Optimizing your website for search engines is essential if you want to be discovered online and attract customers. The first step to search engine optimization is understanding how to identify and leverage the right keywords to attract your ideal customers. There are several types of keywords in SEO that affect your web presence. But learning how to utilize them well can help you grow.
Developing a keyword strategy through competitor analysis
To start, you’ll want to establish your target keyword through keyword research and develop a strategy around it. Next, you’ll want to use a search engine optimization tool to see your competitor keywords and how you can spin those words on your website to attract similar clients.
Knowing how your competitors use keywords to draw traffic to their web page can positively inform your own keyword strategy.
Discovering a competitor keyword gives you valuable insight into your ideal client’s thoughts. In addition, it can provide you insight into what type of language potential customers use when searching for your product or service.
How do they talk about your product or service? What language, terms or phrases do they use to form their search query for your competitor’s offerings?
This kind of competitive analysis helps you better utilize your target keywords and Google ads keywords to generate more search traffic.
SEO keyword categories
In this article, we will explore how the types of keywords in SEO are commonly categorized and how you should use them to improve your search engine rankings.
Understanding SEO keywords will help you acquire more relevant search traffic and effectively reach your target audience.
While a generic one- or two-word phrase might accurately identify your topic, these phrases are generally too vague and overused. It will be difficult for your web page to rank for them.
It is wiser to instead focus on longer, less competitive phrases that are more specific and tailored to your intended audience. They will have fewer competitors vying for that top spot in the search engine results, making it easier for your page to move up in the rankings.
READ ALSO: How To Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts
How many types of SEO keywords are there?
While there are a number of different types of SEO keywords, we will only cover nine types of SEO keywords in this article.
I’ve divided them into four groups based on their form and function.
Knowing how they are categorized can help you better align your SEO efforts and goals when developing a keyword strategy.
Keywords defined by their length
How many words you use, and the specificity of their phrasing, impacts how your page appears in the search results. There are three keywords which are defined by their length:
- Short-tail keywords (also known as a seed word or head term)
- Mid-tail keywords
- Long-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords, also known as headwords or seed words, because they form the root of any phrase you want to build for your subject, are words and phrases that are 1-2 words in length.
These overly broad search terms have extremely high search volume and are very competitive – making them difficult to rank for. In addition, the search intent is ambiguous because the keywords are generic and give no insight.
This type of keyword tends to be superficial and topical. It is an idea formed in broad strokes, if you will.
Short-tail keyword examples:
- grocery store
- search engine optimization
- Disneyland vacation
These short-tail keywords are all incredibly vague and provide no context. They won’t improve your search rankings. They are used too often across the web. In reality, they will be too competitive for you to earn a top spot on the search engine results page. (And, even if you did, they are not specific enough to matter).
Mid-tail keywords are phrases that are 3 to 4 words long. These phrases have a more moderate search volume and are less competitive than their short-tail counterparts. Because they are more specific, they generate better results, are more targeted, and give better context clues to the user’s search intent.
Mid-tail keywords examples:
- low-maintenance houseplants
- Asian grocery store
- SEO optimization principles
- Mexican food delivery
- Best places to buy tickets to Disneyland
Long-tail keywords are a phrase that has five or more words. They typically have a much lower search volume and are easier to rank for. They are also not very competitive because of their high specificity.
Long-tail keywords are dialed into the user’s specific search intent and offer insight into how people actually search for products and services on a search engine.
So, the longer and more specific you can make your primary SEO keyword phrase, the better your chances are to rank for it. It will also improve your chances of attracting a qualified audience to your page.
Long-tail keyword examples:
- tropical houseplants that don’t need a lot of light or water
- Vietnamese specialty grocery store in Auburn
- Learning how to write SEO-friendly blog posts
- Authentic Mexican restaurants with delivery services available in Chelsea
- Planning a Disneyland vacation for a 5-year-old in 2022
Types of keywords in SEO that address a user’s search intent
These four types of keywords appear in different phases of the buyer’s journey and are known as buyer intent keywords. Each stage of the buyer’s journey reflects a different mindset. Therefore, we can look at the keyword intent to determine what a search query is trying to accomplish.
Keywords that reveal search intent
What is your customer searching for? Are they ready to buy, or are they still just doing research? There are four types of keywords that provide clues to your customer’s search intent and can help you identify where they are in their buyer’s journey.
- Informational keywords
- Navigational keywords
- Commercial keywords
- Transactional keywords
Informational keywords are just what they claim to be – at this point, your user is simply looking for information from their search queries. The words they enter into the search bar signal that the user wants to know something or learn something.
These types of keywords are used when someone is seeking out information or education on a topic. They often answer the 5 W’s (“Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why”) and “How,”– although those qualifiers are not required to be present in the search phrase.
Performing an informational keyword search is often the first type of search a user will perform when trying to learn more about a business, service, or product.
Examples: ‘How do I get a driver’s license?” “Where can I find a lawyer in Dayton?” “What is the best way to improve my SEO?”, “Bon Jovi concert schedule,” “Guide to setting up my Nintendo Switch.”
You can use a social listening tool or SEO tool like Answer the Public if you want to discover what people are searching for in relation to your topic.
Answering these questions on your web page can help establish your expertise on the subject and allow your product or service to be viewed more favorably.
Navigational keywords crop up when someone wants to locate a product, business, or service. For example, users will utilize navigational keywords to find contact information, directions, or even a store that they have forgotten the name of. They signal that the user wants to go somewhere (virtual or physical).
The search queries may include a specific brand name (Nike store in Dallas); product names (where to buy a Macbook Pro); service names (landscaping companies); locations (buy books online from Black-owned stores); or words such as “near me,” “directions to,” “prices,” or “menu.”
Navigational keywords are critical to the success of small, local businesses.
Also known as geo-targeted keywords, they have a lower search volume but a higher conversion because they are hyper-targeted and location-specific.
Let’s say you own a mechanic shop in Raleigh, North Carolina. To gain web and foot traffic, you’ll want your business to show up on the localized search engine results pages.
If your page is not optimized for that, and someone searches for “car mechanics near me” or “best mechanic in Raleigh,” you’ll miss out on a great deal of traffic.
While the word “commercial” may lead you to believe that these keywords are about purchases, that’s only partly true.
Commercial keywords are keywords that buyers use BEFORE deciding to make a purchase. Instead, they are used to compare and contrast products, find reviews, and make informed decisions.
These users are close to making a purchase and have likely narrowed down their options, but they are still trying to discern the pros and cons before they commit. Of course, they are often looking for the best value as well.
The user is using these keywords (often “best,” “review,” “on sale,” and “top“) to find the best product, service, or brand to meet their need.
So, your goal should be to leverage these keywords in a way that helps users see you and your service or product as the right choice for their life.
Transactional keywords are also known as buyer keywords.
They typically appear in the last stage of the buyer’s journey and encourage action. Transactional keywords signal that the buyer is ready to do something.
They’ve done their research and reached a decision. All that’s left is to follow through. They are prepared to purchase a product or service – but who will they buy from?
Call-to-action phrases like “Buy a Macbook now” or “Get your free e-book here” can guide these users, primed to make a purchase, to your product or service web page.
On-page SEO keywords
These are the types of keywords that you use on your webpage to help Google’s search crawlers identify your website’s purpose and how it fulfills a user’s search intent.
On-page SEO keywords are the words that describe your products, services, and blog posts and determine how your pages are categorized.
- Primary keywords
- Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI keywords)
Tips to improve your on-page SEO efforts
Primary keywords in SEO
A primary keyword should be assigned to each page of your website so that it is clear to search engines what your page is about. Every time you create a new page, it should have its own central theme – you need to pick a unique keyword for that particular page.
Establishing target keywords will help your page become more visible in the search engine results.
(Note: Avoid using the same primary keyword on multiple pages. You can actually damage your ranking and lose your spot on the search engine results page if your pages begin competing against one another).
Latent Semantic Indexing
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords are thematic and tangentially connected to your primary keyword. Also known as related keywords, they go hand in hand with your primary keyword and help search engines better understand what your page topic is about. They are generally a descriptive variant of your primary keyword and can even be synonymous.
Intentionally using LSI keywords can help you rank for several variations of your primary keyword on one page. This will allow your content to attract visitors through various relevant and contextual search terms.
- Primary keyword: Toddler dance class in Austin
- LSI keywords: Dance classes for babies, toddler ballet Austin, how to sign up for toddler dance classes, where to find tutus for toddler dance class
Understanding how to identify and utilize the different types of keywords in SEO can drastically improve your search engine ranking.
Each category of keywords has its own strengths and purposes and can be utilized in a number of ways to attract your target audience. Which type of keywords you use will depend on the SEO goal you set when you optimize the page.