What are search queries?

Altin Tola

by Altin Tola · Updated Sep 15, 2021

What is a search query?

A search query is a term or phrase that people type into a search engine to find information about a particular topic. It can consist of an individual, single word; a phrase; or a set of words or terms.

After running a search query, a list of relevant results is presented, known as a search engine results page.

The three types of search queries

There’s an infinite amount of search queries, but they can all be categorized in three different types: informational, navigational, and transactional. Here's what you need to know about each one.

Informational

An informational search query is when a user is looking for information about a specific subject. Most of these queries are in the form of questions and typically start with who, what, when, where, why, and how.

People who perform informational searchrd are usually looking for answers to their questions, whether it be in the form of a guide, an infographic, or a video.

Some examples of informational queries include:

  • How to make homemade pasta
  • When was Steve Jobs born
  • Why is the sky blue

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A navigational query is one where the user is looking to find a specific website, social media account, or blog post. The three most common ones on Google, “youtube,” “facebook,” and “amazon” are all navigational.

Other examples of navigational search queries include:

  • netflix
  • google maps
  • twitter kanye west

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Transactional

Transactional search queries are used with the intent of completing a transaction, such as searching for services or products to purchase. These search queries typically include words such as “purchase,” “buy,” or “order.” They may also include exact product and brand names.

Some examples:

  • order new slippers
  • buy iphone12 pro max
  • purchase dog food

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How to optimize for each search query type

The type of search query will tell you about the users’ intent and what kind of results they’re expecting to see. To optimize for a search query, your content should match the intent behind that query.

Often the intent behind a keyword is obvious. When it’s not, the easiest way to identify it, is by looking at the current Google SERP results for that query.

Difference between keywords and search queries

Though often used interchangeably, keywords and search queries are not the same. Keywords are phrases that businesses include in their content so that search engines will rank their pages in result listings. For example, a business that sells all-natural soap may target keywords such as “natural soap” or “chemical-free soap.”

On the other hand, search queries are what users type into their preferred search engine to find information.

Sticking with the same example, a user may search for “where to buy natural soap” or “benefits of natural soap for sensitive skin.”

The biggest difference between the two is who uses them. Marketers use keywords to drive traffic, while users type search queries into search engines to find information.