Intent-based Media

What’s Your Intent? Decoding Consumer Search Signals for Ad Success

Dustin McManus
January 10, 2024

“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons,” said author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar.

We can certainly debate whether Ziglar’s quote is an oversimplification of the human mindset or downplays the savviness of today’s consumers. But the crux of his statement – that there are indeed specific, deeply-rooted reasons for why people buy what they do – is resoundingly true.

What Ziglar describes above is intent. And when it comes to marketing and advertising, consumer intent is everything. It informs, guides, and ultimately drives people to make a purchasing decision.

That’s why understanding intent is paramount – particularly when it comes to how consumers are searching for products and services in an oversaturated online world. The brands that discover, understand, and adapt to the search intent of consumers will be the ones to win the sale each and every time.

With that said, let’s explore the intricacies and nuances of consumer search intent and contextualize how these learnings can be leveraged to refine ad targeting, boost performance, and secure a more loyal customer base.

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as user intent, is the governing reason or reasons behind a user’s search query. It’s not just the words that make up the query; it’s the underlying purpose or goal that prompted a user to make their query in the first place.

A consumer’s intent is what they’re expressing interest in to solve for their needs. So, how can you understand what a consumer’s intent is? Start by paying attention to intent signals. The two ways consumers signal intent are:

  1. By opening a website or app
  2. By executing a partial or complete search term/query

The Actions Behind Consumer Intent Signals

Intent is expressed through various actions a consumer takes. This could be through seeking out information about a product, navigating to a specific page on a website, adding something into a shopping cart, or making an actual purchase.

We categorize these actions as intent types. Let’s take a look at the four intent types every advertiser should be mindful of.

  1. Open Intent: This translates into a consumer opening a website, browser, or app to begin their search.
  2. Category Intent: This translates into a consumer browsing for products within a specific category type (i.e. bedroom furniture, healthy snacks, winter jackets).
  3. Product Intent: This translates into a consumer searching for a specific product (i.e. Fire TV, Samsung Galaxy, Revitalift Eye Cream).
  4. Brand Intent: This translates into a consumer looking for a specific brand (i.e. Nike, Volvo, Home Depot).

It’s also pivotal that advertisers consider how the consumer search journey is evolving. These days, more and more people are searching outside of traditional search engines. Instead, consumers are favoring their favorite social media apps like TikTok or recognizable brands with e-commerce sites like Amazon.

How an individual is searching also matters. Search isn’t just typing out a few keywords anymore. Methods like visual and conversational search are becoming more popular because they foster more engaging, frictionless search experiences. 

Even the way search results are populating is changing. The growing prevalence of featured snippets and individual product pages/recommendations are providing more direct, relevant results to searchers in efforts to shorten the consideration phase of the consumer shopping journey.

Brands must consider all of these factors when planning and executing their advertising campaigns.

Why Search Intent Matters

To put it simply, it all goes back to what Ziglar said: there are very specific reasons for how, when, and why people buy something.

Understanding consumer intent allows you to comprehend the behavior and actions of shoppers. When you know the reasons why someone is searching for something and the needs they have, you can better market and position your product or service to them as a solution or answer.

Not only can capitalizing on expressed intent attract more potential customers, but it can also help brands develop more targeted, relevant ads and messaging that engages and ultimately converts them. When you build a strategy powered by consumer intent, you can create a more ideal search experience and buyer’s journey for your brand.

The importance of the alignment of your search media results and a consumer’s intent cannot be overstated. Effectively harnessing consumer search intent will lift the performance of your ads, increase conversion rates, boost profitability, and prolong the lifetime value of your customers.

Moreover, your brand and products will become more discoverable across all intent types, creating a beneficial snowball effect that will maximize the above outcomes.

How adMarketplace Can Help You Unlock Search Intent

We believe that consumer intent is the holy grail for advertising success here at adMarketplace. That’s why our search media solutions are designed to help decode and unlock intent signals so that brands can better target consumers based on their needs.

After understanding and even helping shape a consumer’s intent, our media products help advertisers deliver more relevant messaging through dynamic, transparent ad formats and media placements where consumers are actively searching. 

Learn more about how you can make your brand and products more discoverable to consumers as they express intent and ultimately win their purchase here. And if you’re ready to start optimizing your ad success by tapping into the power of consumer search intent, contact us today.