Understanding Search Intent: How To Identify The 4 Types In 2024 (Examples)

Simon is a former UK call-centre worker who has gone on to build several highly successful affiliate marketing businesses in various different niches & become officially recognized as a Super Affiliate by the world's largest affiliate marketing training platform. He has since relocated to Thailand & now teaches affiliate marketing to others through Commission Academy.

Read this guide and you’ll understand what search intent is, why it matters and how it can help you grow your affiliate marketing business.

Search intent is a vital piece of the puzzle if you want to convert your website visitors into paying customers.

Before I teach you how to determine and identify the 4 main types, let’s first go over the definition of search intent and then we will dive into how search intent works.

What Is Search Intent?

Put simply, search intent is the underlying reason, goal or motivation behind someone typing something into a search engine like Google.

It’s the why behind the search.

You know yourself – every time you google, you google for a reason.

Maybe you want to read local restaurant reviews, figure out how to fix that dripping tap, learn about photosynthesis, buy an air fryer or check bus times.

There are 8.5 billion Google searches per day and every single one of them has search intent.

Why Understanding Search Intent Is Important

Today Google performs 84% of all online searches. It’s the undisputed category king of search engines and it intends to keep it that way.

Remember old search engines like Lycos, AltaVista and AskJeeves?

Yeah, me neither.

Google got where it is today because a team of engineers laser-focused in on giving people the best, most relevant search results possible based on what they typed in.

They got really good at fulfilling search intent, or in other words, figuring out what people wanted and giving it to them.

If we as content creators can make Google’s focus our focus, then we’ll be perfectly aligned and we’ll set ourselves up for top Google rankings and floods of targeted traffic.

And if you’re an affiliate marketer, understanding search intent is crucial because it will directly determine how relevant the products you’re promoting are to the needs and interests of your target audience which will result in higher conversions and more commissions.

If you’re a blogger, understanding search intent will give you clear insight into what information readers are looking for, dictate how you structure and create content and ultimately determine how well you rank.

If you can get good at understanding search intent then you’ll automatically know how to structure your blog posts and you’ll know exactly what products to promote.

Look at any website on any of the SERPS and it’s painfully obvious when somebody understands search intent and when someone doesn’t because there’s a world of difference between the quality and usefulness of the content they create.

It’s going to have a profound difference in your traffic numbers, conversion rates, bounce rates and how much money you’ll make.

Understanding search intent really is THAT important.

The 4 Types Of Search Intent

So now we know what search intent is and why it matters, let’s drill down into the 4 main types.

1. Informational

Informational search intent is when the person searching is looking for information on a particular topic.

They’re on the hunt for how-to guides, tutorials and detailed explanations so they can gain knowledge and understanding.

Informational search intent examples:

  • How to make french toast
  • What time is the super bowl
  • Why is the sky blue
  • How does the digestive system work
  • Best chicken casserole recipes

2. Navigational

Navigational search intent is when someone wants to be directed to a specific page, website or social media platform.

They usually already know the name of the site they want to go to and just want to access it quickly.

Navigational search intent examples:

  • Facebook login
  • Google translate
  • UK news
  • YouTube fitness channel
  • Restaurants near me

3. Commercial

People searching commercial search intent phrases are researching with the intention of eventually buying or booking a product or service online. They’re almost ready to make that purchase decision and they need a bit more information first.

Commercial search intent examples:

  • Condos for rent
  • Where to buy whey protein
  • Cheapest London hotels
  • Grammarly discount
  • Product A vs. product B

4. Transactional

Transactional search intent is when a user knows what a product is and why they need it. They have all of their questions answered, they’ve decided they’re going to make a purchase and are ready to enter their credit card details to buy it.

Transactional search intent examples:

  • Buy a Panasonic Nanoe hairdryer
  • Book a Mediterranean cruise
  • Book my car in for a service
  • Netflix sign up
4 types of search intent

Which Search Intent Is Best For Affiliate Marketing?

Commercial and transactional search phrases and keywords are best for generating affiliate marketing commissions as these types of search intent clearly indicated the searcher is close to ready or ready to buy.

They’re close to the end of the customer buying cycle and if you can catch them at that point, you’re virtually guaranteed to make a sale.

best search intent for affiliate marketers
Source: ProfitWell

So if you’re looking at what kind of content to create that’s going to give you the biggest bang for your buck, I would prioritise top 10 best lists, product comparisons and product reviews as these work best to drive conversions and sales.

How Do You Determine & Identify The Search Intent?

The wording of the keyword itself will oftentimes tell you a lot about the searcher and the search intent.

So the best way to determine and identify what type of search intent there is, try and put yourself in the headspace of the person carrying out the search.

For example, somebody searching “how to start a podcast” knows what a podcast is and they’ve already decided to start one. This is a clear case of informational intent where the person is wanting information on how to do something.

If I were writing content to target this keyword I would create a comprehensive guide listing out all the steps to starting a podcast.

You don’t need to explain what a podcast is because they already know. Likewise, you don’t need to dig into the history of podcasts because it’s irrelevant to the search intent.

And I can tell you from experience that the more you practice determining and identifying search intent, the easier it will be until it becomes second nature.

Now when I’m looking at my target keyword for the day, within a few seconds I’ve got the entire post outline mapped out in my head.

I’ll also know exactly how I’m going to monetise the post. In this case, I’d think about what audio equipment, software and soundproofing someone starting a podcast would need and add my affiliate links.

They’ve already told us their intention is to start a podcast so I’m not telling them to buy anything they don’t want or need. I’m just providing a helpful guide and giving people what they want.

That’s why search intent is incredibly powerful in generating sales online.

3 Examples Of Search Intent In Action

Looking at the Google results page is another great way to determine and identify what the search intent of a keyword is, so let’s run through a few examples.

1. “What comets will be visible from Earth before 2100?”

This is almost a textbook example of informational search intent and the search results reflect this.

Notice Google brings up a whole list of science-based websites that list the names of the comets and the dates they’ll be visible:

informational search intent examples

2. “Flight To Manchester”

Clear transactional search intent on this one.

Someone searching this has already decided they’re going to manchester and they want to book a flight, which is why Google gives searchers a list of flight comparison and booking sites:

transactional search intent example

3. “Best Guitars For Beginners”

I would class this as a commercial intent keyword because while they’re nearing the end of the buying cycle, they have yet to narrow down which specific guitar they want.

If I were targeting this keyword I would list out the top 10 best guitars for beginners and show them why they’re recommended for aspiring guitarists just starting out.

You could then link to specific guitar reviews with affiliate links telling them where they can buy it.

commercial search intent example

Understanding Search Intent: The Bottom Line

I hope you didn’t just learn what search intent is but hopefully, you come away with a real sense of just how critical search intent is and a fresh, more intentional approach to keyword research and content creation.

Now it’s time to take action.

So go ahead and find commercial and transactional-intent keywords and add them to your content mix and see if you don’t make more affiliate marketing passive income as a result.

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