Understanding SEO Search Query Types
The primary goal of a search engine and a search marketer are not too different.
Both have the same aim, which is to present the searcher with the most important and most relevant set of search results that match their search query.
But not all search queries have the same intent and it is the search engines job (as well as the search marketers) to understand what the user wants to achieve.
Let’s look at a few examples.
If a user types into Google “cars”, what is the user looking to achieve?
Do they want to buy a car, look at images of cars or maybe even find information on the movie?
What about if a user types into Google “digital cameras”. How do we know what they want to see?
The truth is that with broad one or two word queries such as these we can’t always tell. This is why Google will quite often present a user with what we call “blended search results”. These will usually contain different results from Google’s mix of vertical search engines such as videos, shopping, images and of course the standard web links.
Fortunately, web users are becoming more adept at using search eninges and are starting to use longer search terms to help the search engines better understand their real intent.
So users today are more likely to type in “review of canon powershot SX410” or “best digital cameras for 2016”.
Search engines are constantly refining their search algorithms to better understand what users want.
For example adaptive search is something that Google is using. Adaptive Search is where you will type in say “Las Vegas” and later type in “cheap hotels”. Google will be more likely show you search results of “hotels in Las Vegas” as it adapts the search results to your previous search behavior.
Understanding Search Query Types
So as SEO’s it’s key for us to understand our target audience, how they search and ultimately what it is they want. That way we can present them with content that meets their needs.
To do this we must understand the different types of search queries that our visitors use and how they relate to our website and its content.
The three query types are Navigational, Transactional and Informational. Lets take a brief look at each one and how they relate to our websites content.
Navigational queries are usually used by searchers to go directly to a website or specific page on a website.
Examples may be “bbc football results” for the BBC’s main football results page or “ryan air baggage allowance” to find out Ryan Air’s current policy on baggage allowances. So they will usually contain a brand name.
The users intent is to save time and get the search engine to point them directly at the page they want rather than fish around on the destination site. This is why we refer to these types of queries as navigational.
In terms of value, these kind of visitors don’t provide us with any new value as they are visitors who are already aware of our brand and the content they are looking for. However, navigational visitor traffic does usually provides us with better conversion rates, which is always welcome.
Informational search queries by nature are non-transactional. This means that a user is primarily looking for information and answers. These kinds of queries number in the millions. As an example
“how can I fix a blocked toilet”
“what is the population of London”
“who won the premier league in 2014”
“What are the symptoms of lyme disease”
The possibilities are endless.
As a guide, Google receives around 3.5 billion searches each day! Yes. Each day.
A high percentage of these will be informational.
In terms of value, an informational searcher who visits your site will be there primarily to get the information that they want and then leave. In fact, if you have a blog on your site and create lots of informational content, your site as a whole will probably have a fairly high bounce rate. This is not uncommon and is due to the intent of the user.
So the initial value to such queries is quite low in terms of conversion.
Saying that, we do have the benefit of more brand awareness, potential links and social sharing all of which can indirectly help with better organic rankings. When we create informational content we often refer to this as “content marketing”.
A transactional query and visit doesn’t necessarily mean that a user is going to purchase something. It could also mean that a user is going to sign-up to your newsletter or register a free account. Or for example it could be that a user has searched for an Italian restaurant and landed on your restaurants website.
With this kind of query there is a high probability that the user will take action and convert.
Such queries may include
“buy second hand cars canterbury”
“register a facebook account”
“ikea washable sofa covers”
So with this kind of query as users intent is to buy something or take some form of action on the target website. Many transactional queries tend to mention a brand name, but they don’t have to.
The value of a transactional query visitor is obviously high as the user in many cases will be taking the kind of action site owners want, i.e. buying a product, registering an account or contacting your business by phone, email or chat etc.
It’s important to note that only around 10% of search engine queries are transactional or navigational. So a whopping 90% or so are informational.
We need to remember this when creating any new content on our site so that we understand the potential value it has to our visitors.