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The psychology of searching: How people search

The psychology of searching: How people search

By on Apr 23, 2018

“Search query – n.: The words and phrases that people type into a search box in order to pull up a list of results.”

Why do People Use a Search Engine?

  • They want to do something
  • They want to know something
  • They want to go somewhere

Google classifies search queries as either Go, Know, or Do. The type of webpages that Google tries to deliver as results depends on which classification they fall into.

This is how people search:


Transactional Queries: The user wants to do something, such as buy a cell phone or watch a particular video. They want to purchase something, download something, sign up or register etc. These represent about 10% of all search volume.


Informational Queries: The user needs information, such as the name of a band or the best restaurant in New York City. This is when the user is looking for a specific bit of information. It is an informational query, where the user wants to learn about a subject. Wikipedia almost always ranks toward the top of the results for Know queries as people learn something from the site. Informational queries are about 80% of searches.


Navigation Queries: The user wants to go to a particular place on the Internet, such as Facebook or Amazon. The user is intending to reach a particular website. These cover the remaining 10% of searches.

Do-Know-Go is the concept that search queries can be segmented into three categories: navigational, informational, or transactional.

These categories (navigational, informational, or transactional)  were originally published in 2002

Let’s look at these categories in more detail:

how people search do queries

  1. Do – Transactional Content 

A transactional search query is a query that indicates an intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase. These are very high quality, end-of-buying-cycle search queries. The searcher knows what they want to find, and they’ve decided to buy.

These are especially important to e-commerce websites, for example, where a user may be looking for a specific brand or item.

You can target transactional queries with organic content, like optimized product pages and local SEO strategies, but you should consider using PPC to target these search terms, as well.

know search queries

  1. Know – Informational Content 

A “know” query is an informational query, people search to learn about a particular subject.

If your potential customers are looking to find quick and easy answers to provide knowledge, you can help them.

They may not be at the end of the sales funnel, so they are hard to monetize, but they are good to get visitors attention, build your brand, and get free traffic to your blog where you already answer similar questions. And you have a chance to capture them as subscribers to your list. The goal is to position yourself as a trustworthy, authoritative source of information.

That way, if you can provide something of value for them, when they decide to make a purchase, there’s a much greater chance they will remember you.

Know queries can vary between simple questions to much more complex queries that don’t always have a simple answer.

how people search go

  1. Go = Navigational Content 

“Go” queries are typically brand or known entity queries, where people search to go to a specific website or location.

If somebody remembers your brand, they want to find it, and they search for it. That’s a “go” query.

If you’re not the specific site that the user searching for, you’re not relevant to their needs.

Make sure you own your own brand’s navigational query.


That’s how people search. They all want one of these: Do something, know something, or go somewhere.

It’s important to capture traffic in each of these categories. That will cover prospects in every stage of your sales funnel, from getting attention, to branding, to sales.

When all of this works together, it helps to maximize the overall performance of your website or blog.

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