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Search Query

Search Query: Brief Summary


A search query is the name given to a word, phrase or string of characters entered into a search engine, in order to generate a list of results. This is sometimes referred to as search text, or a web search query. A search query can be regarded as an information request from the search engine, which then uses the query – and keywords contained within it – to pull up a list of relevant results, based on its own algorithms.

Essentially, any text entered into a search engine search field becomes a search query as soon as the user presses ‘Enter’ or clicks on the ‘Search’ or ‘Go’ button. Users may enter search queries with the intention of finding a specific website, or with the intention of finding any website that may present them with the information they need. Queries take many forms, but often consist of individual words, phrases, questions or a series of keywords.

Search Query: Detailed Summary


The words and phrases that search engine users enter into the search box, in order to pull up a list of results, are known as search queries. A search query can consist of one word, multiple words, or simply a string of characters. Indeed, technically, any text that is entered into the search field and followed by the performance of a search is regarded as a search query, regardless of the text that was entered and whether or not it makes sense.

While the history of search queries pre-dates web search engines and is linked to digital databases, the modern concept of a web search query can be traced back to the early 1990s and the emergence of search engines like W3Catalog, Lycos, and WebCrawler. Today, most web search queries are entered into popular search engines, with Google being the most popular, and Bing and Yahoo! ranking among the most widely used alternatives.

Search engines use the search query to pull out keywords or phrases. These are then used to produce a list of relevant search results, based on the search engine’s own specific algorithms. These algorithms may take into account other factors, such as the physical location of the user and the type of device the search is originating from. The list of search results is commonly referred to as a search engine results page, or SERP.

The vast majority of search queries can be placed into one of the three main categories, which are as follows:

  • Navigational Query – A search query entered with the intention of finding a specific website, web page, or online entity. For instance, if a user enters the search query “Facebook” and performs that search, it is likely that they are seeking that particular website. The same applies if a user enters “Textbroker” or “Marks and Spencer” as well. Navigational queries are, therefore, defined by a very clear and simple user intent.
  • Informational Query – Unlike navigational queries, an informational query covers a broader topic and is likely to produce a greater number of relevant results. For example, if a user enters the search query “Search engine optimisation”, they are likely to be interested in finding out about the topic as a whole, are unlikely to have a specific web page in mind, and may subsequently click on several of the search engine results.
  • Transactional Query – A search query which clearly signals the user’s intention to perform a particular action, like purchasing a product, or downloading a report. This could be a fairly generic query related to a specific product, like “iPhone X”, or might be more specific still, such as “Download iTunes”. This category may also include searches for things like restaurants, hotels, flights and local services.

With that being said, it can sometimes be difficult to establish precisely which category a search query fits into. As an example, a user might search for the word “Facebook” and this may appear to be a navigational query, but they might actually be trying to find news articles about Facebook, or information about the company itself.

For marketers, it can be very difficult to target navigational queries and the chances of attracting traffic from them are minimal, unless you happen to own the website being searched for. However, informational and transactional queries are much more competitive and website owners and marketing professionals utilise a range of techniques, including search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine advertising to improve visibility on SERPs.

Search Queries vs. Keywords


One area that sometimes causes confusion is the distinction between a search query and a keyword. Indeed, even some search marketing experts confuse the two terms, or use them interchangeably. In reality, however, there is a key difference: search queries are the phrases entered by search engine users, whereas a keyword is a word or phrase targeted by marketing experts to boost visibility, or by the search engine itself, to organise SERPs.

A search query is literally whatever the user types in, meaning it may include typing errors or misspellings. By contrast, a keyword is an exact term, which marketers strategically choose to try to generate internet as much internet traffic as possible, often based upon research about popular search queries.

The two concepts are closely linked, especially when marketing businesses make use of broad keyword matching strategies for PPC adverts. As an example, a business might select to target the keyword “sports shoes” and a user might enter the search query “white sports shoes size 10”. If broad matching is enabled, it is possible that the search query might trigger the display of the ad, even though it is not an exact match for the keyword.

Perhaps the best way to think about the distinction between search queries and keywords is to understand that keywords are relevant to marketers and search engines, but are not really relevant to users at all. The average search engine user cares only about entering the right search query to generate the results they need, in order to acquire the information they are seeking, or in order to find the product, service or website they are looking for.



When a user visits a search engine like Google, enters text into the search box and performs the search, this is classed as a search query. It effectively functions as an information request and search engines respond by matching the query up with relevant search results, before displaying them on a search engine results page. These results are decided by running the search query through the search engine’s own internal algorithms.

Search queries are broadly divided into three main categories: navigational, informational and transactional. For search marketers, one of the key jobs is to try to anticipate or research the queries that users are entering, so that keywords can be targeted through PPC advertising and organic search marketing techniques. When these techniques are carried out effectively, brands and websites can improve visibility on SERPs and generate more traffic.

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