Search Intent for B2B SEO: A Guide for Marketers

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

Every time you do a search on Google, you want something. And it’s safe to assume that other people who do that same search want something similar.

Google pays a lot of attention to this phenomenon. And it matters in ways that you might not even think about.

It’s called search intent. And it’s a huge part of B2B SEO

But let’s pull back the lens a little bit:

Advertising is no joke to Google. In fact, they made almost $135B in advertising in 2019. And a good chunk of that came from search advertising.

The reason they’re swimming in ad money is because they have a lot of advertisers

Why do they have a lot of advertisers? Because they have a lot of users

And why do they have a lot of users? Because they deliver, bar none, the best search results in the world

Google’s search results might be the most incredible thing ever created by humans.

Put it this way: Fire is awesome, but it can kill you. The Saturn V helped us get to the moon, but it couldn’t learn

Google’s (probably) not going to kill you, and it can learn.

Google gives you the Library of Alexandria in your pocket, accessible instantly, sometimes with your voice.

(Let’s be honest, though: Probably not with your voice. At least for B2B search.)

How does this all come together? It’s because Google pays attention to search intent. SEO isn’t just about matching keywords anymore. 

Search Intent for B2B SEO: Featured Image

Defining Search Intent for B2B

So what even is search intent? Here’s a definition:

Search intent is Google learning and understanding what people like you actually want when they look for something.

That sounds really simple, but it manifests itself into some really interesting and important ways. 

There are three types of search intent you need to worry about for sustainable SEO, and these dictate the results Google gives. Let’s dive in.

Type #1: ‘Buying’ Search Intent

If everyone who is looking for a certain thing on Google appears to want to buy that thing, Google is going to display eCommerce results.

You’re going to have Google Shopping listings where you can buy things instantly. In the organic part of the SERP, you’ll see places where you can buy the product now.

So how does this apply to search intent for B2B SEO? If you have a solution that is similar in terminology to something that gets bought instantly a lot, you need to come up with a way for people to find it and buy it online.

Yes, this applies even if you don’t traditionally sell online, or if you have a high-ticket item. (This is why you sometimes see Google Shopping results for stuff that costs $20,00 or more.) Even if nobody would actually buy it online, you need to play the game.

Maybe your solution is fundamentally different, completely custom, incredibly expensive, and enterprise-grade as opposed to consumer-grade. That’s wonderful.

But at a certain level, Google just can’t tell it apart from the crowd. It’s good, but it’s not that good. 

Type #2: ‘Informational’ Search Intent

If users seem to be researching a particular topic, it’s going to end up in the informational search intent category.

For example, every month more than half a million people Google this: Why were cornflakes invented? That’s a research query, and it returns informational results, rather than promotional ones.

(Pro tip: If you see Wikipedia really high up, it’s probably due to informational search intent.)

If your website is heavily promotional – all about you and why you’re good and what you do – you’re not matching informational search intent. And you won’t do very well. Again, you need to play the game.

So, how do you match this type of search intent? Typically, you should churn out some blog posts. Your homepage isn’t going to be Wikipedia and your core product pages and solutions pages aren’t going to be Wikipedia – they still have to tell people why your thing is different. But if you want to capture people who are researching, you have to offer the information.

Type #3: ‘How-To’ Search Intent

Google is perhaps most often used to find answers to questions. How do I do X? How do I do Y?

So … how do you conquer this type of search intent for B2B SEO? The obvious answer: Have an answer.

If you have a topic that you’re writing about that’s in the how-to search intent category, you need to answer the question. And you need to answer it well. Thoroughly. Comprehensively. But we heed you this warning: know that it’s not about you. It’s about answering the question

After all, there’s nothing a user likes less than a question that’s answered as a thinly veiled sales pitch. And Google won’t like it either.

If you think your blog solely exists to attract users and leads and not made to provide information, you’re wrong. Instead, if you give a true, comprehensive, solid answer (without shoving a thinly-veiled sales pitch down readers’ throats), they will like you more than they did before. At the very least, they might remember you. They will have a good opinion of you. They would’ve had a good experience on your website.

And what is Google if not a user experience engine? 

Look, creating how-to content this may not immediately bear fruit. But we’d much rather someone walk away with a good opinion of us. It certainly beats the alternative.

Plus, good how-to content is a fantastic driver of the rankings you really want.

How Do You Determine What Type of Search Intent a Term Has?

Google it.

We’re serious.

If there is something we want to rank for, we Google it. It’s really not all that insane. If you find that the results for the term that you just Googled had nothing to do with you – whether they’re all academic papers or part of a completely different industry – you’re going to need to adjust your strategy.

So know your term and know it well. Google it. See what shows. And see what you can do to make sure your users can find you right away. You’ll need to create something similar to what’s popping up if you want to rank.


Google exists to make money. And they make all that money in a genius way: by delivering results people like. The way they deliver results people like isn’t at all about keyword matches. It’s about the fact that the intent matches one of the following three types of search intent for B2B SEO:

  • Buying Search Intent
  • Informational Search Intent
  • How-To Search Intent

Google derived this data from many many many billions of searches over many years. So trust us when we say the big boss knows exactly what people want. It doesn’t matter what you think, feel, or even how you sell – if you want a term and Google has decided that, and the end of the day, the way you’re presenting your information doesn’t match what people want, they’re just not going to show you. 

They’re going to show the guy who plays by the rules.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.