The Psychology of Search Intent: What Is Customer-Centric SEO

Alon Keren October 3rd, 2022

Updated on October 6th, 2022

Do you know the biggest on-page SEO problem on most business website homepages?

Their keyword selection isn’t customer-centric. Instead, it is driven by their ego and desire to look superior to their competitors by using superlatives and buzzwords.

Most businesses do this out of fear and anxiety because they don’t want to come across as a small company with no reputation.

There’s nothing wrong with presenting a bold face on your site. But in doing so, you must not hurt your SEO strategy.

This is why you should always consider your customer’s perspective when choosing keywords for your website’s homepage, sales pages, and content marketing strategy.

In SEO terms, we call this keyword search intent.

In this article, we’ll discuss the psychology behind keyword search intent and how you can use it to rank for keywords that drive relevant traffic and leads to your site.

Let’s dive in.

What Is Search Intent In SEO?

Search intent is the reason why a person searches for a keyword on Google or any other search engine. It is among the most critical search engine ranking factors, allowing Google to show accurate search results for different keywords.

For example, what do you think a person wants to know when they search for “email marketing software.”

  • Are they looking for the definition of email marketing software?
  • Do they want to know how email marketing software works?
  • Are they looking for a list of the best email marketing software?
  • Do they want to buy email marketing software?

It could be any of those things (or something else).

Similarly, when a searcher types “apple” in Google Search, are they looking for the brand Apple or the fruit?

What’s their intent? What do they want to know?

Google’s job is to detect the search intent behind a keyword using its vast data sets on user behavior, search patterns, and numerous other factors.

This is why it encourages website owners and marketers to carefully consider the search intent of a keyword before optimizing their content around it.

Considering the size and sophistication of Google’s algorithms, it’s safe to say that it accurately detects the search intent for most keywords.

Why Is Aligning Content With Search Intent Critical?

What do you think will happen if you search for the keyword “quick workout to lose belly fat” and the top result is “The Ultimate Guide To Losing Belly Fat in 1 Year”?

You won’t click it, right? Because you’re looking for something quick.

But even if you click it, you won’t stay on that page for long because it doesn’t have what you want.

In simpler words, the result doesn’t match your search intent.

Since Google is pretty smart at detecting search intent, it won’t show that result on top because it knows you want tips for a quick workout, not a year-long fitness plan.

This shows why using keywords with the right search intent to optimize your content is so crucial. If you don’t do it, Google won’t rank your content if it’s the most comprehensive and well-written piece on the topic.

But irrespective of SEO, search intent helps you understand your audience’s real needs and allows you to create content that speaks directly to them, solves their problems, and builds brand loyalty.

Understanding keyword search intent is also crucial when optimizing your website’s homepage. 

It’s OK to use a few ego-boosting punchlines for image building. But to drive organic search traffic, you must think from your customer’s POV and use keywords that match their search intent.

Understanding Search Intent In Different Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey

Search intent varies with your audience’s awareness level. So, based on the typical buyer’s journey, there are four main types of keyword search intent.


Searchers use keywords with informational search intent to learn more about a topic. Here are a few examples of informational keywords.

  • What is content marketing?
  • How to create a digital marketing strategy
  • How to write persuasive sales emails
  • How to increase email open rate
  • Tips to increase website traffic

Buyers use these keywords in the early awareness stage of their purchase journey. Their goal is not to buy a product or look for options. They’re only looking for information on a topic.

How to use informational search intent for content creation

These keywords are ideal for creating informational blog posts that answer your audience’s questions and position you as an expert. Use them to optimize your blog posts and resource pages.

For example, we wrote a blog post about the B2B marketing funnel and optimized it for that exact match keyword.

We knew that the search intent standing behind the user who’s typing this phrase is purely informational. So we made a blog post that explains what the B2B marketing funnel is, what are its stages, how to build a B2B funnel etc.

And lo and behold, at the time of writing this blog post, we’re ranking at #1 for that keyword.


Searchers use keywords with navigational search intent when they’re looking to learn more about a brand, product, or company they already know. Examples of navigational keywords are:

  • YouTube
  • [Company Name] CEO
  • [Brand] net worth
  • Where is the [company] office located?
  • Hubspot blog

Buyers use navigational keywords in the awareness stage of their purchase journey. 

How to use navigational search intent for content creation

These keywords are suitable for your site’s Homepage, About, Contact, and Team pages that allow your audience to learn more about your company.


Searchers use keywords with commercial search intent when they’re actively evaluating different products and brands. Here are some examples:

  • Mailchimp vs. GetResponse comparison
  • Canva review
  • Best design tools for freelancers
  • Zapier alternatives

Buyers use commercial keywords when actively searching for different products and are in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. At this stage, they’re no longer looking for information. They want solid product info to help them make the right choice.

How to use commercial search intent for content creation

These keywords are ideal for optimizing comparison pages on your site that help your audience see the difference between you and your competitors. You can also use them to create detailed blog content that positions your brand as the best option.

There is one phenomenal and classic example of how a SaaS company used the psychology of commercial search intent for its advantage. That company is Zendesk, a leading customer service software.

Zendesk thought about the search intent of people who searched for the term “zendesk alternative”. What do we know about these people? 

  1. They’re searching for customer service software.
  2. They could be considering Zendesk, but they’re not quite sure that’s the perfect solution to their problem, so they want to browse and compare other products.
  3. Their intent to purchase is very high, compared to some holding an informational search intent, such as “what is a customer service platform”.

Zendesk took all of this under consideration and decided to invest in a project that would show these people just how valuable they are. And they did it by demonstrating some very impressive out-of-the-box thinking.

They bought the domain, and made a hilarious parody of a grunge-style, Seattle-based, alternative-rock band named “Zendesk Alternative”.

The site has a video telling the story of how this rock band is recording an album about customer service.

Now, while their project came out as extremely entertaining, that’s not all Zendesk had to do to win the war against their competitors.

Don’t forget what we’re talking about here – thinking about your prospects’ search intent, and taking over the SERPs’ real estate to get the SEO traffic driven by this keyword’s search intent.

And they did.

If you search “zendesk alternative”, this hilarious and failing rock band is ranking high on the first page of the search results.

It’s highly likely that Zendesk has left an extremely positive impression on whoever stumbled upon this project. Therefore, it’s an excellent example of what you can do if you open your mind and start thinking from your prospect’s POV. 


Searchers use transactional keywords when they know what to buy and want to find the best deal. Examples include:

  • Bluehost coupons
  • Mailchimp free plan
  • Buy HP Probook laptop

Buyers use transactional keywords in the decision stage of the purchase journey when they’re sure what to buy. At this stage, you don’t need to convince them anymore. Just give them the best offer.

How to use transactional search intent for content creation

Use these keywords to optimize your sales, product, and pricing pages for people willing to give your product a shot. Make it extremely easy for them to find exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, if you search “mailchimp free plan”, you’d notice that Mailchimp built a landing page specifically for this keyword.

The landing page is basically a respin to the pricing page, but with content that is SEO-optimized for the Free plan specifically. And it worked, as it’s ranking at the top of the SERPs.

Why do this?

Well, first let’s see how many people are searching for Mailchimp’s free pricing plan every month. According to Ahrefs, there are roughly 4.5K people in the US alone that are searching for different variations combining the terms “mailchimp” and “free”. 


Now, let’s consider the search intent, which I’ll remind you, is transactional. While these people are looking for something free, we know two very important things about them:

  1. They know Mailchimp, so they’re not in the brand awareness stage. They’re further down the funnel. They know what email marketing software is, how to use it, and they might even know who Mailchimp’s competitors are.
  2. They have chosen to try Mailchimp, providing Mailchimp has a free plan.

More than 4.5K people a month that want to sign up for your SaaS and enter your sales funnel is no joke. And Mailchimp understands that. Therefore, they provide their users with an accessible and fast way to subscribe to their Free plan.

My guess is that their conversion rate from this effort is extremely high. Of course, they have their work cut out for them to move users from freemium to premium. But the point is, they started their thinking process from the search intent, and conquered this stage of the funnel.

How To Identify A Keyword’s Search Intent

So, now that we understand search intent, why it’s essential, and how it connects with the buyer’s journey, let’s discuss ways to identify a keyword’s search intent.

Method 1: Analyze The Keyword

When you understand the connection between search keywords and the buyer’s journey, you can often find a keyword’s search intent just by looking at it. This is especially true for long-tail keywords, which make up almost 70% of all searches.

For example, 

  • How to lose weight – Informational intent
  • Best weight loss courses – commercial intent
  • [Fish oil brand] outlet near me – navigational intent 
  • Kajabi pricing – transactional intent

However, sometimes a keyword’s search intent isn’t obvious. This is where you’ll need Google’s help.

Method 2: Analyze Google Search Results Pages (SERPs)

Google is better than anyone at understanding a keyword’s search intent. So, when you’re unsure about a keyword, search Google for it to see the top-ranking content. 

Doing this would tell you the following about your target keyword’s search intent.

  • The content type your audience wants (e.g., homepage, blog page, resource page, comparison, etc.)
  • The suitable content format (listicle, how-to, review, etc.)
  • The other closely related keywords with the same search intent
  • The content length and depth

Let’s consider an example keyword, “best email marketing software.” I’m confused if the search intent is to find the number one best email software or a list of tools the user can choose from.

Plus, should I optimize an email marketing company’s homepage for this keyword because it looks perfect for it?

Let’s see.


The first page contains articles listing and comparing different email marketing tools. 

They don’t feature any company’s homepage or pages recommending a specific product.

So, using this keyword for your site’s homepage won’t work (although you can use it as a secondary keyword).

If you want to rank for it, write a detailed list post featuring the top email marketing tools and position your product as the best to convert the reader into a customer.

Understand The Psychology Of Search Intent For SEO Growth

As you’ve seen in this article, understanding search intent is vital to creating accurate, high-quality content that resonates with your audience and helps you rank in organic search results. It’s a critical part of keyword research and SEO that you cannot ignore.

If you want help identifying keywords with the right search intent for your website or want to discuss your SEO or content strategy with our experts, schedule a free call now.