A search query, search term, or simply query, is the word, phrase, or group of words that a user types into a search engine search box. Search queries can be misspelled, in the wrong order, or match a keyword to a tee. They are real terms that real people use to find information, products, services, and more on the internet through organic or paid results. Think of what you typed into the search box that brought you to this page. That was a search query.
While a search query and a keyword may overlap, they are not the same thing. A keyword is an inference of what users might type into the search box when looking for a specific product or service. The information used to generate keywords comes from search query data gathered by search engines.
SEO professionals use these approximations to optimize websites with the help of tools such as Google Ads keyword planner, Bing keyword research tool, or others.
As search engines have evolved to provide users the best results available for their search query, it is no longer only about words or phrases. Search engines have gotten to a point where they manage enough data that they are very successful in determining searcher intent and expectations.
For example, if you simply type the word “Italy,” the search engine you normally use is able to offer results bases on your location, on your search history, and other factors inherent to your behavior as an internet user. Your results to that simple search query will differ greatly from mine because our context as users is different. But not only that, search engines also use information that are external to searchers such as trending topics, social networking, and more.