How People Search

Learn about how people search on web browsers and user intent with Search Hustle.

how people search

Back in Google’s earlier days, all you needed to do to rank high in the SERPs (search engine results pages) was stuff keywords into the content and get as many backlinks from any source (shady or not) as possible. These days, that type of black hat SEO won’t work and can even get you penalized heavily by Google—meaning you won’t rank anywhere near the top 5 results, let alone the first page!

Now, Google uses various algorithms to rank content and provide search results that meet the user’s needs. Google’s Search algorithms use numerous factors to provide the most useful information possible to users, including relevance, the words of the user’s query, the user’s location, the expertise of the source, and much more.

This is why everything that is done with SEO (search engine optimization) to get a business website to rank comes back to how people search the web and how that process evolves.

Search engines like Google are constantly changing based on the data they collect in order to provide a better search experience. It is the job of SEO experts to make sure the web presence of a business site changes accordingly to ensure the site continues to rank high in the SERPs.

the meaning of user intent

What Does User Intent Mean?

For Google to return relevant results to a user’s query, it must first understand what information the user is after—the intent behind their query. Generally speaking, you can segment user intent into two different search goals:

  • The user is looking for information that relates to a keyword
  • The user is looking for generalized information about a topic


From there, user intent can be grouped by how specific or how exhaustive the searcher is. A specific user will have a narrow search intent, while an exhaustive user has a wider scope around a certain topic(s).

the concept of do know and go

The Concept of Do, Know, and Go

Do, Know, Go is the concept that all search queries can be segmented into these three categories. In turn, these categories help determine the type of results that Google gives to the user.

What is a Transactional query?

With a “do” query, the user is looking to achieve a specific action. This could mean they wish to purchase a product or a service.

When a user is performing a transactional query, it is often on a mobile device. More than half of all web traffic is mobile these days. From there, about 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase on their device in the past six months.

This is why businesses should take care to make sure their website is mobile-friendly. Google now uses a mobile-first index so always check your SEO from a mobile device. If a business has an eCommerce site, then it is imperative to make the website load fast and be user-friendly for smartphone users who will likely be looking to make a purchase.

What is an Informational query?

Otherwise known as an informational query, a “know” query is when the user wants to learn about a specific subject. Informational queries are often linked to micro-moments.

A micro-moment is when a user needs to satisfy a specific query immediately. There’s also a time factor often associated with the query, such as checking the times public transit arrives and departs.

Also, it’s worth noting that informational queries are neither transactional nor commercial. There can sometimes be an aspect of product research to the query, but the user is typically not yet ready to make a purchase. We called these TOFU and MOFU searches.

What is a Navigational query?

When a user does a “go” query, they are generally looking to go to a specific location or website. A navigational query often centers around a brand.

For example, if a user is searching for Asics shoes, then they would be given search results displaying various stores that sell this brand.

the user journey

The User Journey

Let’s take a look at how the user experience is measured by someone searching for shoes online.

A user is shopping for shoes and wants to know a bit more about the brand Asics. This means their query will start out as informational (know query).

So, the user’s first search might be something like “pros and cons of Asics shoes”. The user then clicks on the top result. Once they’re satisfied that this brand meets their needs, the user might input “Asics shoes for runners” into their web browser. They review several results before clicking on “” where they spend about 2 minutes browsing.

From there, the user heads over to the manufacturer’s site “” for about a minute. Next, the user enters a new search query: “discount Asics shoes”. The user wants to see if there are any older additions out there that they can purchase, since runners often burn through their shoes fast.

This then leads the user to click on another online retailer’s website from the SERPs. Here the user stays for around 4 minutes.

After that, the user enters a more detailed search query: “best men’s running shoes”. This takes the user to an article in for 12 minutes before they enter in yet another search query: “Asics Kayano 5”.

This is where the query has now definitely evolved into transactional (do query). Now, the user goes to another retailer’s website where they spend about 23 minutes and finally make a purchase.

In this shopping sequence, the user performed 5 searches for over 42 minutes before making a purchase. You can clearly see that the user was working to solve a problem and didn’t stop until it was completed. They looked at queries all through the funnel: TOFU (top of the funnel), MOFU (middle of the funnel), and BOFU (bottom of the funnel).

During the buyer’s journey, users frequently begin with a general search term (short tail) and then gradually get more specific (long-tail) as they get closer to their goal. 

Ultimately, this is just one example of a search sequence and the varieties are endless.

who gets clicked on

Who Gets Clicked On

If you aren’t ranking on the first page of the SERPs, then you are losing out on valuable traffic. It won’t matter how well-written the content is if no one is reading it and then purchasing your products or services.

The first page of the SERPs is where all the clicks are at. The first organic result in Google Search earns a whopping 28.5% of the average click-through rate


After that, the average CTR drops precipitously. The second position only gets a 15% CTR and third position gets 11%. Tenth position gets a measly 2.5% click-through rate. After that, everyone knows that users rarely venture into the wastelands of the second page of search results.

Why You Need SEO

As you can see, a user’s journey can take them to various websites in search of information and products, and lead them down the sales funnel. However, if the business website isn’t top-ranking, it has little to no odds of getting clicked on.

Search engines like Google are becoming increasingly smarter. They now use keywords and context in combination to accurately deliver results for a search term. 

This is why SEO can help give a business website an edge over the competition in appearing higher in search results. With SEO best practices, a business website gets better brand visibility, increased web traffic, and ultimately, growth in revenue as people search the web to meet their needs and then find your products or services.

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