There is a cool story told of a legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi. He had a ritual that he would perform on the first day of training.
When he received a group of seasoned professional football players, he would sit them down and hold up a football in front of them:
“Gentlemen, this is a football”
He talked about its size and shape, how it can be kicked, carried, or passed. He took the team out onto the empty field and said, “This is a football field.” He walked them around, describing the dimensions, the shape, the rules, and how the game is played.
This coach knew that even these experienced players, and indeed the team, could become great only by mastering the fundamentals. They could spend their time practising intricate trick plays, but until they mastered the fundamentals of the game, they would never become a championship team.
The fundamentals of Search
In the world of SEO we find all sorts of “trick plays”. We find everything from people caring about Penguin’s next refresh date to how many links to your site come from the same C Block. In the midst of all of this complexity, it’s fascinating to observe how simple, straightforward application fundamental principles can yield great results. Folks can get lost and distracted by the flashy fancies of SEO tactics, while forgetting the really simple and interesting fundamental strategies.
With that in mind, this article will write a bit about the fundamentals of search; query types and intent. This stuff is surprisingly interesting and fun to analyse: hopefully, this is written in such a way that it will entertain the beginners and even seasoned SEO champions.
The three types of intent
One of the most fundamental ideas in SEO that everyone should grasp is that:
Keywords are merely vehicles of intent.
Words don’t just magically get typed into Search Engines! There are actual human beings behind each search, and by performing search they reveal intent, their intent.
Search queries have three general types of intent:
Informational (looking to know something)
Transactional (looking to buy something)
Navigational (looking to go somewhere online)
Understanding and categorising these three types of intent is one of the major tasks of Google. Google is great at it that’s one of the reasons why they’re so successful.
There’s perhaps no better way to illustrate this than through real life SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). Here are some real examples of SERPS from Google Australia. Something to remember is that although search is generally divided between these three search types, that does not mean individual searches necessarily fall entirely into one type or the other. (In fact this exercise will go a long way to illustrate how diverse SERPS can be with regards to these three categories of intent. It’s not always very clear-cut.)
In fact, a great way to gauge the value and potential of search terms in the keyword research cycle is to judge where they fall on this three dimensional picture.