. You can spot a classified result by the interactive images and content. The issue in classifying the remaining queries was imprecise user intent which out the scope of this analysis.

The keyword research challenge

When you are building keyword analysis tables for clients or own websites, it’s highly valuable to understand the intent and value driving your primary keywords – the real keyword research challenge.

We’ll now continue the discussion with step-by-step keyword research identifying primary searches and opportunities. The process will reveal the real keyword research challenge and the difficulty in identifying user intentions. For this section will use Ahrefs – an industry leading tool considered as the best on the market for multiple SEO activities. You can use any tool as long as you have the complete data.

1. Go to and open site explorer as shown in the picture. Enter the domain name of your website and you will see something like this.

Keyword Research Challenge - Ahrefs

2. Next, click Organic Keywords on the left menu and you will see your top key searches in a sorted list. Now export and save the Excel file on your computer.

Google Search Query Intent - Top Organic Keywords

3. Open the excel table and delete all unnecessary fields and add Intent and Value as discussed.Keyword Research Challenge - Key Searches List

You can download the Excel template from here. With this powerful tool in your hands, you can predict which keywords (and pages) will bring the most value to the company. You would also be able to understand the underlying intent behind your customers searching habits. Additionally, the standard Search Engine Optimisation metrics can help you find patterns and correlation between the factors. You would also be able to choose pages with highest Return of Investment and concentrate on building links and content around them. It’s important to note that your content should also be optimised for search intent. You can write articles focus on reviewing your products or services for a transactional intent or add Google maps to your website optimised for informational intent. It’s totally up to you but bear in my that your content should be balanced. You can’t focus only on transactions as good as it may sound. Brand reputation and educating your audience is also crucial for your business.

Hopefully, this article will introduce you to the different search styles, individual intents, so you can concentrate your efforts on the right business areas of your company. Although informational queries are seemingly away to convert in sales, this doesn’t essentially mean you shouldn’t care about the rankings of such keywords and pages. Through helpful and relevant content you could build a relationship with your target audience and convert them into paying customers. Experienced Search Engine Optimisers apply user-centric approach and achieve high Google rankings are a consequence. Just ticking the SEO checklist boxes will help neither you nor your client.

Search Query Intent - keyword research challenge - Business

The real keyword research challenge is that most internet users construct their search queries in one or two keywords and provide highly limited information especially if the searcher is looking for a specific answer to a complex query.  Since the general public doesn’t have a keen understanding of how search engines work, they’ll usually give a question that’s too general or supply limited input.

For this reason, informational queries are vital to most businesses because you can build trust with your audience and your website will be in the searches sight. After a few appearances in the search results, you can be sure that now there’s a probability this lead could convert into a sales. Over time, the user can progress from a cold lead to a transactional searcher.

If a company is running a PPC campaign, let’s say with a target keyword “SEO service”. A user searches for SEO service but decides to go straight to the organic results. A few days later, the same user searches for Link Building explained and your company appears again but this time organically. The searcher has already seen your website through your PPC campaign and it will seem familiar even subconsciously.

To sum up, you should focus on your customers and target audience intentions and showcase them relevant results. By doing that, you will achieve high Google rankings as the SEO signals become clearer over time. Use a balanced link building and information strategies covering all search queries types discussed in this article. Download  Top Keywords Value and Intent template and fill in the data for your top pages and keywords. Add the additional Intent and Value fields to identify weak and strong spots in your web architecture. We hope this discussion helped you better understand the real keyword challenge in the keyword research, the intent and types of Google search queries.

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