Search Query – What is a Search Query?

A search query is a request for information on a particular topic. The user is looking for information, additional information, or knowledge. Many websites provide a search form, where the user can input a search query – the words / topic the user desires to get information about. The most popular websites that provide a chance to search for search queries are Baidu, Qihoo and Sogou in China and Google and Bing in the rest of the world.

baidu search form with search query
Baidu search form with search query
Qihoo search form with search query
Qihoo 360search search form with search query
Google search with search query
Google search form with search query

Those words people type into the search forms are called search query.

A search query can be categorized into different categories. Some searches are informational, while others are transactional or navigational. The first category is the most common, while the second and third category are the most specific.

Informational Search Queries

An informational search is used when a user is looking for general information. Informational search queries are the most commonly used type of search query worldwide.

Examples of Informational Search Queries

  • what is a search query (someone looking for a definition / explanation)
  • birthday cake recipe (someone looking for instructions)
  • lady diana (general information on princess Diana)

Navigational Search Queries

A navigational search query is used by people desiring to navigate to a specific website or location.

Geographical Navigational Search Queries

People who need to find the address of a specific location often turn to Baidu. The search engine has learned to recognize such search queries quite well and provides a map with places that fit to the search query.

the words of this search query are “Haidilao Restaurant Beijing” – the search intent is to find the location / address of this restaurant

The user can now pick one of those locations and gain detail information like the address, phone number, QQ, WeChat or website address.

Examples of Geographical Navigational Search Queries

  • roasted duck restaurant beijing
  • liangmaqiao subway station
  • eastwick elementary school directions

Navigational Website Search Queries

An informational search is used when a user is looking for general information, while a navigational search is used when a consumer needs specific information. This type of query is sometimes called a go-query.

Not few people simply type into the address bar of the browser the name of the brand or the website, they intend to visit, without adding a .com or .cn in the end. Or people type in the name of the website directly into the search engine search form.

In both situations the search engine recognizes, that the user wants to visit the official website of the company entered and usually would show this website as the first search result, followed by informational pages talking about this brand (or popular other pages of the brand).

jingdong jd navigational search
Navigational Search Query “Jingdong” (京东) on Baidu

The search for “京东” (jingdong) lists the official website organically in the first position (after ads, which we do not see in the screenshot above), followed by a link to Baidu maps, because some people might want to find driving directions, followed by stock information of the company JD.

Most people want to visit the official website – so they “navigate” there using the search engines.

Examples of Navigational Website Search Queries

  • nike
  • baidu
  • taobao
  • tmall

Transactional Search Queries

If a user has the intend to find a specific product to buy, the search term used is transactional. The easiest to recognize transactional keywords with shopping intend include an indicator word just like “buy”, “shop” or “order”. But the search engines have learned that often other search queries can be transactional and with a shopping intent. For example search queries describing a product like “nike shoes white size 38”. A user searching this detailed for a specific product usually has a shopping intent.

Examples for transactional search queries with shopping intent

  • nike shoes
  • shirt xl yellow with mickey mouse image
  • beijing opera tickets
  • buy milk online
  • book store online

Other Transactional Search Queries

Besides of shopping intent, users can have other transactional search intents, like for example downloading an app or a software. Often the search queries do have an indicator like “download” for download activities.

Examples for transactional search queries with shopping intent
  • WeChat app
  • download gimp

Other websites that accept search queries

Not only web search engines like Baidu, Google and Qihoo accept search queries. Also online stores do offer search forms in quite prominent positions on the website. Just as many magazine and blog websites accept search queries to look for specific content pieces: website with prominent search form in the top informational platform with prominent search form in the top

Need some help finding the right Search Queries to target?


We can help you performing the Search Query research / keyword research to target the Chinese audience, you desire. The different culture and the different ways people search in Mainland China compared to the rest of the world, doesn’t make it easy to simply “translate” or even “localize” search queries from English to Chinese. You need to perform a real keyword research. Our SEO and SEA experts are native Chinese speakers from China, experienced in finding those search queries, valuable to target on different marketing channels.