Types of Search Queries Explained [Comprehensive Guide]

types of search queries

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As you may already know, the most important task for your content is to match the user’s intent, aka give people what they want. If they’re looking for information, you should provide them with information. If they want to buy a product, you should show them a product page.

But how do you know what they want?

The answer is inside their query. People use different words and phrase their queries differently depending on their intent.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the three primary types of search queries users make and explore why targeting the right ones can make all the difference.

So, let’s unravel this mystery and equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions!

Table of Contents

What Is a Search Query?

A search query is a set of keywords or phrases that people type into their browser’s search bar to get what they want.

search query example

Search queries can range from simple one-word queries to complex, multi-word phrases and can be tailored to the user’s specific needs and preferences.

Keywords vs Search Queries

Keywords and search queries are not the same and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

A keyword is an average of multiple search queries. It’s usually 1 to 4 words and has the main parts of all of them. For example, “piano movers.”

A search query is what people actually type in their browsers. It can be misspelled “piano movers,” out of order “movers piano,” and have additional words “piano movers near me” or “best piano movers.”

Keywords are what you actually target and optimize for when you write a page. You put them in your title, meta description, URL, H1 heading and several times on the page. You should never use search queries for that because they vary greatly based on how every user speaks.

#1 Navigational Search Queries

A navigational search query shows an internet of a person to visit a specific resource. For example, Netflix or YouTube. These are the most popular queries with “google,” “youtube” and “facebook” in the top 3 searches worldwide.

They can be phrased as a brand name, “netflix,” or as specific content a person is looking for on that resource, “bojack horseman netflix.”

Should You Target Navigational Queries?

Yes, but only when they are related to your own brand.

It’s obvious that a person looking for “youtube” on search engines wants to find a YouTube’s homepage and is not interested in any other website, so it makes no sense to try and optimize your website for that query.

However, you must check that your website shows up for your brand query.

Ideally, you want to have both your website and your GMB listing on the search engine results page (SERP) when people are looking for your company. To make it happen, you need NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency among all resources.

Use Navigational Search Queries in Google Ads

Depending on your market, it might be a good idea to target your competitors’ brand names for your ads. Sometimes people search for local companies and click on the first link they see without even realizing what website they got on.

You can’t use your competitor’s name in the ad copy, but you can make a headline and description that shows your product or service is a much better alternative. For legal reasons, I can’t say I’ve done it myself, but trust me, it works.

For the reason above, you should target your own brand name for ads as well. Since you’re the owner of the name, you’ll have a very high “quality score,” and those clicks will be extremely cheap.

#2 Informational Search Queries

As the name implies, an informational search query refers to searches for information: answers to questions, guides and so on.

It’s unlikely that users are looking for a specific resource or a website, and it’s very unlikely that they are looking to buy something. They just want to get the information.

Should You Target Informational Search Queries?

If they’re not looking to buy my product, why would I target these informational queries?

These informational queries are hard to monetize, but hard doesn’t mean impossible.

But before we get to the money, let me just mention that your website needs authority in a topic in order to rank for it. With all these AI tools emerging every day and constant Google updates, the only thing that doesn’t change is the need for “Authority.”

To establish it in your niche, you need to write enough content to fully cover the topic. To get there, you might need just 60 articles or 6,000 articles. And while you may rank well on a local level without it, the chances of ranking on a national or worldwide level are slim to none.

Now back to the money part.

Informational searches can be different. Let’s say it’s a how-to request about SEO. Something like “How to do keyword research for a plumber” or “How to add a sitemap to robots.txt.”

In order to increase your chances of turning it into a conversion, you should show a person how they can do it with your tool. Teach them all the steps using only your tool. If your tool is easy to use and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, it will be a no-brainer that they should sign up for your service and do it that way.

If you don’t believe that it might work, check Ahrefs. They’ve grown to $100M using mostly this type of content marketing.

#3 Transactional Search Queries

transactional query example

Transactional queries are queries that clearly show the search intent of a person to purchase a product or service.

They can include a brand name like “Acer gaming laptop” or be generic like “gaming laptop Toronto.” They may or may not include words like “buy,” “for sale,” “purchase,” or “order.”

Another important distinction is that they will have shopping results at the top of the search results:

shopping results

For a local transactional search query, there will also be a “Map Pack” with business names and reviews:

Should You Target Transactional Search Queries?

Unless you’re a non-profit, you must do it. These transactional searches will bring you the highest ROI and are your main targets for maintenance and optimization.

These pages are also your biggest challenge for design. Unlike all other pages, here you need to include detailed descriptions of services/products, your reviews, special offers and CTA buttons like “sign up for 10% off your order” or “get a free quote.”

How Else Can You Use Transactional Search Queries?

It’s also a good idea to use transactional keywords for Google Ads.

Although I wouldn’t recommend it as a long-term solution because of how expensive it is, especially for professional services like lawyers, it can be a good idea if you need leads tomorrow.

And if you decide to do ads, make sure you target only transactional keywords that have “near me” or keywords like “piano movers.” Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your budget on low-return informational queries. To find the right keywords, use Google’s Keyword Planner, that’s free for all Google ads users and lets you geo-target specific areas to see popular keywords and CPCs for each of them.

Final Thoughts

Now you know that there are three types of search queries, and you should spend most of your time working on informational and transactional ones. This concept is very important to understand in order to choose the right keywords and do your SEO effectively.

If you’re trying to do Search Engine Optimization yourself and find it extremely confusing, contact our Toronto seo agency for help! We will provide you with a free SEO audit and assessment of your current strategy, as well as give you tips on how to improve it so you can grow your search traffic, appear higher in search results and get free leads.


There are 3 types of search queries: navigational, where people are looking for a specific website; informational, where people are looking for explanations and guides; and transactional, where people are looking to buy something.

After a person enters their search query into the search bar, a search engine generates a set of results known as SERP, showing all pages that it thinks are relevant to the user’s search query.

Search term and search query can be used interchangeably, and both mean a word or phrase a person enters into their browser’s search bar.

To do a search query in Google, type in the word or phrase that you want to search in the search bar.

About Author
Gleb Zavizenov
Gleb Zavizenov
Hi, my name is Gleb! I’ve been in the digital marketing industry for over 5 years, and I’ve seen it all — from small mom-and-pop shops trying to get some visibility online by creating their first website to large publicly traded companies trying to increase their share price.
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