Many different keyword types exist in the world of SEO. There are also just as many types of keywords in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, but that’s beside the point and beyond the scope of this article.
In SEO, different keyword types play into how the how, what, where and why you are optimizing for your site. And in addition to familiarizing yourself with each type, you also need to know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to their advantages and disadvantages.
If this sounds daunting, don’t worry: Ahead, we are diving deep into the keyword types and explaining exactly what you need to know.
Common Keyword Myths
First, it’s important to get the most prevalent keyword myths out of the way. Unfortunately, myths are pervasive in the SEO industry. There are two keyword-related ones that should be quickly addressed before we get to the good stuff:
Keyword Myth 1: LSI Keywords
There is no such thing as latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords. Google does not use them, and the name itself is based on an old technology first invented in 2008 by Susan Dumais at Bell Labs.
But just because Google uses synonyms and related terms does not mean that they use LSI. Semantic SEO is entirely different from LSI, and if you can’t define the “latent” part of LSI then you should never be allowed to use it. Unfortunately, it seems that some SEO professionals have chosen to buy into the myth and use LSI to describe keyword synonyms and related terms.
Keyword Myth 2: There is a Magic Keyword Density
This still prevails as a myth – some SEOs believe there is a magic keyword density number you must hit, and if you do then you will achieve sky-high rankings every time.
Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. That’s because keyword success is more about relevancy than it is density. If you have a linear distribution of keywords throughout your document, including supporting keywords, then you will likely fulfill any minimum keyword requirements. The idea here is that if you are naturally talking about a topic, you will likely use the main topic keyword plenty of times.
Natural keyword distribution is not to be confused with keyword stuffing, which involves randomly stuffing in keywords where they may not make sense without regard to the overall quality or readability of the content. Sometimes this activity goes overboard, resulting in lower-quality content because of the keywords.
When done correctly, keyword-optimized content is perfectly readable, and users won’t even know that keywords are there. While there isn’t a magic number of keyword density to hit, you should pay attention to your competition and how often they are using their keywords.
Keywords and Their Length
If we’re discussing different types of keywords in terms of their length, then the length of a keyword can tell you many things including its search volume, how that traffic is going to convert and other crucial metrics.
For example, short-tail keywords are likely higher in search volume, but much lower in conversions. Medium-tail keywords are more specific, and despite having lower search volume can be higher in conversions. Long-tail keywords are highly specific and have less search volume, but can generate significantly higher conversion rates because they can better answer the user’s specific query.
The first type of keyword you may run across are known as short-tail keywords. These keywords are also known as seed keywords. They are short, very broad and target higher search volume phrases.
Short-tail keywords, also known as head terms, are usually three words long or less. They are usually the first words you think of when you think of any subject, product or service. For example, SEO is a head term. Fish is a head term when talking about fishing. Cheeseburger is a head term when talking about fast food.
Long-tail keywords are generally much longer and they are usually defined as keywords containing more than three words. They are far more specific, and nail down what a consumer may be looking for in a highly targeted fashion. In general, these keywords do not result in significant search volume but can be invaluable when it comes to bringing in higher-quality traffic.
There are pros and cons to using both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
Short-Tail Keywords: Benefits and Drawbacks
When you’re using short-tail keywords, you’re fighting an uphill battle. This is especially true if you are a new site in your industry and aren’t quite established yet. You’re going to have a big challenge ahead of you: Many sites are already at the front of the line and you will be competing against several years of authority to get there.
In general, the shorter your keyword is, the higher search volume you’re going to have. If you rank for a short tail keyword, you’re going to get a ton of organic traffic as a result. However, everyone is already trying to rank for short-tail keywords, and thus they have high competition. This high competition is something that is going to work against you, because you have to work on getting your site to the top positions ahead of many competitors.
The other issue with short-tail keywords is that they aren’t very targeted. For instance, people who are searching for SEO may not be looking for articles specific to keyword research, link building and the like. There are also large brands at the forefront of the SERPs for this keyword phrase such as Semrush, Moz and Wordstream.
As for the cost per click for these keywords, it tends to be high. This is especially true if you’re bidding on ads for them. This is because of the fact that they are that competitive by nature. Other people buy them all the time, and thus they command a higher premium. This is where SEO can be so powerful in organic searches, because even though it may take slightly longer to get where you want to be, you won’t pay for organic traffic like you would with paid ads.
While you may get higher traffic with short-tail keywords, their conversion rate also tends to be lower. This is due to the poor targeting involved as well as the possibility that people may find something they like about your resource or they may not, and they tend to bounce out if their exact needs aren’t met.
There is also one other drawback for short-tail keywords: they tend to be all over the place when it comes to user intent. So, it’s much harder to accurately predict what users want and how to give it to them.
Long-Tail Keywords: Benefits and Drawbacks
There is one major drawback of long-tail keywords: you are going to get less search volume. There is no argument here. But, there is an advantage of long tail keywords and that’s their high search intent, and precise targeting. This allows you to more effectively weed out users who may not be interested in what you have to offer
Long-tail keywords also give you an opportunity to gain traction in a space with lower competition. Overall, long-tail keywords have lower competition than their short-tail counterparts, which means that you won’t have as high of a hill to climb as you would otherwise. The good news is if you are targeting these types of keywords, then you have more of a chance to get in on a market where there are fewer companies selling what you are. This is yet another benefit of long-tail keywords.
And because long-tail keywords are highly targeted search terms, the focus of these keywords is also high. This means that you will only be targeting consumers who are looking for one specific thing, and you will be better able to satisfy their search query. Doing so will go a long way towards potential customer satisfaction and ensuring that they will click on your link rather than someone else’s.
In addition to the above benefits, there is also a cost benefit to targeting long-tail keywords as well, especially if you use paid ads. With paid ads, you can buy clicks that are much cheaper compared to their short-tail counterparts, which is an enticing offer. You can use this to your advantage to appear in the higher positions of the SERPs reserved for sponsored results while also working on your organic positions at the same time.
Fresh Short-Term Keywords
When thinking about these types of keywords, you must understand something that may have been promoted quite recently in the media.
For instance, it may be a new movie release. The hype could also be centered around a popular product or service, or even a current event that has nothing to do with media promotion. From COVID-19 to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, these types of keywords usually see a higher search volume when the hype is at its peak. After the hype dies down, so too does the search volume.
If you write an article focused on these keywords, then you may end up only realizing its SEO benefit for a short period of time. However, the opposite is also true: If you write content focused on these keywords, and the SEO benefit is realized, you may see your traffic skyrocket due to its popularity.
The upside of this is that you still get SEO benefits. How long these benefits will last is the question.
SEOPressor says the following about fresh short-term keywords:
“You can make use of a fresh keyword’s explosive volume of search to attract more organic views but be prepared for a harsh fall when the hype is over.
The thing with fresh keywords is, you can chime in with the latest news and attract some new audience, breaking from your old, existing audiences.”
You must investigate things like your keyword’s seasonality, as well as their search trends using something like Google Trends. This will help you dive into additional dimensions for your keywords to determine whether or not they are a commercially viable opportunity.
Commercially Viable Opportunities
Speak of commercial viability, let’s talk about the commercial viability of a keyword for a moment. If you’re performing research on a keyword phrase, you want to know whether or not it’s profitable for your client to target them. You wouldn’t want to do SEO for a dead keyword, right?
Allow us to explain. Don’t worry—it’s worth the wait. We’re also going to give you a process for reverse engineering your competitor’s keywords!
If you want to go after a commercially viable opportunity, you must not only look at user intent and the length of the keyword. You must also examine whether or not it is viable at this point in time. To do this, we examine other attributes of the keyword such as its seasonality and historical performance.
Example #1: Say you have a moving client. And you are looking for opportunities to drive traffic to their site using keyword phrases like “moving to atlanta.” You find that you have a healthy search volume, but you don’t have any CTR (click-through rate) or CPC (cost-per-click). Quick explanation: CTR is how many people visit your site from the Google search results by clicking on your link. CPC is how much people are bidding on your keywords on the paid ads side. You want a balance between CTR and CPC (or at least a higher CPC if there’s no CTR).
It’s important to note that Google also doesn’t tell you everything about specific keywords. We would love to tell you a story about this. We were doing keyword research for a personal injury lawyer. We had one plural version of the keyword that was getting 97,000 searches over 12 months. Then, we had the singular version of the keyword getting zero searches. You cannot honestly tell us that the plural version of a keyword got 97,000 searches over 12 months, and the singular version of the keyword got absolutely 0 searches.
If you see errors like this, don’t doubt the customers that you are targeting. Instead, doubt Google Keyword Planner. You may also want to double check and verify if other tools are also telling you the exact same thing.
Example #2: You have a client in a very competitive market. Competitors are vying left and right for business and to appear at the top of the search results. Numbers are all high, including a keyword difficulty level. But for most keywords a site is visibly ranking for, you can’t find specific opportunities. In fact, most keywords return zero to almost no search volume. What can you do in this scenario?
How to Reverse Engineer Your Competitor’s Keywords in Three Clicks
Enter Ahrefs. With its tools, you can perform keyword research on the domains themselves and reverse engineer the keywords they’re ranking for.
Using the organic keywords report, we’ll do a Google search on something like personal injury lawyers. All general, with no local modifications. Find the top one to three organic results, and pick a competitor that’s not a super large agency or attorney directory.
Add your domain to the domain or URL field here, and click on the search button:
It should give you a wealth of statistics in the dashboard.
Now, if you click on organic keywords (or organic keywords 2.0), you should then see a screen that looks like this:
This report shows you exactly what your competitor’s pages are ranking for. Be sure to export your data to an Excel spreadsheet and save them to a folder.
Repeat this process for each one of your competitors.
After the entire process is done, you can combine the parts of the reports you like and throw away those you don’t.
At the end of this process, you should have all possible keywords that your rivals’ domains rank for, and you can then dig into the keyword lists at a much deeper level.
This process will usually reveal opportunities you may have overlooked by mistake.
What Are the Different Types of Keywords?
Aside from the types we have already discussed, there are other types of keywords you should know about. They include the following:
- Evergreen Long-term Keywords
- Product-Defining Keywords
- Customer-Defining Keywords
- Geo-Targeting Keywords
- Intent-Based Keywords
The existence of these types means that you will have to fine-tune your keyword strategy depending on what you want to accomplish.
What Are Evergreen Long-term Keywords?
What, exactly, does evergreen really mean? Evergreen means that something is relevant all the time. Or, at least, it is relevant the majority of the time.
An evergreen keyword may experience some fluctuations in search volume, but otherwise, its performance doesn’t really change.
This means that when you publish a piece focused on this type of keyword, anywhere from now until at least two years later, you will see users looking for and wanting to read about that topic.
Always make sure that any evergreen keywords you write for can degrade gracefully over time, or require a minimum number of updates in order to ensure the content never goes out of date.
Evergreen keywords are also terms that people search for over and over again. The reason for this is that they are continuously relevant and have been in use long enough for people to associate them with a specific brand or product.
If your business has a strong brand identity, then using keywords with this level of familiarity for your business’ marketing will be a positive asset.
One of the biggest advantages to marketing with evergreen keywords is that they are easy to find.
Keyword tools such as Google Ads Keyword Planner can list your current keywords, but how many other businesses are using them?
Chances are, you are the only business using them. That makes it easy for your potential customers to find you.
Evergreen keywords should be competitive, specific, and widely used within your industry.
Your competitors may be using them, but they probably aren’t using them exclusively. If you’re marketing your business online, then it is critical that you target specific keywords that will bring value to your customers.
Keywords that are proven to bring traffic, make money and be popular are evergreen keywords.
Once you have found or created your evergreen keywords, how do you promote them? There are several ways to do this. Some of the most popular include social media, content websites, email marketing, PPC ads, blogging, search engine optimization, video creation, article creation, press releases and more.
Creating different promotional materials will allow you to spread your evergreen keywords far and wide. Not only will they give you value for your money, but they will also help to make sure that your customers remember your business.
This will build trust, which will in turn lead to more referrals and sales. Remember, when a customer refers another person to a business, this is an advertisement in itself.
When you promote your keywords, be sure to use them in creative and unique ways. Strive to make them stand out from the rest of the words on the page, and don’t be afraid to be different.
The goal is to make customers want to learn more about what you are selling, and to give them information that will allow them to make a purchasing decision sooner rather than later.
These types of keywords also don’t go out of style. They will be relevant and useful no matter what else is going on. As a result, your business will be seen over again, even if there are other businesses using similar keywords.
Every time someone searches for keywords related to your business, your name may show up. The result is a lot of traffic that can lead to a loyal customer base.
Evergreen keywords aren’t new and have been around since the beginning of the search engine optimization industry. The issue is that many businesses use them, but do so in a way that is not very consistent. For example, some use keywords that get a lot of traffic but with very little competition.
In other words, their keyword is used once and forgotten the next day. This happens far too often.
Your web page should have at least one of these keywords in it for a number of reasons.
First, a search engine will rank your site higher for a given set of keywords if it finds your site relevant and useful.
Second, these keywords will bring you more traffic since people are more likely to click on them.
Third, your keywords will generate backlinks to your site that will improve your search engine rankings.
Why Are Evergreen Keywords so Important?
A business that is focused on staying fresh and current in its marketing efforts will find it crucial to constantly remain relevant and up-to-date. This means using keywords that are not becoming stale in the search engines. By using evergreen keywords, you’ll get the best of both worlds: Relevancy from content that’s relevant to the queries your customer base is using, as well as the knowledge that never goes out of date from an evergreen perspective.
What Are Product-Defining Keywords?
In online marketing, the process of finding the right words to describe your product is called product-defining keyword research. It is a process that goes beyond keyword research and analysis. It involves choosing the right keywords that resonate with your customer base and allows them to recognize your products in search.
As a website content creator, you must know how to choose the right keywords that will help you gain higher rankings for your products.
There are several steps involved in determining the best keywords to use for your products. The first is to define what your product is. This is important because customers do not like to be directly sold to.
The more you can match your keywords to how your customers think, the better. This overcomes the “being sold to” approach and then becomes the softer “being marketed to” approach. Overtly selling and telling people what they want is seldom the right approach. Instead, a softer sell is often much more effective.
It all depends on the nature of your industry and how you can reasonably expect to attract your customers directly from the SERPs.
The second step is to ask yourself, “What do I have to offer my potential customer?” You should try to come up with a description of what your product can do for them.
This way, you will be able to determine if your product is selling what you claim it can. In other words, customers are looking for an effective solution to their problems, and it’s your job to give them one.
You have to know your product so well that you know exactly what your customers want in their mind—you need to tune into their thoughts so well that you create keywords that are mapped to how they are thinking.
Just coming up with a one or two word keyword is often not always enough.
Third, you need to analyze the competition and find out which of their products are being sold in Google and Yahoo searches. You should analyze the keywords being used by the most traffic and find out if your product is included. This is a good way to determine if your product’s definition needs to be changed or if it should remain the same.
Fourth, analyze your product’s definition by adding and removing keywords where they make sense. You should always make an effort to improve the definition of your product. If you have many keywords and cover the depth of your product through your content, then customers won’t have much trouble finding it.
Fifth, use the keyword tools provided by Google and other software (such as Ahrefs and Semrush). These tools allow you to analyze the competition as well as the traffic coming to your site.
This is important because it will help you determine how many times your keyword appears on the search engines. This information is critical because then you can target your SEO efforts to the keywords that have the most search volume (or CTR, or the best user intent, whichever you prefer). These tools also allow you to determine how much you are losing to competitors who have tailored their keyword strategy to their products and services.
Sixth, use a keyword optimization tool like Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool for your product’s definition. Keyword optimization tools will help you analyze the competition as well as traffic coming to your site. They will also allow you to choose which of your product’s keywords is bringing you the best results.
Another important factor is the volume of searches that your product receives. You will know how many searches your product gets daily and weekly based on this metric.
By knowing this number, you can increase the number of searches as well as the number of people visiting your website. Unless you’re using Google’s Keyword Planner, most information from third-party tools should be taken with a grain of salt. This is even more apparent since Ahrefs lost Jumpshot, an accurate metrics data provider.
Finally, remember that there is no such thing as a stupid question. When you ask a question in Google search, you can determine exactly what your customer base is likely asking, and find out information from that resource. If you ask a question that is very common, then you are likely to receive a lot of “answers.”
Keep in mind that your product’s definition is the very first line of information you want potential buyers to know about your product.
Make sure you address all the questions related to your product’s definition. This is how you will develop your articles cache. To identify questions real customers are asking, you can try using a tool like AnswerThePublic.
Once you have your keyword list ready, you need to start researching your competition. Use a keyword tool, such as Keywords Everywhere or AHREFs, to look up the top ten searches for your product. This will give you an idea of what keyword phrases your competitors are using.
With these words, try to create new keyword combinations that are related to your product but are still highly competitive. These new product-keyword combinations may even have a chance of being the next hot trend in marketing your product.
When you are done with your research, it’s time to start creating product-related content around your keyword list. Be sure to keep your product’s definition at the forefront of your content.
Your content should clearly define your product’s unique benefits and features, and also provide clear instructions on how to use the product. Include links to your product’s website at the bottom of each article or blog post. Also add clear, high-quality photos that highlight the most important functions of your product that your customer must know about.
While you may have your product ready to go, you will need to do many hours of research before you can launch your new product. This is where knowing your product-defining keywords at the beginning can help you a great deal.
By having a list of keywords that define your product, you will be able to shorten your product description and make it easy to find when people search online.
Remember, this is an important step, and you don’t want to rush it.
What Are Customer-Defining Keywords?
For those who are not aware, customer-defining keywords are those keywords which, well, define your ideal customer. These are the common words your customers use to find the product they need on Google search.
It’s also a term that describes keywords that reflect a customer need or desire. You can use it to analyze your market, or you can use it to help customers choose your product or service over a competitor’s.
There is some disagreement among SEO professionals on what these terms mean.
Some think they are marketing terms that allow companies to place themselves in the minds of potential customers. Others disagree, arguing that it is actually a marketing term that gives marketers a tool to attach their brand to their product in the consumer’s mind.
Whichever group you fall into, it’s easy to see how this marketing term has become important to online businesses. After all, without it, customers simply can’t shop.
One way to think of these keywords is as a way of asking a customer if the product they’re considering purchasing right now is something they would buy if you offered it to them.
The idea isn’t to include all the possible customer needs that might be satisfied by your product, but to focus on the most common ones.
These keywords are important because they give insight into the customer, and provide a method of identifying the market you are looking to penetrate.
Think of it like this: If there was only one type of car you could buy, what are the keywords that people should associate with it? Is there a single term that describes your entire business? Probably not. Your keywords should be broader, allowing search engines to pick up on the most common elements.
Here’s an example: A customer might search for “cheap tires” or “free tire discounts.” Those two keyword phrases could describe your product or service. In this example, your keywords might be “cheap tires” and “tire discounts.” In either case, the search phrase could potentially include other options, including “discounts on tires” and “bargain tire deals.”
What are customer search behaviors in general? This is a good way to approach your market research, too. Some people search for a given term in particular situations, some people search in broad terms and others search for a phrase that captures their interests in a much narrower modification.
If your website has strong interest from a certain group, that might be a good thing. But it’s also helpful to know what customers are searching for when you design your product or service.
How do you find out what your customers are interested in? It’s quite simple to do online— all you have to do is go to Google and type in a few keywords related to your product or service and see what pops up. Google Trends can be helpful for conducting more in-depth research in this area.
What are customers looking for? Are they looking for a deal, are they looking for customer service, are they looking for a freebie or are they looking for recommendations? You can use any of these phrases as you choose to describe what your customers are after.
Once you have a sense of what your customers want, you can do some advanced research to find out what’s already out there. In our example, we used “bargain tire deals.”
You’ll also want to use other words in your niche to create variations on your main theme (i.e., “cheap tires,” “bargain tire specials,” et cetera), so you will come up with some combinations that will turn those words into search terms that customers will search for.
You’ll have to be patient! This takes time, but it can be done.
What Are Geo-Targeting Keywords?
Geo-targeting is the process of seeking out location-based keywords for a specific market or target audience. Creating geo-targeted keywords allows you to go after these location-based keywords with a hyper-targeted approach. Typically, these keywords will have a location modifier.
Once you have created a keyword for a market, you can search for sites that are specifically catering to your audience.
When a site has this targeted traffic, you can use this information to your advantage and begin to generate leads and convert them into sales. For those who don’t know what geo-targeting keywords really are, here’s an easy breakdown:
A keyword is a word or phrase. It can also be a set of words or a string of words that are used in an advertisement, such as on a website or in a print or online publication. A keyword is often associated with a brand, a business name or a product or service. A good example of a keyword is “motor oil.”
A location is any place where something is being searched for. This could be physical locations, states, cities, nations, islands or anything else of the sort. A location can be local, state or country, but it can also be globally centered. Geo-targeting works best when the target market is international. An example of geo-targeting in action is when the individual searches for a specific product or service and is offered a list of product or service providers near their home. In this case, the searcher can go to that company’s website and find all of its outlets in that particular location.
A keyword is a set of keywords or key phrases. It can also be combinations of keywords or key phrases. A keyword is a good way to identify search terms. However, when you are doing your keyword research and you want to find very specific terms, it may not be as effective as finding general search terms. For example, a search term like “car repair” may return thousands of websites but finding a site with information about that specific car repair shop is probably more targeted and specific than trying to find just any automotive repair site.
So, what is the difference between doing keyword research and doing geo-targeting? Keyword research provides general information about keywords, while geo-targeting provides targeted location-based information. When you do your research, you will be able to understand what people are searching for, while when you do your keyword research, you can pinpoint specific information about that person.
What are geo-targeting keywords? These keywords are search terms that are found within a specific area, state, country or even city. Geo-targeting uses this information to better allow internet users to locate the websites within that location that they are interested in. By focusing on a smaller area, you will be able to increase your website’s traffic because you will have more people who are most likely to purchase your business’s products or services. The more people who purchase from you, the more money is generated by your company through your online business.
Examples of these types of keywords include:
- Los Angeles personal injury lawyers
- Personal injury lawyers in Atlanta
- Seattle personal injury attorneys
- New York car accident lawyers
Why should you care about these keywords? As a business owner, using search engine optimization tactics to gain a larger share of an online market can help you make more money in less time.
You don’t have to spend days or weeks searching for the ideal keywords because the right ones are right under your nose.
Doing some research on keywords related to your business or industry makes it easier to find good keywords, which is a huge part of the process of being successful online.
There is no excuse for not doing proper keyword research. You need to be competitive if you want to compete with the rest of the online businesses.
The right keywords are a major key to getting more traffic to your website. If you can’t get the proper search engine optimization tactic done, you won’t stand a chance of succeeding online.
Geo-targeting keywords are important and useful so make sure you know all about them.
What Are Intent-Based Keywords?
What are intent-based keywords? In plain English, these keywords are those that are based on specific user intent. What are the different types of user intent?
- transactional; and
Informational keywords are those that are research-based. In this stage of the buying funnel, the customer is looking to perform research on the product or service they wish to purchase.
You want to include keywords that most buyers in your industry will use to search for your product. And, you want to use research modifiers. These usually adhere to the following formats:
- What are *keyword*
- What is *keyword*
- How do I do *keyword*
- What do I do with *keyword*
Transactional keywords include all of those keywords that are “buying” keyword modifiers, such as:
- *Product name* for sale
- Buy *product name*
- Purchase *product name*
- Bargain *product name*
- How to buy *product name*
- Order *keyword*
Navigational keywords are those types of queries that users input to navigate to a certain page. Product names, service names, locations, and even brand names are all valid modifiers.
These are not typically the types of keywords you can physically optimize for, but it is a good idea to know they exist.
Following a good organizational content hierarchy and properly optimizing for all of your potential keywords will help make it easier for people to navigate to the content that’s important to them.
Keywords Are the Backbone of a Successful SEO Campaign
Most savvy SEO professionals realize this fact: Ensuring that you choose the right keywords can make or break the success of your SEO campaign.
If your keywords are weak, and you missed the target, you may miss seeing the results that your SEO campaign deserves.
Improving your results means improving from the website’s previous target—if there ever was any. For websites without a previous target, they will continue seeing extraordinary results as all metrics improve.
Being a keyword research maven will pay dividends in your website’s overall results as your SEO campaign reaches maturity and comes to fruition.
Featured Image: Shutterstock / Apr 2021
Image 1: SEOpressor / Apr 2021