What is a Query?
In digital marketing, a query is a string of words that a user types into a search engine like Google to access a list of web pages that are relevant to their interests or goals.
When a user types a search query into Google, the results of their search are presented as search engine results pages (SERPs). The SERPs show users a combination of organic search results, paid Google Ads results, local search results, and video results. Other elements like featured snippets and knowledge graphs can also appear in the SERPs.
A survey released by Statista and SEMRush found that 29% of global web traffic in 2019 came from search engines. Each day, millions of consumers query search engines to achieve many different kinds of goals, including:
- Finding a local restaurant or the nearest gas station,
- Finding information about a topic of interest, or to solve a problem,
- Finding a specific website on the Internet,
- Finding information about competing products, or
- Finding a vendor for a desired product.
Understanding how users query search engines allows digital marketers to optimize their content marketing strategies, search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, and PPC advertising campaigns to target the right keywords and capture relevant, high-converting traffic.
Keyword vs. Search Query – What’s the Difference?
A keyword is a single word, or a group of words, that relates to a specific topic.
Search marketers often differentiate between short-tail keywords of 1-2 words (e.g. music, fine arts, personal fitness) and long-tail keywords of 3-5+ words (e.g. electronic dance music, western art history, aerobic fitness program).
Search engines detect and process keywords that appear in search queries to understand and interpret what the user is searching for.
A search query is the actual string of words that users type into the search engine. Some search queries consist entirely of a short-tail or long-tail keyword, some include a keyword with other operators like “best” or “buy” while others take the form of a question such as:
- What is the best electronic dance music album?
- What were the major periods in western art history?
- Where can I buy an aerobic fitness program?
While keywords directly indicate the subject of a search, the additional information provided in a search query helps search engines like Google identify the intent behind the user’s search query and deliver more relevant results in the SERPs.
Five Types of Google Search Query
In the early days of search engines, the results you saw in the SERPs were largely dependent on the keywords that appeared in your initial search query.
But over time, Google has improved its algorithm and developed the ability to interpret a searcher’s underlying goals and intentions based on the full contents of their query. This led to an important paradigm shift in SEO, where Google preferentially ranks web pages that satisfy the intent behind a given query and that help users fulfill their underlying goals and desires.
Below, we highlight five of the common search intents that can be associated with a search query:
An informational query is one where the user is looking for information about a topic of interest. Informational queries include searches for text and video guides, how-to articles, and other informational resources, and they usually don’t mention specific brands or products.
Examples of an informational query could include:
- How to program my VCR,
- How to cook bacon in the oven,
- How to manage log data,
- How to keep track of business expenses, or
- Personal tax guide 2020
A navigational query is one where the user is searching for a specific web page. To that end, navigational searches often reference a specific company, brand, or product that the user is seeking out online.
Users sometimes use search engines as a navigational tool when they know the title and contents of a web page they wish to access, but not its URL.
Commercial Investigative Query
A commercial investigative query is one where the user is searching for information to help with a purchasing decision. Commercial investigative queries often include searches for product comparisons, product or service reviews, or top vendors in a specific market.
Examples of a commercial investigative query could include:
- Nike vs. Adidas Sneakers
- Best personal tax software
- Log analytics software reviews
A transactional query is one where the user’s goal is to purchase a desired product or service. Queries with transactional search intent often include “buying” keywords like “for sale”, “buy”, “sign up”, “lowest price”, or “coupons”.
Examples of a transactional query could include:
- Buy Nike Sneakers
- Cheapest tax software
- Disney+ Sign-up page
- Lowest price airfare to New York
Local Search Query
A local search query is one where the user’s goal is to find a local business or in-person service provider. Local search queries often include keywords like “near me” and “local”, or the name of a specific place, like a city or town.
Examples of a local search query could include:
- Thai restaurant near me
- Local plumber
- Electrician in Albuquerque
Optimize Your Content Strategy for Query Intent
While Google has shifted its strategy from keyword-focused to intent-focused, users are also changing how they query on search engines.
Technologies like voice search are leading users to make queries that are longer and more conversational. Instead of typing keywords into Google, a growing number of users now prefer to query by typing or asking a question. And, more than 70% of queries on Google are now made using long-tail keywords that contain three or more words.
Search engine marketers can adapt to these changes by developing intent-focused content that is optimized for relevant target keywords, directly answers relevant questions, and helps users satisfy their search intent.
As a leading SaaS SEO agency, Directive consulting follows the latest SEO trends and best practices to generate relevant and high-quality organic traffic for our B2B SaaS clients.
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