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Understanding Search Intent and the Buying Journey

October 28, 2021
search intent

Search intent is the goal that a user has when they type their query into a search engine.

The four main types of search intent are:

  • Informational (carried out at the “awareness” stage of the buying journey)
  • Navigational – (carried out at “interest” stage)
  • Commercial – (carried out at “consideration” stage)
  • Transactional – (carried out at “conversion” stage)

In this new blog post, we will be breaking down the different types of search intent and how you can optimise your content so that it offers what the user is looking for and, in turn, performs well in the search engine results pages.

Tip: Aligning your content to fulfil search intent has the potential to increase your search engine rankings. If a search engine determines that your piece of content successfully answers the searcher’s query, it is more likely to rank higher than content from your competitors.

Informational searches

Here, the searcher is looking for information. Informational queries are generally question based.

Examples of informational searches:

  • “Who is the president of the USA?”
  • “How many Fast and Furious films are there?”
  • “What time is it in New York?”
  • “When is Mother’s Day?”
  • “What is the best dishwasher?”

Informational searches generally take place at the “awareness” stage of the buying journey.

What is the awareness stage of the buying journey?

The awareness stage is when a customer identifies they have a need for a product or service. At this stage of the buying process, they may not have a particular product or brand or provider in mind.

Typical queries you would see at this stage of buying journey would be How, What, Who, Where, Why.

Which types of content best answer these queries?

  • Blog posts
  • Social posts
  • Research studies
  • Analyst reports
  • Educational content

Which topics should you cover in the content?

If you know your target audience and their pain points, you should be able to determine topics that answer the questions they may have. For example, you own a DIY store and you know that customers often have problems stripping wallpaper. You could write an informative blog post on the best methods and tools to use when stripping wallpaper. In addition, if you create a social post that links to your blog, you could increase your reach.

Navigational searches

The searcher is looking for a particular website, brand, or piece of content.

Examples of navigational searches:

  • “Facebook”
  • “DVLA”
  • “Zara”
  •  “Samsung washing machine instruction manual”

Navigational searches are typically carried out at the “interest” stage of the buying journey.

What is the interest stage of the buying journey?

The interest stage is when a customer may already have a particular brand or product in mind. At this stage of the buying process, they are more likely to be performing searches for brand or product names.

Which types of content best answer these queries?

  • Training videos
  • White papers
  • How-to guides
  • Product/service pages

Which topics should you cover in the content?

Training videos are a great way of showing potential buyers how to use your product and service to fulfil their need. You can also repurpose your video content into a written how-to guide, which increases the potential of your videos being indexed within the search engines.

The more detailed your product or service page is, the more likely it is that a customer will shortlist your business against competitors. A good example would be if Site A and B are selling identical products at the same price. If Site A lacks content or information about the product, a customer is less likely to trust it. Whereas, if Site B includes a lengthy product description and a training video, it’s more likely to gain the customer’s trust.

Commercial searches

The searcher is looking for a particular product or service, but is still researching the best option before making a final decision or purchase.

Examples of commercial searches:

  • “Best family car”
  • “Top Chinese restaurant in London”
  • “Samsung v Apple”
  • “Emergency plumber near me”
  • “Shark vacuum review”

Commercial searches are typically carried out at the “consideration” stage of the buying journey.

What is the consideration stage of the buying journey?

The consideration stage is when a customer is evaluating their options with a view to making a purchase. At this stage of the buying process, they are more likely to be performing searches for reviews of the brand or service they are considering.

Which types of content best answer these queries?

  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Reviews
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Buying guides
  • Webinars

Which topics should you cover in the content?

Testimonials, case studies, and reviews are always good at reaffirming that you are a leading brand of choice or that your product is the best one to meet their needs. Potential customers are more likely to purchase a product or service based on good reviews and recommendations. This also works the other way, though – bad reviews are likely to put off potential customers. It’s important to address any negative feedback to improve confidence in your brand.

An FAQs section on your website is always a good way to show customers the level of service they can expect and what policies you have in place if an issue arises.

Buying guides allow you to showcase the best of your products for a variety of audiences. By looking back at your previous sales history, you should be able to determine which products will be of interest to particular customers. You can use this data to inform recommendations for potential customers. For example, for each item in your buying guide, you could include a complementary item (“people who bought x also bought y”).

Holding a webinar and inviting potential customers to participate is a great way to engage with customers and showcase the benefits of your product or services. Allowing customers to ask questions and receive answers within this environment is a good way to gain trust and increase the potential of conversion.

Transactional searches

The searcher is looking to make a purchase or booking. They may be searching for a local store that stocks the product they are looking to purchase.

Examples of transactional searches:

  • “Buy Apple iPhone 12”
  • “Cheap Nike Trainers”
  • “London Eye tickets”

Transactional searches happen at the “conversion” stage of the buying journey.

What is the conversion stage of the buying journey?

The conversion stage is when a customer has completed all of their research and is now ready to make a purchase.

It’s very important at this final stage of the buying process that it is easy for a customer to complete their purchase. Creating a good user experience is key here. A bad user experience could push the customer to abandon their purchase with you and go to a competitor instead.

Which content is helpful during the conversion stage?

The content a customer is going to need at this stage will depend on the checkout process to complete the purchase or booking. Generally, at this stage, a customer would expect a detailed and informative product or service webpage. This, coupled with positive testimonials and reviews, is more likely to convert than a competitor product page that includes very little information.

A page that contains a detailed product description, helpful reviews, and perhaps even a video tutorial, is far more likely to inspire trust in your brand and, ultimately, win the sale.

Top tip: Being upfront with delivery costs before the customer adds the product to the shopping cart is considered best practice. Just think, how many times have you added a product to a shopping cart and then not completed the transaction because of an unexpected delivery charge?

How can b4b help with your content strategy?

At b4b, we have a team of experts who specialise in creating content such as blogs, social posts, graphics, videos, literature, website copy, and much more. We will work with you to create content that fits within each stage of the buying journey, to increase the likelihood of conversion. For more information about the services we offer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today on 01202 684400.

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