18 Sep 2019
The many hats of search
Ankita  Tripathi
Ankita Tripathi
Technical Writer

We have come to rely on the "Google" search bar for all of our information needs. What lies beneath the intuitive search bar is a complex algorithm that returns results in milliseconds. It is widely accepted that Google's search page is the go-to page for users seeking answers to queries, gathering information, or perhaps searching for other websites. Our trust in Google's results is derived from three factors: first, the results are displayed extremely quickly; second, the results are highly optimized; and last, it indexes websites only for the best-optimized ones.

On the other hand, Amazon 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 from one another is the intent!

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

So, how is Amazon's search engine different from Google's?

Simply put, while Google is focused on providing the most accurate answer to a user's query, Amazon is all about helping shoppers find products to buy.

Intent is a big factor that sets these two search engines apart. Google users typically look for a quick response to their query, while Amazon users are explicitly searching for products to purchase.

The algorithms behind these search engines also have key differences. Google's algorithm is complex and must be able to understand and respond to a wide range of human language queries. On the other hand, Amazon's search engine is geared towards one goal: to rank products based on their ability to sell. This includes factors like conversion rate, keyword relevance, and customer satisfaction.

Finally, the core ranking factors for these search engines differ as well. Google optimizes websites to increase their click-through rate on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), while Amazon ranks products based on their "sales velocity."

When it comes to types of searches, there are three main categories: informational, navigational, and transactional.

Google and Amazon may have different processes, but they both play a crucial role in helping users find the information and products they need.

Informational search

An informational search is when a user seeks information on a particular topic or query. Simply type your question into a search bar and expect to see blogs or websites that provide detailed explanations of the topic. We're all familiar with how reliant we are on Google to answer our questions, and it's no surprise, given that the search giant has a well-defined "Knowledge Graph" that quickly consolidates various sources and provides concise answers to queries.

For example, let's say Ken Adams is getting married and has planned all the wedding details. The only thing left on his to-do list is to find the perfect ring for his fiance. He opens up Google and types "platinum rings under $2000" into the search bar.

In just a few seconds, he receives a list of results, including

"Engagement rings under $2000,"

"A selection of gold and platinum rings,"

"Platinum Engagement Rings," and

"87 Gorgeous Engagement Rings Under $2000."

He quickly browses through the images and finds the perfect ring – all without having to spend hours searching through multiple stores.

Informational searches make up a huge portion of all searches – around 80%, to be exact. It's no wonder, as we're always looking for answers to something!

Navigational search


A navigational search occurs when users are directed to a specific site after choosing a link from their search results. While there may not be an intent to purchase, the user's primary goal is to get to the site that can provide the necessary information. According to recent reports, a whopping 70% of users navigate to YouTube channels or Facebook pages/groups by searching for them from a search engine.

Returning to our earlier example, Ken clicks on individual URLs to browse through different designs and patterns of rings until he finds one that catches his eye. This allows him to "window shop" for jewelry from the comfort of his own home, bringing him one step closer to making a purchase.

Google's navigational search algorithms are designed to learn from shopping patterns and use Page Ranks to display results that are most relevant to the user's query. However, it's worth noting that not all search queries that include website names are necessarily navigational requests. For instance, a user who types "Facebook" into the search bar might be looking for information about the company or anything related rather than just navigating the Facebook website.

Google refers to these types of navigational queries as "Go" queries, and an estimated 3.5 billion of them are submitted daily.

Transactional search


Transactional searches are those in which the user wants to make a purchase. These searches are particularly useful because they indicate a clear intention to buy. Transactional search queries may include brand-specific keywords like "Apple," "Samsung," or "Nike," or more generic terms like "buy a camera" or "best water filter." These types of searches are especially important for ecommerce businesses.

For example, once Ken has found the ring he wants to buy, he selects the size and adds it to his shopping cart. Then, with just a few clicks on Google, he's able to complete the purchase and move on to other tasks he needs to take care of for the wedding. The online jewelry store was able to show Ken its product offerings and help him make the purchase with ease.

Other common types of transactional searches include searching for flight tickets, movie tickets, online courses, and products from ecommerce websites. While users may not always complete a transaction, these searches help search engines personalize and optimize their results for future searches. Ecommerce stores can use analytics and personalization algorithms to try to convert search queries into confirmed purchases.

On ecommerce websites like Amazon, there are several different types of searches that users may engage in:

  • Exact product search: when shoppers know exactly what they want and search using the product title. They expect to be directed to the product description page.

  • Generic search: when shoppers know what they are looking for but don't know how to search for it. An effective search result page will display products most closely related to the search query and may also recommend additional products.

  • Qualified search: when the query includes a specific product attribute, such as color, size, material, texture, pattern, or price range.

  • Non-product search: when the user is looking for information about the company or its services rather than a specific product. This might include searches for delivery dates or return policies.

Overall, informational, navigational, and transactional searches make up the majority of searches conducted on Google, while ecommerce searches on websites like Amazon involve various queries.


By understanding these different search types and how they work, you can create an effective search function for your website. Optimizing your site search is crucial to enhancing the user experience on your site, and this is something that Unbxd is passionate about. Our ecommerce search team has a wealth of experience in creating effective search solutions that meet the needs of your website and streamline the search process. If you'd like to learn more, don't hesitate to book a demo!