Attend any marketing conference and you will find a hoard of people who care a lot about not just searches, but types of searches. This group also loves to discuss (at length) all the online “touches” that your site or brand name has with the searching community.

But all searches are not created equal. Each search (or “query” to use the official term) has its own intent. Yesterday I searched to find out the dates that a specific conference was being held. Last week, I searched to learn more about a mathematics term so I could help my son with his homework. And this morning I searched to find out where the closest REI store was to my house. Three searches, with three different intents.

A common way that we marketing folk like to differentiate searches is by dividing them into these 3 types: an informational search, a transactional search, and a navigational search. I will explain each one and give an example of how each “touch” could make a difference to you if you were the owner of a seafood restaurant.

Informational Search

This type of search can encompass anything from getting instructions to your child’s complicated math homework, or looking for something fun to do in the city on Saturday night. In this search someone is collecting information or researching a topic. As a business, you want to be at the end of this search because it might be the one of the first “touches” a customer would have with you. If I search for seafood restaurants in Seattle, and your restaurant comes up in my search, I will click through and get my first impressions of your business. An example of a search term I might use is “seafood restaurant Seattle.” This is probably the type of very basic keyword you have your website optimized for now.

Transactional Search

The name transactional search can be misleading. You don’t actually have to be buying something in a transactional search. Rather than making a money transaction, you may be intending to follow through with a different action, such as signing up for an email subscription, or finding a house cleaning business in your area to call for pricing. In a transactional search, you have something specific you want to get done and are online to do it. As a business owner, you want be in the right place at the right time, with the right information for these searches. Using the seafood restaurant example, I may get online to make a reservation at a seafood restaurant. If I encounter your restaurant listing, that would be yet another “touch” and I might find the number I want to call to book my reservation. Because my search is more specific this time, I might search on the term “seafood restaurant reservations Seattle.” Ideally, when I reach your website, I would be sent straight to the online reservations page or a number that I could call.

Navigational Search

The final search type is when you know what specific event, thing or business you are looking for, but don’t know the URL. We do this all the time, right? Usually it involves typing in some or most of the name and hoping it takes us to the right page. In this case, a business owner would want to make sure that they don’t just have their webpage optimized and ready to go, but they also have a presence on Google Places, Yahoo Local Listings and any other listing sight that makes sense for your business. And you want to make sure those listings have accurate information about your business. In the seafood restaurant example I would likely type in your business name “Jack’s Seafood House” to get directions. If I saw a local listing come up higher than your website listing I might click on that to get the directions.So you can see how important it would be for that information to be accurate.

So there you have three different types (i.e. intents) of searching. In each of the search types above, different search terms were used and different pages of your website were expected, but all of them could be searches for your business. Google processes 100 BILLION search queries per month. As a business owner you want to make sure your search engine optimization strategy incorporates a solutions for capturing some of those queries.

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