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How People Use Search Engines

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Types of search queries

Generally speaking, all searches that people make on search engines can be classified as one of three types of searches:

  • Transactional queries, where people actively want to do something, like buy a plane ticket or download a song.
  • Informational queries, where people want to know something, for example, the name of a new band or a good restaurant in New York.
  • Navigational queries, where people want to go to a specific website or webpage that they know exists on the web, such as Facebook or the homepage of the NFL.

Search engines will identify the type of query - transactional, informational, or navigational - and will show the best possible results to satisfy that particular user’s query.

Search process users go through

Here is an outline of a common process people go through when using search engines:

  • First, someone experiences the need for an answer, solution, or piece of information.
  • They formulate that need in a string of words and phrases, which is the query, the search term, or the keyword.
  • They enter that query into a search engine.
  • They browse through the paid and organic results to find the best match.
  • They click on the most appealing result.
  • Once on the website, they scan for a solution, or a link to that solution.
  • If unsatisfied, they return to the search results and browse for another link.
  • Or they perform a new search with refinements to the query.

Generally speaking, users will go through this process several times before their query is satisfied.

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Barry Adams

Barry Adams is the founder of Polemic Digital, which won Best Small SEO Agency at the 2016 UK Search Awards. He has been an active practitioner since 1998 and is co-chief editor for State of Digital. His clients include national brands like EMO Oil and The Sun, multinationals and local businesses.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

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    Barry Adams
    Skills Expert

    This module introduces the core principles and concepts of search marketing. It demonstrates how the use of organic search can benefit marketing campaigns. It introduces the key concepts of paid search and the ways in which it can be used to improve the performance of a campaign. It also outlines how to measure the success of a search campaign and how it fits within a wider digital marketing strategy.