User Intent

User intent or query intent is the identification and categorization of what a user online intended or wanted when they typed their search terms into an online web search engine for the purpose of search engine optimization or conversion rate optimization.[1] When a user goes online, there is always a purpose, an intent. The goal can be fact-checking, comparison shopping, filling downtime, or any other activity online.[2]


Though there are various ways of classifying or naming the categories of the different types of user intent, overall they seem to follow the same clusters. In general and up until the rise and explosion[3] of mobile search, there are and were three very broad categories: informational, transactional, and navigational.[4] However over time and with the rise[3] of mobile search, other categories have appeared or categories have segmented into more specific categorization. The following is a table showing how different organizations have categorize the different types.

The Different Types of User Intents[2]
Type 1 Type 2 (a/b) Type 3 Type 4
"who wrote the Matrix" "online IQ test" "office supplies" "google play store" "restaurants near me"
Microsoft[5] Informational Transactional Navigational --
Google[6] Know Do Website Visit-in-person
Hubspot[7] Problem based Solution based Brand based --
SEMRush[8] Informational Commercial Transactional Navigational --
Web Analytics World[9] Know Do Buy -- Go
Summary Know Do Buy Web Local
  • Know - An informational search query looking for facts or other information (e.g. "who wrote the Matrix")
  • Do - A transactional search query wanting to fulfill a task online (e.g. "online IQ test")
  • Buy - A transactional search query wanting to buy something (e.g. "office supplies")
  • Web - A navigational search query wanting to visit to a specific web site or page (e.g. "google play store")
  • Local - A search query wanting to visit-in-person a physical location (e.g. "restaurants near me")

Please note that many search queries may be ambiguous and thus may be classified into multiple intents. For example, a user who typed a query "matrix" into a search bar may want to purchase the 1999 American-Australian philosophical sci-fi film or may want to learn more about the matrices in mathematics.


With the prevalence of search engines being the first starting point of many online sessions,[10] search engines are tasked with surfacing the best results or best ads that will satisfy the various user intents. Because search engines do not actually read and understand web pages and ad copy completely, digital marketers have to align their target keywords to the correct user intent that they are trying to satisfy[2] if they want to rank high on SERPs and improve their conversion rate.

Take for example, a company selling colored contact lenses who wants their ad to show up for relevant searches may target the keyword "blue eyes". However, this may not be the most effective strategy as users who search "blue eyes" may want to learn biological facts about blue eyes. Instead, the company can target keywords that clearly indicates that the user is looking to buy colored contact lenses (i.e. "blue contact lenses" most likely implies "buy blue contact lenses"). With the correct keyword intent targeting, studies have shown that conversion rates increase significantly.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Jansen, Jim (July 2011). Understanding Sponsored Search: Core Elements of Keyword Advertising. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. p. 44. ISBN 9781107011977. 
  2. ^ a b c Shih, Joseph. "The Different Types of User Intent". Twinword Blog. Twinword, Inc. Retrieved 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "The Rise of Mobile Search: From 2012 to 2015". Texo Design. Texo Design. Retrieved 2016. 
  4. ^ Broder, Andrei (Fall 2002). "A Taxonomy of Web Search" (PDF). SIGIR Forum. 36 (2): 5-6. Retrieved 2016. 
  5. ^ KhudaBukhsh, Ashiqur; Bennett, Paul; White, Ryen (2015). "Building Effective Query Classifiers: A Case Study in Self-harm Intent Detection" (PDF). CIKM '15 Proceedings of the 24th ACM International on Conference on Information and Knowledge Management: 1735-1738. Retrieved 2016. 
  6. ^ Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (PDF). Google. 28 March 2016. pp. 61-74. Retrieved 2016. 
  7. ^ "Keyword Development: Without a computer!" (PDF). Hubspot. Hubspot. Retrieved 2016. 
  8. ^ "Types of keywords: commercial, informational, navigational, transactional". SEMRush Blog. SEMRush. Retrieved 2016. 
  9. ^ Levitt, Dean. "Using Intent, Demographics and Micro-Moments to Better Understand your Web Traffic". Web Analytics World. Jump Digital. Retrieved 2016. 
  10. ^ Purcell, Kristen. "Search and email still top the list of most popular online activities". Pew Research Center Internet, Science & Tech. Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2016. 
  11. ^ daSilva, Tiffany. "Why Ignoring User Intent is Costing You Money in AdWords". unbounce Pay Per Click. unbounce. Retrieved 2016. 

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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