What are the Different Types of Keywords in SEO?
Anyone who’s dipped their footsie into the digital marketing river will have heard of keywords. They’re the foundation of any content strategy, and help inform your every move when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers. Knowing the different types of keywords is essential if you’re to make informed choices about your content and ad campaigns, so allow us to enlighten you!
What are keywords?
Keywords – although ‘keyphrases’ is a more accurate way of putting it – are the backbone of your content or the meat in your pie. To understand SEO keywords, you need to understand how people use the internet. Knowing the different types of keywords is essential if you’re to make informed choices about your content and ad campaigns.
As much as 93% of internet traffic comes via a search engine. Users input specific words, phrases or questions to find what they’re looking for. In the search results, the best-ranking pages are specifically-related to the aforementioned words, phrases or questions.
Why are keywords important in research?
If you want your website to compete with others, you’ll need to discover the relevant words that users are inputting into search engines. Keywords are hugely important when it comes to researching content, as they tell you what people want to know.
You can create an amazing piece of well-written content, but if you fail to base it around the terms people are searching for, no one will ever find it, as they simply aren’t looking.
To discover relevant keywords, you’ll need to undertake keyword research. This is a form of digital market research using a platform such as our DIY SEO Platform, SEMRush or AHRefs. But before you dive blindly into this, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for, and that’s where knowing the different types of keywords comes in handy.
What are the Different Types of Keywords in SEO?
A quick Google search will throw up a number of thought pieces regarding the different types of keywords used in SEO. Said articles may list anything from two or three different types to ten or more. Such figures understandably confuse matters and can turn a simple keyword research project into something unmanageable.
To simplify matters, all keywords can be split into two distinct groups:
Short-tail keywords have a high volume of searches. They’re usually single words – think ‘sofas’, ‘holidays’, ‘guitars’ – and are very difficult to rank for.
Long-tail keywords have a lower volume of searches. They may be single words, pairs or even whole sentences. They’re also usually much more specific – think ‘red faux leather sofas’, ‘holidays in Tynemouth’, ‘classical guitars under £100’ – and easier to rank for.
Old school SEO focused on short-tail keywords and using a solitary, high-volume word to excess. With Google’s artificial intelligence going through the roof, such tactics no longer work. Given that the search engine can pretty much read these days, the highest ranking pages tend to be optimised for a range of short and long-tail keywords, all relevant to the same subject matter.
A note on intent
When undertaking keyword research for SEO, consider the user intent behind potential searches. Short-tail keywords are seen as low intent, whereas long-tail are high. It also often follows that the longer the tail, the higher the intent. So what does this mean exactly?
Well, user intent is inexplicably-matched to the stages of the sales funnel. If someone uses the word ‘holidays’ for a search, they’re using a short-tail, high-volume term. They’re also nowhere close to making a purchase and merely dipping their toe into the water to see what’s out there.
By contrast, a long-tail search such as ‘camping holidays in northumbria’ reveals the user to be much closer to making a purchase. They know the type of holiday they’re looking for, and where they want to go – they just need to hone in on the specifics, such as a campsite and date.
So here’s why using different types of keywords is essential. Optimise a page for a range of different, related terms, and you’ll be matching different user intent at all levels of the sales funnel, increasing your site’s own chances of making a conversion.
Keywords for PPC
Now you’re au fait with the role of keywords in SEO, let’s take a squiz at how they fit in with pay-per-click, or paid advertising. Short and long-tail keywords are still relevant, but when it comes to advertising, you’ll need to consider the following four categories:
Exact match keywords
Just as it says on the tin, ‘exact match’ keywords are precisely that. You’re looking to match a user search to a tee – the exact same words, in the exact same order.
Phrase match keywords
When running an ad campaign, it’s easier to target phrase matches than exact ones. A phrase match applies when a user inputs your keywords, only in a different order. Let’s say your paid ad keyword is as follows:
‘camping holidays northumbria’
A phrase match could come in the form of:
‘northumbria camping holidays’
Phrase matches can also occur should a user add more words to your keywords, such as:
‘caravan camping holidays northumbria 2022’
Broad match keywords
‘Broad match’ keywords allow you to display your ads for non-specific matches, although searches will still be relevant. To use our holiday-related keyword once more, a broad match of ‘camping holidays northumbria’ could be ‘camping vacations northumbria’ or ‘tent holidays north-east’.
‘Negative’ keywords relate to searches that you wish to avoid matching your ads to. Remember we talked about the sales funnel and matching keywords to user intent? Well, the reasoning is similar here. You may wish to exclude certain keywords from triggering your ads in an attempt to hone in on the most likely users to make a click.
To use our example again, negative keywords relating to ‘camping holidays northumbria’ might include the following: ‘wild camping northumbria’, ‘holidays in northumbria’, and ‘glamping north-east’.
How to choose keywords for SEO
Anyone new to keyword research can be forgiven for being completely overwhelmed by the process – where to start, which words to choose, and will I ever get round to writing anything? Use the following steps as a foundation for choosing the best keywords for SEO, and the process will become far more palatable.
Use a keyword research platform
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need an online tool to assist you in this task. Consider Adwords, SEMRush, or AHRefs. These will not only provide you with volume related to the words you’ve input but related keywords too.
Conduct competitor research
You can use the likes of SEMRush to check out your competitors too, and see how they’re ranking for various keywords. Such research can help inform your own content, and you may even find relevant keywords that your rivals have missed.
Select a range of short and long-tail terms
Every piece of content you create needs to have a short-tail focus keyword and then a range of long-tail terms, all relevant to the topic you’re writing about.
Google, Google, and, erm, Google
A range of simple Google searches can throw up a few more ideas as well. You’ll be able to see a range of content relevant to the keywords you’re looking to rank for and so see what you’re up against.
Not all keywords last forever (sniff, sniff), although some will (as far as we know). Those words in it for the long haul are known as ‘evergreen’ as they’ll likely still be around in decades to come. Whereas words with a shorter shelf-life are simply ‘trending’. You’ll need to cover industry trends in your content, but be sure to carry out regular reviews, as some words will lose relevance over time.
Take a look at our article on how to optimise keywords for SEO for more information.
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