When you’re on the go or sitting at home with your laptop, there is a good chance that you’ll type specific words into Google for different reasons. You probably don’t think about categorizing your searches based on your different motivations, but that’s exactly what many researchers have already done to understand how and why people search.
From restaurant reviews to shopping for a t-shirt, we all find ourselves typing many different types of keyword phrases into search engines, like where are we going to go for lunch and what is the price of airfare to California?
The words that we use to find what we’re looking for reflect our deepest held desires and motivations. To rank well in Google, every site should be built in service of the user and build an experience that helps them complete their goal. By deepening our understanding of how people search, we’re able to create site experiences that makes users and search engines happy.
3 Main Types of Search Queries
The definition of a search query is the words that someone enters into a search engine, like Google, to fulfill a specific need or desire. The studies on keyword intent generally organize these keyword phrases into three main categories: informational, navigational, and transactional. Create a balance between producing these three types of keyword and you’ll be able to steadily grow your audience over the long run.
Below, you’ll find examples of the three different ways how people search and their respective value for building site traffic and revenue.
Informational Search Queries – On the Road to Discovery
At 65% of the total share of organic queries, informational searches are by far the most widely used. These are the keywords talked about on SEO blogs and forums and they typically fall best into content marketing.
What is an informational query? It’s typically a non-transactional keyword or set of keywords typed by someone who wants to learn more about a product, service, or someone who is seeking information about a specific topic.
For example, I have a skateboard that I need to change the trucks on and I’m curious as to whether I could do this myself. In my case, there is some transactional intent because if I find that it’s too difficult to do on my own, then I’ll happily pass it on for someone to take care of.
Informational queries expand the keyword base, but they’re generally the lowest converting, unless you’re a publisher. It’s best to build content ideas around informational queries and use them for increasing your relevancy and getting more backlinks.
Navigational Search Queries – Going Somewhere Fast?
Chances are you’ve been online to purchase at least one article of clothing, maybe a pair of shoes, or even an end table. Many of the queries that go directly to your brand are actually navigational searches — when the user navigates directly to your brand by typing in your exact domain name or using a combination of keywords in Google search.
Typically navigational searches are performed by acquired users, so great job on getting people to love you! These are brand loyal customers, who instead of braving the wild west of search results, will happily turn to your site for a clean and beautiful landing experience.
You’ll want to rank for your own brand name and possibly others. Ranking for your competitor’s brand name means that you have the opportunity to acquire more organic traffic to your site. Since the Google search intent of users is to go to a competitor’s site, this traffic will most likely be lower converting than the rest of your site but it’s worth the effort.
Not all navigational search queries include the entire domain, like http://www.mysite.com. In fact, many navigational searches are performed in Google and look something like “mysite.com faqs list” or maybe just “mysite com”. You should safeguard the top spots so you don’t lose out to your competitors.
Transactional Search Queries – The Do Gooders of the Web
This final kind of search query is often the most sought after for eCommerce and SaaS. You can define transactional searches as either those in which users are looking to complete a specific action or those in which a user is looking to purchase an item.
A couple months ago, I sat down to purchase a solar keyboard and did a bunch of research before making my final decision. It was clear from the outset that I was a bottom of funnel customer — I knew I wanted a solar keyboard but didn’t know what kind. I finally settled on a keyboard after reading product reviews and ratings on Google.
Transactional keywords are the most valuable because they are used by people who’s intent is to purchase. Keyword phrases including the name of a specific product or service are generally transactional.
Combining your understanding of how people search with the types of web searches will help you find new opportunities in-house and in an agency. Once you’ve identified search intent and categorized your keyword phrases and search volume, you can use what you learned to help your site grow!