Before search engines discovered optimization, the internet was like a hangry mass of people trying to break into a Walmart on Black Friday: tired, impatient, and hoping to get what they came for so the criminal charges would be worth it. With what seemed like an infinite amount of space, people raced to put anything and everything they could onto the internet. But a library of infinite information is useless if you can’t find the book you need so the problem shifted from how do we store it to how do we sort it.

A Brief History of Internet Search

With the advent of the internet in the early nineties, people began logging on to store and find information, documentation, and answers to all of their questions, but this new technology wasn’t without its faults. Our search engine forefathers (with few exceptions) were incapable of scanning the database to identify and deliver much more than word-for-word document names and web page results. It wasn’t until the official release of Google’s search platform in the early 2000s that focus shifted to user experience and introduced the revolutionary idea of user intent.

What is User Intent?

Simply put, user intent is the reason someone is using a search engine. 

Google’s new approach to searching paved the way for individually curated search result pages. By analyzing countless queries, search engines refined the process by identifying similarities and patterns in the way people searched. Word combinations, previous inquiries, active location, and other search habits were recorded and parsed into three categories that encompass virtually every reason a user comes to a search engine:

Navigational Intent 

Searchers who use the engine to find a specific, predetermined website have navigational intent. Habits like searching for a company’s name is a clue to the engine that the user most likely wants to visit that company’s website and doesn’t know how to get there.

Informational Intent

Searchers using a search engine to research information on a specific topic, product, location, business, date, time, etc. have informational intent. Habits like typing in a specific product name and number signal to the engine that the searcher is most likely looking for details about the product in question. 

Transactional Intent

A searcher looking to complete a purchase but doesn’t know exactly where to do it has transactional intent. This includes habits like adding “near me” to the end of a keyword. This lets the engine know the user is looking for something more actionable. 

How to Identify User Intent


    • Determine, Who is visiting the website?
    • How old are they?
    • What’s their gender, their occupation?


    • ASK, Why are people coming to my website?
    • Is it for industry research, product details, or operating hours?
    • Are they here to read a blog?
    • Or to purchase a product or service?

Next, it’s time for a quick game of Jeopardy. Look at your answers and start listing out words or search phrases you think your website can answer. Pretend you are the person you’ve identified. Think about what you might type into a search bar to find what you’re looking for. The words and phrases you come up with are the beginning of your keyword research

Finally, go to a search engine and start typing in the list you’ve put together. Are you seeing the results you expected? Are any of the results companies you’d consider to be your competition? Is the industry you operate in anywhere within the results cluster? Or do you need to start again? Do this as many times as you need and remember, the deeper you understand how your clients, the more accurately you’ll be able to predict and plan for your target demographic’s search habits. 

Ranking with the Right User Intent

Over time search engines have shifted their focus from information to user. You can strengthen your chances of higher ranks and greater discovery by sewing user intent into your own SEO strategies. You might also consider creating unique landing pages for different user intents to test your theories. Or scour your metadata tags and include search phrases like, “near me” and “local” on your website where appropriate. When you’re ready for search engine help, the SEO experts at Boostability are here to handle all of your online optimization needs so you can stay focused on your business. Learn more about our white label SEO company and get started today!


Brett is a member of the content marketing team at Boostability. In addition to writing blogs, he creates and distributes a wide range of multimedia content for Boost's beloved content team. His degree in theater has given him a strong focus on user experience and flowery wordage. When he's not working you'll find him either at the gym or playing one of his favorite video games.