What Is Intent Data And What Are The Most Effective Ways To Use It To Drive Sales

What Is Intent Data And What Are The Most Effective Ways To Use It To Drive Sales

In the digital age, our very lives are driven by data. From the moment we wake up and check the weather report on our phones, to when we travel in search of the best places to spend our vacations/ Nowadays, entire businesses are built on mere data, with ride-hailing services such as Grab and Uber being such successful businesses despite the fact that they do not own fleets of cars, or booking businesses like Agoda and Airbnb flourishing even when they don’t own any properties.

The lives we lead are driven by data. And our mobile devices are the primary conduit through which data is gathered. They are what allow advertisers and businesses to gain insight on our interests, buying habits, and even our behavior. The fact that almost everyone who lives in the modern world has a smartphone adds to the potency of using intent data to drive sales. But, before we delve into how to best use intent data, you first have to ask:


What Is Intent Data?

Intent data is defined as the information on a user’s online behavior. This includes website visits, product reviews, a user’s attendance at webinars, downloads, and even when the user consumes online content on a given topic. This is built upon the assumption that if you’re searching for something, there’s a very high chance that you have an interest in that field and that you’re more likely to buy a product or service, whether it’s out of curiosity or if you really do have a need for it.

For example: A person who collects sneakers is bound to watch YouTube videos on the latest releases and will also most likely search eCommerce websites for a specific model that they intend to buy. This information is then used to tailor the ads that the individual is shown. He is now more likely to get ads that are shoe-related because the prospective buyer has shown an interest in these products.

There are also three types of user intent:

Informational – applies to a search that a user makes in order to learn about something or to solve a problem. Informational searches tend to favor guides, boards, and forums.

A good example of this are searches like: “what is the meaning of xxxxxx?” or “how to spend a one-day vacation in Hawaii” or even “What is intent data?”.

Commercial – these are searches that are made with the intent of making a purchase that is not immediate. This can be indicative of a prospective buyer’s interest or curiosity in a certain item but is not yet completely ready at the moment to make a purchase.

For example, when a user searches for “Best Nike Running Shoes” you already have an idea that the buyer is looking for running shoes from Nike and will most likely be interested in shoes that are either from Nike or at least if those non-Nike shoes are built for running.

Transactional – these are searches that are made with the intention of making a purchase immediately. Whether it’s because the buyer has had sufficient time to decide whether or not to buy a product or if it’s because of an emergency from which the need for a particular product arises, the core concept to consider here is that the buyer has every intention of buying a particular product.

With that thought in mind, when a prospective buyer searches for a specific product, like for example, “Nike Pegasus 36 for sale”, you can already assume that this buyer has an idea of what type of Nike running shoe he wants and is going to make a purchase when the price and conditions of the transaction match his preference.


Where Can You Get Intent Data?

Now, before you’re even able to make use of intent data to your advantage, you first need to be able to figure out where you can acquire it. There are many sources from which you can acquire user intent data and you don’t always have to pay for it either.


One source you can get intent data is your Google Search Console, which will give you an insight into what keywords users are searching for as well as the frequency that those keywords are used.

This is based on the fact that when prospective buyers consider making a purchase they almost always do some online research on the product in order for them to make an informed decision.

As you may have already be expecting, the higher the frequency that a keyword was searched is indicative of the fact that there are more people that have shown an interest in that keyword or product.

While this data may not exactly be used to target specific individuals, as far as user intent is concerned, this source and the data gathered from it are sufficient to help you direct your marketing efforts. When search inquiries for a particular product are high,  you can then adjust your campaign to focus on that particular product in your catalog, or you can even offer a better alternative provided that you have brand reputation to do so.

If you’ve used GSC in the past and you’ve gotten dissuaded by its limited records (it was only able to track the past 3 months), the latest version should at least sway your mind enough to cause you to give it another try. The latest version is now able to track the past 16 months of activity.


Another source where you can get your intent data from is through your analytic tools. Whether it’s Google Analytics or any other on-site web analytics tool, you’re going to be able to see what the visitors on your website are searching for. An internal site search is a very potent tool because there’s a big chance that the people visiting your site are already interested in your brand and they are looking for a product within your inventory.

If visitors are already interested in your brand, and you know what product they are looking for, you can focus your ads on that product type or an equivalent product that you have in your inventory. However, it’s important to note that on-site tracking is not enabled by default and you’re going to have to manually enable it for it to be useful for gathering intent data.

Another way that you can gather user intent is through surveys on your site. While analytics tools will be able to help you determine external and internal search term frequencies, surveys are going to give you an opportunity to determine the reason behind a user’s visit upon your site. You can ask questions like: “what are you looking for? Are you open to using its alternatives?” Or even simply asking “Did you find what you needed?” While it’s true that surveys will tend to have many more questions than shown above, these are the questions you need in order to determine visitor intent.

For best results, consider putting all of these methods to use and combining the data that you gather from them. While you can indeed buy user data online, it’s a waste of money, especially when you’re able to make use of free tools to infer the data from.


So, How Do You Utilize Intent Data?

The most effective way to use intent data is to personalize your website to cater to anonymous visitors. It’s been proven time and again that personalized content is more likely to cause a visitor to perform a particular action, whether that’s in purchasing a product or donating to a cause, or signing up.

Intent data can also be used to build your email list and to allow your brand to connect with potential buyers. This allows you to extend your reach and to fill your inbound traffic with people who have shown an interest in what you have to offer. As we all know, quality leads mean that there’s a higher chance of conversion.

This will also allow you to play to your strengths and to determine which products or services you need to gear your campaign towards. This will even determine what products are trending and what exactly prospective buyers want from a particular item.

This is an important detail because this is also an opportunity to differentiate your brand from that of your competitors when you’re able to introduce a product that’s not only at par with what’s trending, but may even be a much better alternative.

There are many strategies that help drive sales and using intent data is one of them. The very core of marketing lies in the profound understanding of these strategies in order for you to make full use of them. Tailor your strategies to your campaign needs and test their effectiveness. It is important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends to ensure that you’re able to use every advantage you have over your competitors.


I'm a growth marketing consultant who helps B2B, SaaS, IT, technology and software companies generate more leads, sales and grow revenue online. I offer expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO, digital marketing, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices. Connect with me on LinkedIn and schedule a free marketing strategy session!


  1. blank Jose C. Thomas : January 18, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Would you say intent data is similar to “search intent”, since I remembered another blog post discussing search intent, and the concept is quite similar?

    • Hi there Jose,

      Thanks for visiting! And good question, by the way.

      You are correct that search intent is related to intent data, but not 100% similar.

      As the name might suggest, search intent is the user’s intent when searching specific queries on the search engines (mainly Google, as we all know).

      Intent data, on the other hand, comprises on user’s intention on any online activities.

      So, we can say that search intent is an element of intent data, but intent data is not only limited to search intent. Hope it’s clear.

      Thanks and best regards,


  2. Hey Mike,

    I think it’s a rarely discussed topic, so thanks.

    I’d probably add that we can also use intent data to run our ad campaigns (that is, for better targeting). I believe you didn’t really discussed this aspect in the article, but correct me if I’m wrong 🙂

    Thanks, keep up the good work, Mike!

    • Thanks for the kind words, really appreciate it!

      Yes you are correct, we can also use intent data to personalize our advertising campaign and target a more specific audience (while observing their intent). Also common these days is to use intent data to improve cost-efficiency and targeting of remarketing campaigns.

      Thanks for your contribution,


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