We all know how important keywords are for websites. They help search engines identify and interpret what the website is about and which search queries should be relevant for the content you’re creating. For all the new technology we’re seeing around semantic search and the knowledge graph, search engines are still primarily interested in one thing: written content.



What is Keyword Intent?

Keyword intent is a relatively simple concept but one that it’s important to understand before embarking on any search engine optimisation project. It will have a big impact on the keywords you eventually choose to focus on and the conversion rate of any particular page on your site.

Keyword Intent describes the relation between a particular search phrase and the user’s intention once they’ve found the right result.

What types of Keyword Intent are there?

Generally, we consider there to be three kinds of keyword intent.

1. Informational Keywords – These are keywords that indicate the user is searching for a specific piece of information.
2. Commercial Keywords – These are keywords suggesting that the user is ready to buy.
3. Branded Keywords – These are keywords used to find a specific brand or site.

Let’s use a fictional site about ‘garden plants’ as an example.

keywords table 1


Hopefully you’ll see that there’s a big difference between a user searching for ‘popular garden plants’ and one searching for ‘buy garden plants’. Take that over to the branded column and there’s another shift in intent, from ‘buy garden plants’ to ‘garden centre co.’

What’s the Difference between Informational, Commercial and Branded Searches?

Understanding the differences between these types of keywords is crucial to the success of your keyword research and wider search marketing campaign.

Let’s start with the informational intent keywords.

These keywords simply suggest that the user is looking for information. They are likely to be at the very start of the buying process. From our example, let’s take ‘popular garden plants’.

This user is just trying to find something out. From the search term they’ve used we have no idea if they’re just interested, need it for academic purposes, are researching plants on someone else’s behalf or hoping to purchase the most popular plants.

This is a tiny range of possibilities, but from this small selection, we only know that this searcher is ready to buy something in 1 in 4 scenarios.

It’s a really basic example, but this helps us understand the difference between an information and a ‘buying’ or commercial keyword.

A commercial keyword gives us an indication that the searcher’s intent is to buy a product or service, not just get information on a particular topic.

In the example above, ‘order garden plants online’ is a perfect example of how the intent behind a keyword can help your conversion rate.

The person searching for ‘order garden plants online’ has one thing in mind: to order some garden plants online’. It doesn’t matter if they’re ordering the plants for themselves or someone else. It doesn’t even matter if they’re not planning on buying them right now. The fact is that they’ve told us, via the search term they’ve used, that their intention is to order something online.

Branded keywords are a sort of middle ground, in terms of effectiveness, between the two other types of keyword intent.

They don’t tell us that somebody definitely wants to order a product. However, people searching for a particular brand are likely to be further along than somebody using an informational key phrase. Branded keywords do tend to convert very well though. If a user is searching for your brand specifically and you’re a commercial organisation, why else would they be searching you out?

Quite often an Informational search leads to a commercial search. In turn commercial searches can lead to branded searches.
Branded searches tend to provide lots of return visitors to your site, for obvious reasons. Convert someone successfully when they’ve used a commercial keyword and the chances are they’ll come straight back and convert using a branded term next time!

How does Keyword Intent Affect Conversion Rate?

As I’ve explained above, the intention a searcher has will dramatically change the action a user takes when they eventually land on your website.

Couple this with keyword volume and you can start seeing the difference that basing your keyword strategy around keyword intent can have.

Once again I’ll refer back to the garden plants example so that we can relate the theory to some example data.

keywords table 2


For the sake of this example we’ve used an arbitrary average order value of £12.50.

As you can see from this fictional example, ordinarily keywords with buying intent perform best. The commercial keyword group as a whole nearly always outperform the informational keywords.

Informational searches tend to have a much higher volume, but a substantially lower conversion rate. It’s this significant difference that makes some keywords more effective than others.

There can be exceptions to this rule however, normally when the primary function of a website is based around purely consuming content. Ordinarily though, websites will have a commercial function, whether that’s to collect emails, sell products or generate leads. The keywords that  include the action you want the user to take are likely to convert at the highest rate.
Hopefully that will assist you in understanding just how important user intent is to not just your key phrase strategy, but also the wider search marketing strategy. Landing pages designed to funnel a user towards one action can increase in conversion rate dramatically by focusing on commercial searchers, rather than those just searching for information

Here at Silverbean we’ve integrated this way of thinking into all the work we do. This helps us create a strategy for your website that will take advantage of the correct user intent phrases for your website and your industry. As part of our keyword analysis we always consider how different landing pages on your site could get a conversion rate boost simply by increasing their relevance for the commercial intent search terms.

Call 0191 406 1200 or email [email protected] for more information.