Before you can understand the meaning of a search query you must consider the user’s intent. What is the user trying to accomplish when they typed a search query into a search engine?
Several queries and user intent include:
|UPS||Track a package or locate an office|
|YouTube||Watch online videos|
|Amazon||Buy or sell merchandise on Amazon, or navigate to the Amazon homepage|
|Led Zeppelin poster||Find an image of a Led Zeppelin poster or purchase a Led Zeppelin poster|
|Teach my dog to fetch||Information on how to train dogs|
Some queries have multiple intent, but to keep it simple we’ll classify all search queries into three buckets.
- Navigational Search Queries (navigation intent) – Users are searching for a particular webpage or website. Usually these searches are by brand names that could include Facebook, Twitter, Walmart or Outback Steakhouse.
- Informational Search Queries (information intent) – Users want to find information. This can range from “how to remove pet stains from your carpet” to “best travel destinations in Richmond, VA.”
- Transactional Search Queries (action intent) – Users of these searches want to accomplish a specific goal or engage in a particular activity such as order flowers, download software, play an online game, etc.
Navigational Search Queries Explained
Also known as a ‘go’ query, the navigational search query is a search query entered with the intent of finding a particular website or webpage. If a user enters “CarMax”, “YouTube”, “Facebook” or “Pinterest” into Google or other search engine, this is what’s labeled as a navigational search query.
An example of a navigational search query using the term CarMax can be seen below:
If you don’t own the website that the user is searching for, your chances of targeting a navigational query are extremely difficult. If the user has an exact site in mind, and you’re not that site, generally speaking you won’t be relevant to what they are looking for.
Informational Search Queries Explained
The user wants to know something about a particular topic which is why it’s also known as the “know” query.
These are queries that cover a broad topic (e.g., “2013 car reviews” or “car safety ratings”) for which there may be thousands of relevant results.” When someone enters an informational search query into a search engine, they’re looking for information on a particular topic – hence the name.
Generally, these searches are not looking for a specific website, like Pinterest.com, as in the case of navigational search queries, nor are they likely to be looking to conduct a transaction such as purchasing a used car or buying car insurance as in transactional queries. The users performing these searches simply want an answer to a question or want to learn how to do something.
Informational search queries are hard to directly monetize. By creating high-quality content on your website, these types of searches can lead to brand awareness, trust with your visitors and eventually a conversion.
Ideas for creating content to match the user intent for informational search queries include:
- Informational Queries – Create a Travel Guide for users searching with phrases similar to Museums in Richmond, Va. You can create content that details the local museums in Richmond and group them by type (e.g.: historical or art) and include local hotels in which to stay while visiting.
- How-to Videos – Create several how-to videos pertaining to your niche. People love to watch videos to learn how to do something. You can get traffic from both Google and YouTube the second largest search engine.
- How-to Guides – If a user types “On-Page SEO Best Practices Checklist” into Google, then you can assume that the likely user intent is to find a checklist of items related to Search Engine Optimization.
Transactional Search Queries Explained
Also known as an action query, the transactional search query is a query that indicates intent to complete a goal or engage in an activity on the web, such as making a purchase. Transactional search queries may include exact brand and product names (like “used Toyota Camry CarMax”) or be generic (like “used convertible cars” or “best prices on flat screen televisions”) or actually include terms like “buy,” “purchase,” or “order.”
These users are conducting a search with a credit card in-hand so to speak. These searches provide the biggest opportunity for converting into paying customers. Content on your website can speak directly to this audience and influence conversions.
Content Strategies to Target Intent
When developing your content strategy, be sure to think of the query entered into the search engine and the intent of your target user in order to provide the best possible match.