Analysing and modeling the user search intent goes beyond the simplistic categorisation of informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial. Users are complex, and the purpose of their search can’t be easily inserted into the four boxes of categorisation standard in most search platforms, articles, and commentaries.
The search intent is usually conceived as the purpose behind a search. The user intent should focus on the goal, motivations, and reasoning behind a search. Keyword search data on third-party software tools, Google Search Console, and Google Keyword planner are a goldmine for data-centric marketers. There are user stories, prompts, and triggers around the public and private keyword data. Reducing use intent to general actions that suit us as marketers deprives us of gaining deeper insights into why users search in the first instance.
The concept of intention has been explored in social psychology, and this book establishes the difference between intentional action and intention. Intentionality is viewed as the quality of actions performed on purpose. The book states that the judgment of an action’s intentionality requires the acknowledgment of the agent’s intention. On the other hand, the intention is the mental state that precedes the action or occurs without it. The intention is a prerequisite for intentional action or intentionality. For example, if a user types the keyword’ UK house prices’ in a search engine like Google, one would classify that as an intentional action. The user did not subconsciously type that while sleeping or watching their favourite series. In evaluating this as an intentional action, some form of intention must be ascribed to it. The reasoning or mental categorisation may have prompted this user and their desired outcome. This analysis will be based on hypotheses or assumptions, as it is almost impossible to interview the user to find out why they’ve typed in such search terms. It is clear that intentions focus on the ‘why’ and intentionality on the ‘what.’ The ‘what’ is often clear to see but to fully understand it, one needs to make some predictions regarding the ‘why.’
In search marketing, our perception and understanding of search intent are solely focused on the action element and are not broken down based on verticals. The philosopher Donald Davidson maintains that intention is irreducible to action. That is, not all intentions can be determined by action. And those reasons explain actions as much as they are the causes of these actions. Similarly, intentions can also lead to several actions and outcomes.’ We often walk backward from the action to the possible or plausible intentions to infer intent. Han and Perrreira mentioned that intention needs to receive sufficient research and also stated that it is part of the theory of action and, more specifically, the rational choice theory. Decision theory is believed to be part of the rational choice theory, and the research focus has been primarily on actions, strategies, preferences, and outcomes. There needs to be more work carried out on intentions and how they can be better understood in the search industry. This would unravel many insights that will guide businesses in better understanding their customers, products, and market.
Intention in the broad context:
Intention can be viewed from an inferential framework where one would have to reason to ascribe why specific actions have taken place. To effectively perform this analysis, the wonder content needs to be considered. Cues and states from the immediate context will aid a better understanding of the action and its possible intentions. This is why intentions can be better defined or analysed within the decision theory framework. And, to be more specific, causal decision theory.
Causal element of intentions:
There have been causal explanations for intentions across various researchers and fields of study. Some philosophers have also argued that intentions and intentionality are present when actions cause outcomes that align with the goals. The causal self-reference of intention means that intentions cause the actions they represent. In addition, cognitive psychologists view intentions as a causal antecedent of actions. It builds a causal case for understanding and acknowledging intentions.
Intentions and beliefs:
Intentions have been explained to be a product of desire and belief. To be more precise, as an output of reasoning. What is belief? Beliefs are assumptions of how the world works and represent the informational state of the agent. Beliefs differ from knowledge because they are not fact or may not always be accurate and are often updated when new evidence is revealed through a process called belief revision. Social psychologists argue that intention requires a belief concept, and an agent’s beliefs determine and constrain actions. There could also be a causal element to beliefs. It is also common to suppose that beliefs play a causal role in the manifestation of behavior.
Intention and causal decision theory
Decision theory is generally conceived as the reasoning process that pertains to an agent’s choices. In comparison, causal decision theory embodies the principle of rational choice and is focused on the consequences or outcomes of an agent’s action. In a nutshell, it establishes that causality plays a significant role in decision-making among possible actions.
Search intent should focus on what a user is interested in and the possible reasons and motivations behind the search. It is more or less the ‘why’ behind a search. In the subsequent blogs, we will explore several search terms in different verticals and apply causal techniques to detect the possible intentions and decisions around the search. Search can be considered a decision problem.