Keywords are not enough: why your site will benefit from targeting search queries

Often when talking about search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), the topic revolves around keywords. However, search engines have a far more broad view - they evaluate the words a user types in a search box as a search query; a slight difference in the search query brings completely different results.

To get a better ranking in search engines, your site has to have content that aligns with the intent a search query implicates. Otherwise, you risk bringing in great amounts traffic to your site, but nearly all from visitors that have little interest in buying from you.

Let’s look closely on what types of search query are out there, and how to optimize your site content to target them.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this post:

What is the difference between a keyword and a search query?

Keywords are for ranking

When speaking about a keyword, you are referring to the exact term you want to target in a paid or organic search. It can be a single word like “horseshoe” or a phrase like “baking glass.”

Choose keywords that correspond with what you are proposing to users which are based on your products and services. Phrases such as “clothing store” and “seller of fashionable clothes” count as keywords.

Users are completely unaware of your chosen keywords and they really have no need to learn them. Keywords just simplify page ranking for the search engine output.

The main metric for keywords is their difficulty, which is also known as keyword competition. The higher this metric is for the chosen keyword, the greater the competition you’ll face.

By finding keywords with low difficulty, you can improve your site ranking in the eyes of the search engine with less money spent.

There are plenty of free instruments available to evaluate the difficulty of the chosen keyword.

keyword competition

When using Google Ads service, you can find the right keywords to use with the Google Keyword Planner tool.

Users search with queries

When a user wants to find something, he or she types a search query into the search engine. A search query is a real-life phrase that can consist of keyword combinations.

A search query indicates to the search engine not only the topic a particular person wants to find, but what he or she wants to do in terms of this topic.

Phrases "candy-making shops in Toronto” and “how do they make candy in Toronto?” are recognize by the search engine as two different intentions, and it will bring the results that correspond to those intentions. The former query will bring a list of places to buy candy, the latter query will give a broad information on candy-making in Toronto.

search query example

search query example

A search query can include misspelled words. Sometimes they are corrected, sometimes the search is made as is.

Keywords vs search query

The difference between a keywords and a search query can be narrowed to:

  • keywords – what the site is targeting

  • search query – what the user wants to find

Marketers look for keywords in their field and hope that they will match the user’s search query. In the long run, it is more effective to broaden keywords into queries.

Types of search queries

All search queries can be split in three common categories: navigational, informational, transactional. Some also highlight a fourth category – investigational. It is somewhat similar to the informational and transactional categories, so only three categories are named most of the time.

As the goal of an e-commerce site is to sell products and services, these transactional queries can be most effective. Still, a store owner should devote some attention to the other types.

Navigational queries

Navigational queries are used to find information on specific brands, products, and services.

This type of search query is also called a go-query. For this type, users already know where they want to go and with a navigational query, they are trying to locate that specific website.

When using a navigational query, the customer uses a known search term rather than typing the website’s exact URL. This type of queries usually includes a brand-specific term and may include navigational words.

For example, you can type “WHO” in the Google search bar to quickly get to the website of the World Health Organization.

People often use navigational queries even for popular and well-known brands, products, and services. The queries “facebook” and “youtube” are the top two searches on Google. People even search for “google” in Google – it is in the top-5 search queries.

Here are some more examples of navigational queries:

  • nike buy running gear

  • directions to Berliner Philharmonie

  • example of mirasvit rewards module graphql api for magento

Informational queries

When a search engine recognizes an intent to get facts, data and knowledge in a user’s query, it classifies the request as an informational search.

For simple and popular informational searches, Google shows the direct answer on the topic besides the usual list of search results.

example informational query

Here are some other examples of informational queries:

Informational queries do not always start with question words like how, when, why and others. A user can drop them, but a search engine will still regard the query as an infirmational one.

When a user types in such a query, his or her intentions are clear, but it's still unknown what stage of the buying process said user is at, or whether he or she really plans on making a purchase at all.

Yet this type of query remains the most popular one, so websites often target it by providing tips, guides, recommendations, informational digests and so on.

Informational queries can present you with a good opportunity to find interesting topics that are capable of generating traffic on your site. However, as it was mentioned above, you should keep in mind that a visitor may only be looking for information and has no actual intention of making a purchase.

You can try converting a visit into a purchase by placing a call to action in the informational article or proposing items that the visitor might need to use in the obtained information. For example, if you sell running gear, you can write an article about popular marathons and mention the best running shoes for that type of activity.

Transactional queries

Transactional queries are often referred to as a commercial search, or a “do” search. When a user types this kind of query, he or she is ready to make a transaction, which is often a purchase, and is seeking ways to finalize it. As a store owner, you have to devote additional attention to queries of this type.

When users type in a transactional query, he or she can be on one of these levels of the conversion funnel:

  • deciding whether to continue with the purchase

  • ready to buy the desired item or service

This type of query term can be the easiest for quantifying the return on investments (ROI) when used in conjunction with an advertising strategy. Users with high buying intent click search ads almost two times more than organic search results

example transactional query

Here are some examples of transactional queries:

  • download magento extension

  • order running shoes

  • reserve a table for valentine's day

How to identify the query type

Sometimes it can be hard to determine which type of search query you're looking at. Lets say the user has typed in the phrase “good taste.” Try to identify the intention behind this search query: it can be a search for a product named Good Taste (transactional), a query for general information on good taste (informational), or a company with a name Good Taste (navigational).

Still, usually it is rather easy to classify the queries by the intention words they include:

  • informational: when, where, who, what, why, how, guide, tutorial, tips, manual

  • navigational: brand name, product name, service name

  • transactional: buy, order, reserve, purchase, download, coupon, deal

As transactional queries are of most interest to businesses, let's take a moment to analyze them more closely. Transactional queries often include words that specify their intention, like “buy,” and “order,” but those keywords are not required.

If the query doesn’t have such intentional keywords, it must show a straightforward intent with other words. For example, it can be the query “refurbished iPhone”.

In general, a transactional query can consist of a number of different search types:

  • the user’s search can be focused on brand. Such a query will have a specific brand in it, like “Apple” or “iPhone”.

  • the user may yet not know specifically which brand or product he or she wants, but still knows what he or she wants in general. It can be searches like “gaming smartphone” or “fish food.”

  • user may also seek to make a transaction in a specific type of content or industry, like hotels or taxi. Such searches as “London hotels” or “Los Angeles taxi” are called vertical searches. They are also called a specialty or topical search and are based on topicality, media type, or genre of content and require additional content adaptation for each search engine.

Local search queries often qualify as transactional.

How to optimize your site for search query types

Optimize for navigational queries

Search queries with navigational intent can’t be targeted because you need to own a website which users explicitly want to visit. For it to work, you’ll somehow need to get in your competitor’s organic navigational traffic and direct it to your site.

While you cannot target navigation traffic with keywords like you would with informational and transactional traffic, you can optimize your site for navigational queries.

Your goal with navigational queries should be to appear in the first place setting of the search results when a user tries to navigate to your business website.

First try to search for your business in Google or another search engine. You’re fine if your company’s site appears at the top of related navigational search results.

optimize navigational query

If your company is not in the first place location when a user searches for it, you should find related to your business navigational keywords and create pages that include those keywords.

When creating pages with navigational keywords, make sure to include such information as:

  • the name of your brand

  • a list of services your company provides

  • names and details of the products you sell

  • information regarding the location and work schedule of your company

Making that business-specific information available to users helps optimize a business website so that it can appear higher on the list for related navigational search queries.

You can also help promoting the position of your website in search results by running a sponsored ad (pay-per-click, PPC ads) for navigational search queries related to you. With ads you can be sure that your site appears at the top when a user searches navigation to your brand’s site.

Some site owners use ads even when they are organically at the top of navigational search results related to them. This is also helpful for promoting specific pages on their site for navigational queries.

world health organization

Optimize for informational queries

Such queries are rather difficult to convert into money and the only instrument you have is to write relevant content with good SEO optimization in your company’s blog.

The wider the topics and covered information, the greater number of users will visit your site to obtain this knowledge. That’s why on informational queries, Wikipedia is often at the first place – it presents basic information on a broad variety of topics.

To better target informational search queries, you can take the following creative initiatives:

  • writing posts into company’s blog with tips, instructions, detailed guides

  • create similar how-to publications in video format

  • make infographics full of information

Such work doesn’t sell services and products directly, but it can increase general awareness regarding your brand.

The best you can do for targeting informational search queries is to become a trustworthy knowledge source. Informational content of high quality and user-friendly can spread virally and can get a high-ranking position in search results.

Optimize for transactional queries

Since users that make transactional search queries click ads twice as often as organic search results, one of the main optimizations you can try is to use a paid search. That’s because:

  • it's irrelevant for a person who already wants to make a purchase whether or not the search result for a desired product is sponsored or organic as it delivers what that person needs.

  • search engines give a lot of place for sponsored ads for transactional query. Organic search results may have worse visibility.

  • sponsored ads in Google can have additional information, like product thumbnail, price, review rating. Organic results are more limited.

You should still optimize your product pages on targeting transactional search queries with organic content if you want to get more total traffic since some product pages on your site can be served for informational queries. The number of the latter is much greater than the two other types combined.

Ease the optimization for transactional queries

SEO optimization of the product pages in the store can be a hard task on account of the large number of pages to be processed. This task can be eased with our module Advanced SEO Suite for Magento 2.

This extension helps to modify general SEO elements of your site like meta tags, sitemap, rich snippets, redirects, etc. It also gives full control over each SEO-parameter on the store pages.

extension seo toolbar

The unparalleled SEO templates option allows you to generate SEO-optimized product pages from the start. This feature lets you specify content patterns for meta titles, descriptions, keywords, and H1 tags.

You can use a predefined templates or create your own by adding variables with store, product, and page data to the templates. You can also use conditions to fine-tune the pages that the templates apply to, and set each template's priority.

extension seo conditions

This extension works on all main pages of the store:

  • Product pages
  • Category pages
  • Search results pages
  • CMS pages

The extension will automatically populate the relevant pages with meta information if they are otherwise lacking.

How to find keywords for transactional queries in your niche

Since sales are the main goal of any store, you should devote additional efforts to the transactional search queries for a better understanding of search phrases that relate to it most frequently.

The first thing you should do is discover what search queries are typed in by users. For that, you can use data from your Google Search Console account. It is capable of showing you the search queries on your site. However, this information can be limited since the tool shows the queries that helped users to get to your site. It will not show similar queries that you are not yet targeting.

To broaden your view of search queries, you can use the Google autocomplete feature. Just type some words related to your store and see what Google suggests. Search engine uses popular search queries to give such prompts.

google search prompts

Another way is to identify with whom you compete in search results and compare what keywords they are using and then filter for those that have a transactional intent. For the popular markets with high demand, the number of such keywords can be huge.

In this list, try to find transactional keywords with low difficulty and high search volume to get the easiest queries to target.


Search behaviors are constantly evolving, so you need to adapt your content strategies to get the most available in current circumstances. Search engines learn to accurately understand content and context, but still we cannot simply publish the content in hope that the search engine will do the rest.

To get the best results, you need to optimize your content for different types of search users conduct. Those search queries that you do not target with your keywords have the possibility of attracting more traffic by creating new content. Also, you can optimize pre-existing content to better target known queries.

Stores should pay more attention to transactional searches since they promise the highest likelihood of purchase. But at the same time, they shouldn’t ignore other types of search queries. They can help attract traffic to the site which you can try to convert into sales.

Lastly, while focusing on sales, don’t forget about providing value to your customers. Create meaningful and useful content to satisfy users and build a high-quality audience, which has the potential for greater future conversion.

Eugen Barilyuk


Eugen, a tech-savvy writer at an IT company. He spends his days simplifying complicated tech stuff into easy-to-read blog posts and documentation. Eugen loves blending his love for tech with storytelling, making complex topics not only understandable but interesting. Beyond work, he enjoys exploring the creative side of technology and innovation.

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