What Are Web Search Queries?

Whenever you use a search engine like Google, you enter a web search query. A web search query refers to the word, words, or phrase you type into the search engine to find something online. For example, if you search for “best thriller movies to stream,” that is your web search query.

In this article, we will explore the difference between web search queries and keywords, as well as the three main types of web search queries and how to optimise your content to meet the user’s intent.

Web Search Queries vs. Keywords

While the terms web search query and keyword are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two. A keyword refers to a word or words used in online content that relate to the topic being covered. On the other hand, a web search query is the string of words that a user types into the search box of a search engine.

For example, “thriller movies” is a keyword, while “what are the best thriller movies to watch” is a web search query.

Google’s autopopulated suggestions can help narrow down the user’s search query and provide more specific results.

Types of Web Search Queries and Search Intent

Different users have different reasons for conducting web searches, which are referred to as search intent. There are three main types of search intent:

  1. Informational: Users are looking for information or answers to their questions.
  2. Navigational: Users are looking for a specific website or online destination.
  3. Transactional: Users are ready to make a purchase or engage in a specific transaction.

Understanding the search intent behind a web search query is crucial for creating content that satisfies the user’s needs.

For instance, if someone searches for “best movie soundtracks,” they are likely looking for a list of the top movie soundtracks of all time. This search query does not indicate an immediate desire to make a purchase or visit a specific website.

If you optimise a product page that sells one album for the keyword “best movie soundtracks,” you won’t capture the attention of users who click on your link in the search results. This can also negatively impact your search engine rankings.

On the other hand, if you create a comprehensive listicle of the top 100 movie soundtracks of all time and optimise it for that specific search query, you will satisfy the user’s search intent. If you have an e-commerce website that sells records, you can then optimise each product page for a transactional search query like “buy [soundtrack name] online.”

The Three Types of Web Search Queries

Now let’s delve into each type of web search query and how to create content that aligns with the search intent.

Informational Web Search Query

This is the broadest type of web search query, as users are seeking information or answers to their questions. These search queries are often phrased as questions, but not always.

Examples of informational web search queries include:

  • Best thriller movies of all time
  • How to make baked potatoes
  • Things to do in Los Angeles

To create content that matches search intent, it’s important to understand what the user is not looking for. During the information-gathering stage, users are not interested in purchasing a product or visiting a specific website. They are solely focused on conducting research.

How to Target an Informational Web Search Query

While it may be challenging to monetise informational searches because users are not yet ready to make a purchase, these searches can drive website traffic and help convert visitors into newsletter subscribers, especially if you offer a compelling lead magnet. Additionally, informational content can help build brand awareness.

Your best approach is to create high-quality SEO content that provides helpful, relevant, and comprehensive information. This will satisfy both users and search engines.

Instead of trying to sell your products or services, use this opportunity to demonstrate your authority in your niche and showcase your extensive knowledge.

Here are a few strategies for creating standout informational content:

  1. Write a tips article that offers a wealth of information or provides actionable advice.

Cover every aspect of the topic that readers may want to know about. For example, if someone searches for “how to start cooking,” an article like this one from Eater, which covers the basics of cooking, including recipe reading, pantry stocking, and cooking safety, would be a top result.

  1. Create a video demonstrating how to do something.

This type of content appeals to users who prefer video to text when learning about a topic. For example, a video search for “how to start cooking” yields top results like instructional cooking videos on platforms like YouTube.

  1. Design an infographic that visually illustrates the topic.

Infographics are another effective way to convey information to visual learners. They are also highly shareable, which can help your content gain traction on social media and earn backlinks.

You can create an infographic that fully explains your topic or use one to illustrate a specific aspect of your content that is useful on its own. For example, an infographic like this Aromatics Cheat Sheet could be included in a broader article offering cooking tips for beginners.

A navigational search query is conducted with the intention of finding a specific web page or online destination. Users may be looking for a social media account, a website for a physical store, or any other digital location.

Examples of navigational web search queries include:

  • Movie theatres near me
  • Best online grocery stores
  • Getty Centre exhibitions

Even a simple query like “Amazon” can be considered a navigational search query because the user is specifically searching for the Amazon website. In such cases, the user wants to find a particular website and needs assistance in locating it.

How to Target a Navigational Web Search Query

Targeting this type of query can be challenging unless you own the website the user is searching for. For example, unless you own Amazon, it’s unlikely that your site will rank at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) for the query “Amazon.”

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Ensure that you rank in the top spot for navigational queries related to your brand.
  2. Investigate the true search intent behind certain queries. Sometimes, users looking for information related to a website will only enter the website name, assuming that recent news reports or relevant information will appear on the SERP.

For instance, a search for “Amazon” could be for the Amazon website or for news about Amazon if there have been recent noteworthy events. If your website covers e-commerce news, you could use a long-tail keyword related to Amazon that satisfies the user’s search intent.

Transactional Web Search Query

When users are at the transactional stage, they are ready to make a purchase. These search queries often include words like “buy” or “order.” The query may also include the brand or product name. Even a relatively vague query like “espresso maker” can indicate a readiness to buy, depending on the context.

Examples of transactional web search queries include:

  • Buy movie tickets online
  • Comfort food cookbook on Amazon
  • JetBlue flights to Los Angeles

At this point, users are confident in their decision to make a purchase and know exactly what they want to buy.

Sometimes, navigational searches can also be transactional searches. For instance, a search for “online wine shop” serves both navigational and transactional purposes. The user is looking for an online destination where they can make a purchase.

How to Target a Transactional Web Search Query

Since users at this stage are ready to buy, they are generally more receptive to advertisements compared to users in the other two stages. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to invest in sponsored ads and product listings that appear at the top of the SERP for transactional search queries. Sponsored results are more prominent on the page and often feature attractive imagery that entices users to click.

However, even if you operate an e-commerce shop, it is still important to dedicate time to creating informational content. Informational search queries are more common than transactional ones, so to increase traffic to your website, you will need a mix of both types of content.


A web search query refers to the wording that users enter into a search engine to find information online. It often includes keywords, but a keyword by itself is not necessarily a search query.

Web search queries and search intent are closely linked, as the phrasing of a query provides content creators with insight into what users are searching for. When you create pages that align with search intent, both users and search engines will prioritise your content.

Informational search queries are the most prevalent, but they may not have the highest conversion rates. By catering to all three types of web search queries, you can create a well-rounded website that satisfies visitors at any stage of the buying process.

By implementing a comprehensive link strategy alongside your SEO efforts, you can guide visitors to different parts of your website that they will find useful.

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