Which Keyword Should I Choose? Understanding Query Types and Search Intent

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As a business owner you are often bombarded with suggestions on how you should roll out your very own digital marketing campaign. Too often you hear marketers offering specific tasks as being the absolute best for your time/money and that you should ignore everything else to only focus on their chosen avenue of expertise. While this may work for some agencies, we here at Boostability like to look at the whole picture. We understand that quality SEO takes time and expertise to roll out a successful campaign. One aspect of a successful organic campaign is proper keyword research.

To understand this task I want to expand our knowledge on a few basic topics of search and draw attention to where I think SEO is going in the coming years.

You’ve probably heard terms like “search query” and “search intent” but have you ever connected how these terms can equate to real business success? If you expand your understanding of query types the picture will begin to be clearer.

What Are Search Queries?

A search query or search term is the string of words that a user types into a search box on any given search engine. You can think of a search query as the real-world application of a keyword. When categorizing these types of queries they are typically give one of three categorizations:

  • Navigational
  • Informational
  • Transactional

These three types of queries can categorically cover the VAST MAJORITY(if not all) of web searches that search engines see in any given day.

Now it already seems like I’ve strayed from the topic of keyword research but in order to provide the most beneficial keywords for any company you need to understand the underlying aspects of search. Stay with me just a little bit longer as we explore each of these queries. It will all make sense, I promise.

Navigational Queries

A navigational query is an internet search with the intent of finding a specific website or web page. Not really to navigate to a location like we would see with a “go to PandaExpress” voice search. The user here is trying to get to a specific website and there is likely only one place for them to land. Think of a navigational query as an alternative to typing a full URL.

The user is not seeking a particular product or company and has no clear intent to purchase. They simply wish to visit a particular type of website and use the selected search engine to navigate there.

Google search results for Navigational Queries

For example, the search query “facebook” is navigational because the intent is to access Facebook. Other navigation-driven keywords would include not only branded terms such as “Apple” and “Smithsonian online library” but also “Nike running shoes”. With such searches, users are usually trying to reach the websites or targeted subpages of brands, businesses, and organizations.

Informational Queries

Queries that cover a broad topic (e.g., colorado or trucks) for which there may be thousands of relevant results. – Wikipedia

Search engines were first developed to filter these types of searches and include specific information for this purpose. Think of them as a nebulous question that you have and just want to “ask Google” or another search engine.

Google results page for Informational Queries

Google tackles the majority of these searches with the implementation of the Knowledge Graph and subsequent Knowledge Cards in search engine result pages.

They include keywords and search terms like full questions that are looking for more information on a given topic. Hence the term Informational Query.

Transactional Queries

Search queries that indicate a clear intention to buy or concern a planned purchase or transaction like a download are regarded as Transactional Queries. Searchers use the search engine to find a specific product, service or asset and visit the relevant website to make their transaction.
Google search results for Transactional Queries

Like all searches, transactional search queries have their own specific patterns and formats. These include not only action words like “buy”, “order”, or “download” but also specific products and branded terms. There are also other varieties of transactional queries that appear as the “top of the funnel” type of search like you see with booking a flight or traveling to an AirBnB.

Keywords vs Search Queries

Now that we are aware of these types of search queries we need to explore what this means for your business. Often you look to conduct research on what the most popular searches are and find simple terms that are one or two words. While these terms do get hundreds of thousands of hits each month, they probably don’t convert to revenue for your business as they are too broad. That’s why narrowing down your efforts to high-intent keywords and search queries is essential to long-term success.

This brings me to the main point of this article: search queries are the future of search. You should expand your keyword research to include these in your strategy. Ask yourself, can I target these terms? Can I optimize them? In the past simple keywords were King of a simple search engine of yesteryear. But modern search engines, like Google, are getting smarter and smarter all the time. A keyword is like the simplified version of a search query and should be seen as a byproduct of quality search query research.

We’ve all been slaves to the keyword for too long. Think about what types of transactional queries your customers are using and you will see immediate results. Add action words to your search filters and see where you can expand your content strategy to include gathering informational-to-transactional queries on your blog.

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