If you've ever Googled, "How to write a search query," you might soon find yourself in a bonus verse of Alanis Morissette's song, "Ironic."
WHAT IS A SEARCH QUERY?
Who, what, when, where, how? These five question words often kick-start your entry in the search bar, but there is so much more than meets the eye. A search query is a string of words submitted into a search engine in the hopes of locating the information you want. Including but not limited to: “What is the best apple pie recipe?”, “How do I make pie crust from scratch?”, or “How long does it take to cool a pie on a windowsill?”
(Is anyone else hungry, or is that just me?)
How do you write a search query?
If Googling is an art form (and I'd argue it is), the search bar is the canvas and search queries are the paint. Even if you think you're unfamiliar with the concept, you likely write at least one search query a day. This is especially probable considering Google's favor for them. As soon as you start typing one word, your search engine of choice will quickly begin supplying guesses (typically in the form of queries) as to what you might say.
For example, type "how" and Google might suggest:
- how to get eight hours of sleep in two hours
- how to get my dog to admit he can understand me
- how to get the motivation to make coffee before having drunk coffee
Simply put, a search query is a combination of words crafted by an internet user in an effort to encounter certain content. And, despite the examples above, queries don't always have to be written in (somewhat coherent) sentences. The term "query" can encompass any word grouping intended to lead a user to a particular answer, landing page, or product.
Is a search query the same as a keyword?
No! Shoot, I said "can encompass any" and you got excited. That's on me.
It's true that a "keyword" can often be multiple words — it has this in common with queries. However, while keywords can certainly be typed into a Google search bar, they won't do much on their own in terms of narrowing down your content. For the most effective searches, savvy internet users can place keywords within a ~sophisticated~ query and return a more helpful search engine landing page (SERP).
I know what you're thinking: what's SERP with all these over-complicated terms? Let's just cut to some examples.
The three types of search queries
Here's what you need to know in your quest for ultimate query knowledge. We've got:
1. Queries in pursuit of information
This first brand of query is probably what comes to mind first. Frequently phrased as a question, informational queries make use of the beloved who, what, where, when and why starters. (Remember the pie?)
Crucially, however, it's worth noting that succinct searchers might craft a query without any of these words. "Apple pie recipe" would still be an informational query, as it pairs a keyword (apple pie) with another specific word (recipe) to guide search engine results and seek information.
2. Queries as a means for navigation
Navigational queries are for the internet stalkers who need a little bit of help on their journey. With these queries, you typically already know exactly what you're looking for — you just need to be taken there. For example, you're not just looking for a apple pie recipe, you're looking for the apple pie recipe you saw Rachael Ray post on Instagram last Tuesday.
In this case, "Rachael Ray Instagram" would be a navigational search query, and the SERP would take you right there!
3. Queries preceding a transaction
Finally, transactional queries are those that precede an action you hope to take. Typically, this would involve online shopping. Like, maybe you're getting impatient scrolling through Rachael's backlog of baking pics, and you'd rather just "buy apple pie" Or, perhaps you've given up on your culinary skills altogether and now just want to "sell cookbooks online." Hey, no judgment here.
Ah, the three -tions of search queries. It may not be particularly catchy, but you can remember it this way: failing to consider search queries when crafting your content will feel like a real kick in the shin.
What search queries mean for marketing and optimization
If you've been writing web content for a while, you're probably all too familiar with targeting keywords. You may have even felt a pit growing in your stomach while reading, thinking that you'd encountered a new mysterious cog in Google's search algorithm. Your hand may have shaken as you scrolled, waiting for me to declare some new, tedious law of copywriting. Like, every sentence must now end in a question mark as an offering to the search query overlords.
Well, no. (But also? Just in case? Let me just? Okay, that should be good.)
The new wave of content marketing remains favorable for content that is honest, personable, and true to your brand. Of course, it's also still worth paying attention to relevant keywords — and examining search queries can ensure that you're spending your time on the right ones. Knowing how your keywords appear within search queries can help you make your content even more specific and know exactly what users are really searching for. Providing answers to common queries within your web content can make your site and products even more valuable for each of your visitors.
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