The Many Hats of Search

The Many Hats of Search

Our one-stop destination for anything that we desire to know is the “Google” search bar. Isn’t it? The easy-breezy search bar looks simpler but what lies inside is a complex algorithm giving you results in a mere 0.23 seconds. Google’s search page is tagged as the one landing page for getting answers to user queries, gathering information, or maybe looking for another website. We trust Google’s search results because: -the time taken to display the results is extremely fast  -the results are highly optimized -it indexes the websites to show us only the best-optimized ones on the first page Amazon, on the other hand, is considered the search engine giant for eCommerce products. Amazon receives 53% of product searches making it the biggest search engine after Google and YouTube. But maintaining almost 500 million products online is no cakewalk, kind of the case with Amazon. A certain process that makes both the search engines different than one another is the intent! Let’s see how:

How is Amazon’s search engine different than Google’s?

In simple words: While Google deals with questions like “What is the most accurate answer to a searcher’s query?”, Amazon deals with questions like “What is the product a shopper is looking to buy?” Intent: While all user queries entered on Google are with the intent of a quick and desired response, on Amazon, the intent is simply to search for products to buy. Algorithm: The complexity of the algorithm that runs behind Google’s search engine needs to understand human language and respond typically for every query entered. Amazon’s search engine works with just one factor in mind “rank with its ability to sell”. The better a relevant product is shown, the better is its possibility to sell.  Core ranking factors: Google ranks and optimizes a website to increase its click-through rate on Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Amazon ranks products based on ‘Sales Velocity’ which includes Conversion rate, Keyword Relevance, and Customer Satisfaction.  And this is what separates the processes for both the search engines be it Google or Amazon.  Now, when we know how differently the two search engines work, we will look at the types of searches. The three generic ones are: -Informational Search -Navigational Search -Transactional Search

Informational Search

An informational search is where a user is looking for information on a certain topic or query. You type a query/phrase/keyword/topic in the search bar and expect blogs or websites which explain the topic well to show up.  We all know how dependent we are on Google to answer our queries. So, Google also has a defined ‘Knowledge Graph’ which consolidates various sources and provides answers in less than 2 sentences for your query. In this way, looking for a short answer becomes extremely easy.  Let’s take an example, Ken Adams is all set to get married. He has planned out his wedding ceremonies, the guest list, the venue, everything. Now, all he needs is to search for the best ring for his fiance. He opens up Google and types “platinum rings under $2000” in the search bar. He receives a lot of results for the same. The search results are: -Engagement rings under $2000 -A selection of gold and platinum rings -Platinum Engagement Rings -87 Gorgeous Engagement Rings Under $2000 That was quick!  He browses through the images to find ‘the perfect ring’. What would have taken Ken many hours of searching through multiple stores, happened within a few seconds online. Summarizing, Informational search helps users find answers to their queries. 
Did you know? Out of all the searches, informational search is the most popular one. Almost 80% of the searches are informational ones. Apparently, everyone is searching for an answer to something all the time!

Navigational Search

Navigational search is when users are redirected to a site after they choose a link from the results of their query. While there may not be an intent to purchase, the primary goal of the user is to get to the site that can provide the necessary information. According to a recent report, 70% of users navigate to a Youtube channel or a Facebook page/group by searching for them from a search engine. Let’s go back to Ken and his search for the perfect ring. He clicks the individual URLs to browse through different designs and patterns until he finds one that catches his eye. Here Ken is able to ‘window shop’ jewelry stores for rings from the comfort of his home. He is now just one step away from buying the ring. The Many Hats of Search Google’s navigational search algorithms learn from shopping patterns and use Page Ranks to display results that are closest to what the query is. But it is not always necessary that the search query a user type as a website name is a navigational request. Sometimes, if a user types “Facebook” might be actually looking for answers about the company or anything related to it and not just navigate to Facebook’s website. 
Did You Know? Google calls navigational requests as “Go” queries and it gets almost 3.5 billion such queries in a day.

Transactional Search

Transactional search is when the user is looking to buy something. Such queries and searches are extremely useful because they indicate a definite purpose to buy. Such queries may contain keywords that signal an intent to buy. Queries may be brand-specific like ‘Apple’, ‘Samsung’, ‘Nike’ or may be generic in nature like ‘Buy a camera’, ‘Best water filter’ etc. which also means the user is looking for information with a strong intention to buy soon. Transactional search queries are probably the most important ones for eCommerce businesses.  Once Ken finds the ring he wants to buy, he chooses the size and adds the ring to the shopping cart and completes the purchase. The Many Hats of Search Happy about the ring he just bought, Ken can now focus on other things he needs to do for the wedding. From searching for a ring, choosing a design, to buying the perfect one took just a few minutes and a couple of clicks on Google. This saved Ken a lot of aggravation.  The online jewelry store was able to show Ken its product offerings and help him buy the ring with no hassles at all. When users search for flight tickets, movie tickets, an online paid course, or a product from an eCommerce website, their primary goal is to complete the transaction.  However, users may or may not always complete a transaction. They may want to compare products and their reviews, prices, and eventually, save them to buy later or totally discard it. But such queries help search engines to personalize and optimize their results for future searches. eCommerce stores apply analytics and personalization algorithms that can help convert a search into a confirmed purchase. 
Did you know? Almost 4 million searches that Google receives per minute are transactional ones. 
While there are other types of searches as well, Informational, Navigational, and Transactional searches make up the bulk of searches done on Google. However, eCommerce search on websites like Amazon is a different ball game.  The hallmarks of an effective eCommerce search are: – Exact product search This is when the shoppers know exactly what they want and search by the product title. They expect to be redirected to the product description page. -Generic search Generic searches are when shoppers know what they are looking for, but they don’t know how to go about searching for that product. In such cases, an effective search result page will display the products closest to what the search query is while also some recommending products. Guided with product recommendations, shoppers are able to make an informed decision. For instance, Regina is searching for a pair of socks on Amazon. She isn’t specific but needs a funky pair to match her outfit. She receives a lot of product options around her query where she picks up a real weird ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ themed pair of socks and orders it. Such instances define the intelligent search results that a website offers. -Qualified search Qualified search means the query includes a product-specific attribute (also known as a qualifier). Product qualifiers can be color, size, materials, texture, patterns, or price range. So, shoppers may search for a query with one or more qualifiers. In his search for the ring, Ken searched for platinum ring mounted with a green ruby. While he includes the color of the stone in the search query, the results may or may not contain the qualifiers. -Non-product search Non-product search is the one where the user doesn’t type the product name. They want to know about the company or its services in detail and still use the search capability of the website. The instances can be searching for a product’s delivery date or return of items. It is always good to know the defined search types and how they work for you because then you know how to build an effective search for your own website. In a nutshell, optimizing your site search is equivalent to optimizing your site’s user experience which is exactly what we believe in at Unbxd. Here, we understand eCommerce search like no one else. We create an effective search solution for your website overcoming all the challenges and simplifying it for you. If you want to know more or just Unbox your site’s potential then reach out to us at

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