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Different Types of Search Queries

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Each of the billions of search queries made every day on search engines fall into three main categories.  These categories reflect the user intent behind the search query being made. The Transactional Query Identification in Web Search identifies these three main search query categories as:

  1. Informational queries
  2. Navigational queries
  3. Transactional queries


An informational query is about finding as much possible information about a particular subject.  The goal behind these queries is to find meaning.   Examples include: “what is diversity”, “cricket” and “paper planes”.

The goal of these queries is to find the meaning of diversity, find out more information about cricket and find more details about paper planes.


The goal of this query is to navigate directly to a relevant website.  Instead of typing the full website name into the address bar such as:, users go directly to Google and type in “facebook” or another combination such as “facebook login” or “facebook website”.

The image below shows how frequently these navigational queries take place for people wanting to navigate directly to the Facebook website.


Queries relating not necessarily to buying – but to acquiring something. Users making transactional queries do not want find out more information, they just want to find the thing themselves.

For example, a user would expect to see an eCommerce website when searching for ” buy 32 inch Samsung LCD” rather than getting a Wikipedia entry about the history of Samsung TV’s.

Examples of transactional queries: abba lyrics, download itunes, buy 32 inch Samsung LCD

Why identifying user intent is important?

Identifying the user intent behind the search queries driving traffic to your website has huge benefits in determining what keywords  should be targeted in your SEO strategy.  These keywords can identify what content or functionality could to be added to your website.

It may appear to be great to rank 1st on Google for a one word high volume keyword such as “insurance” – and this may bring your website a lot of traffic – but this does not necessarily mean that it will bring you any quote requests or policy sales.  This “insurance” search query is informational in nature.

A better strategy could be to target a less searched for query which is more transactional such as “adelaide plumbing insurance quote”.  These query types are the ones that drive sales, downloads and conversions.  They may have a lower traffic volume and bring in only 10 visits.  But if these 10 visits result in 5 sales this is a better result than getting 500 visits and getting only 1 conversion from “insurance” – and it may less expensive as well!

It would seem that there is a relationship between user intent and query length.  Generally, the longer and more detailed the search query, the easier it is to determine the intent and meaning behind it.  The graphic below from Hitwise shows how popular longer tail search queries are:

What you need to do

The first thing you need to do is look at your analytics to see what keywords are currently driving traffic to your website.

The next step is to segment these keywords into the three different categories.  You will find that the most popular queries tend to your brand or website name – both of which fall into the navigational category.

The two query categories to focus on are the informational and transactional categories.  These will give you ideas for new content, as well as identifying longer tail transactional search queries to target.

Once you have identified a list of new keywords to target, check to see where you are ranking in Google and the other search engines using a rank checker.  You may be ranking on the first page for some of the keywords so a couple of minor changes to your existing content could allow you to rank even higher.

Keep generating articles based on the keyword opportunities you find in your analytics.  For informational queries, you can easily write new blog posts using these informational keywords as the topic – and for transactional queries create new features or add new useful documents to your website.

About Andrew Webber

I'm an avid basketballer who is passionate about internet marketing. I love local SEO and helping small business get more visibility. I am also the founder of SEO Maverick. Find me on Google+ at +Andrew Webber
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There are 3 comments. Add yours.

  1. Great post! Really informative. Will definitely keep this information in mind moving forward.

    Love your work SEO Maverick.

  2. Elizabeth

    I found this very interesting and informative – so much behind the scenes happening that you are not aware of – keep up the good work.

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SEO Maverick is an Adelaide SEO and website design agency specialising in local SEO services. Director Andrew Webber has been in the online marketing industry for over 8 years and has worked with some of Australia's biggest brands including: Elders, Rural Bank, Cancer Council and Ouwens Casserly.

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