How People Search on Google

How people search is a critical question as it is estimated that Google processes over one billion search requests each day, providing more than seven billion page views that may result in website traffic and blog traffic. Individuals conducting these searches reside in over 180 countries and speak approximately 150 different languages.  In addition, approximately 15% of the queries are entirely new.

How People Search – Why

In general, people use search engines to research something (Research Searches), buy something (E-commerce Searches) or entertain themselves (Entertainment Searches).

 How People Search - Research, eCommerce, EntertainmentResearch Searches

Searches performed for conducting research are generally quests for quantitative data, answers, opinions and reviews that result in website traffic and blog traffic to help one make a decision.  In general, there is a question or a problem in need of a solution or answer.

E-commerce Searches

E-commerce searches are used when one is interested in  purchasing a good or service.  In general, e-commerce searches are much more specific, i.e. men’s black boots, size 11, in stock.  Or terms like “sale”, “best price”, “coupon” or “free shipping” may appear in the search.

Entertainment Searches

Individuals conducting entertainment searches typically search for games, videos, movies, sports and social networking sites.  The key is that the searcher wants to be entertained and the goal of the search is to find a destination site that will provide entertainment consistent with the searcher’s definition.

How People Search – Types of Searches

In addition to the various types of searches, three types of queries exist that an individual may initiate that may result in website traffic or blog traffic. These include:

Navigational Query

With a navigational query, a searcher knows the destination site they are looking for and typically has a designated task in mind.  Rather than typing in a URL, a searcher enters the company, person, place or thing into the search box, waits for the search results and then clicks the link that matches their predetermined choice.

Transactional Query

With a transactional query, a searcher wants to make a purchase or complete a specific task, but may or may not know the destination site ahead of time.  Examples include buying tickets, paying a parking ticket or enrolling in a class.

Informational Query

In this scenario, a searcher is seeking information on a company, topic, person, place or thing.  While informational queries may turn into transactional queries, at this stage the searcher is usually in the research or exploration phase of the buying cycle.

How People Search – The Language of the Searcher

Just as there are dialects in the spoken word, there are dialects in the typed word — and this greatly impacts search.  In search the goal is to match round pegs with round holes.  Granted, sometimes octagons or squares may be a fit, but search engines will strive for the perfect match.

As a result, it is imperative to understand the searcher and their keywords, tone, content conversation, tastes and how those factors appear in search.  The goal is to connect searchers with the company’s brand, and that requires understanding the searcher’s content tastes to facilitate their ability to find the company’s site. Several different match types exist:

How People Search - Match TypeMatch Types: Broad Match

This is a matching technique used by search engines like Google where the keyword entered in the search box will be matched against keywords that are the same or similar to the keyword entered, including plurals.

For example, a search for “gourmet food” may return healthy gourmet food, restaurant food, fast food, gourmet food recipes, gourmet food restaurants, gourmet kitchens and food allergies.

Match Types: Modified Broad Match

Modified broad match provides much greater control of search results than broad match. In addition, word order is not important, nor are spelling variations.

To include a word that must be present in search results for a query, one must enter it with a “+” sign in-front of it. Note however that plurals, misspellings and abbreviations will be included in the search results.

For example, +gourmet food might include healthy gourmet food, gourmet food recipes, and gourmet.

Match Type: Phrase Match

In a phrase match query, search results must contain the specified keyword phrase in the order specified, but may have keywords included before or after the search term entered.  In a phrase match, keywords are entered with quotations before and after the search term(s).

Example: “gourmet food” may return healthy gourmet food, spicy gourmet food, gourmet food recipes or gourmet food chefs.

Match Type: Exact Match

In this matching technique, one is able to control search results to include only the terms specified.  In order to accomplish this result, one must include a [ before the keyword(s) and a ] after.

For example, if a keyword is [gourmet food], it will be matched with only “gourmet food” and not any variations. Here the order of the terms matters and plurals and misspellings are not included in search results.

Example: [gourmet food] returns gourmet food.


This matching technique is useful when one wants to exclude specific terms.  Initially one may be aware of terms to exclude, and after searches, particularly in pay-per-click (PPC), one will learn of additional terms that are not relevant. At this point, the searcher may choose to exclude them.  For instance, the searcher may like gourmet food but not spicy gourmet food.  In this case, he or she can use the negative keyword “Spicy” and that word will be excluded.  The identifier for a negative match is a hyphen “-”. It is important to use the hyphen before the start of the keyword one wishes to exclude.

Example: -Spicy

To drive website traffic or blog traffic, engagement and sales, one needs to understand the mindset and actions of searchers in order to structure a website and blog accordingly.  Specifically, to get a better handle on search engine optimization (SEO), it’s important to answer the question, “How do people search?”.  Additionally, it is important to understand this from the mindset of one’s target market at the individual level via a persona, buyer behavior model and journey board.


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