What are Keywords and Why Are They Important?

Published on
November 8, 2022
multiple words that are colorful

Keywords are important words or phrases that people use to identify the topic of a web page. Whether you know it or not, you use keywords every time you search online.

When you type in the search bar of Google, social media, or any other search engine, you want to find specific information related to that keyword. For example, if you’re looking for someone to design your new website, you could type “web design companies” into the Google search bar. Google will then list the best results related to “web design companies”, the keyword in your search.

SEO Experts and Content Strategists use keywords on websites to communicate to the search engine, rank higher on the results page, and target user queries. SEM Rush says that “keywords are the foundation of both SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns,” and it’s true!

Now, let's dive deeper into the different kinds of keywords and where you would use them.

Main Types of Keywords

Informational Keywords

You use Informational Keywords when you’re trying to get information about something. It could be information about a product or service, or just general information.

These searches are usually phrased as a question, using words like “how,” “what,” and “why.” When using those question words in a keyword phrase, it’s important to remember what the searcher is looking for.

These keywords are great for blogs, guides, tutorials, and other informational pages aimed at answering the questions of visitors. Using informational keywords on the right pages is helpful for the website to get more traffic, as well as for the visitor to get the information they are looking for.

At this stage, the person searching is not ready to purchase a product or service, so don’t push them to buy your product on pages with informational keywords. That can irritate the searcher and drive away a possible lead.

Commercial Keywords

Commercial Keywords are similar to Informational Keywords, but are focused around specific brands and services. They also reveal a searcher’s interest around specific products or services.

Sites use Commercial Keywords in blog articles and reviews that compare two products or services. This gives the searcher more information about the products or services, helping them make a decision about which is best.

These articles can be either internal or external comparisons. Internal comparisons compare products or services offered by the same company. Whereas external comparisons display the differences between products/services offered by the company, and products/services offered by a competing brand.  

Navigational Keywords

When you use Navigational Keywords, you are typically looking for a specific website, or page on a website.

Navigational Keywords are really helpful if your company or product is already well known, such as Target, Amazon, or Nerf. However, if you are a newer company trying to gain traction, we recommend putting your SEO efforts into a different keyword type.

Transactional Keywords

Transactional Keywords are used when you know exactly what you want and you are ready to make the purchase. At this point, the searcher has done all the research they need about the product or service, and are ready to buy it, so it’s important to make that process as easy and clear as possible.

Use keywords like “buy,” “purchase,” “cheap,” and “best,” on your product and product detail pages to attract people directly there. It’s best not to have longform content on these pages, which can be overwhelming for the person who’s ready to make a purchase.

Other keywords, such as “discount,” “coupon,” and “find,” are also great to attract people looking for a great deal on the product or service.

Finally, having a call to action (CTA) on this page is important to “seal the deal” and get the searcher to commit to the purchase. It will help direct them to the next step they need to take to complete their goal of purchasing the product of service.

Keyword Subcategories

Short-Tail Keywords

Short-Tail Keywords are typically 1-2 words long, and very broad, such as “top restaurants” or “electronics.” They have extremely high search volumes, and are much more competitive. Similar to a website’s “head term,” which is the opposite of a long-tail keyword.

It is extremely difficult to rank with short-tail keywords, but it’s still important to include them in your SEO strategy. Short tail keywords will help drive traffic to your site, and raise awareness for your brand.

If you are able to rank for short-tail keywords, traffic to your website will surge.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume and are less popular. While this may seem like a bad thing, it actually makes it much easier to rank for long-tail keywords, getting you more traffic to your site.

Long-tail keywords are 3+ words long, and allows you to get a lot more specific. This way you can write keyword phrases that target specific groups. For example, “top dim sum restaurants in San Diego” or “iPad and tablet repair expert near me.”

These kinds of keywords won’t get as many hits, but because there will be fewer search competition, your site won’t be as overshadowed by bigger companies.

Short Term Keywords

Short Term Keywords are used as part of a short term SEO strategy to increase site traffic and SERP (search engine results page) rankings quicker.

These keywords are usually Long-Tail Keywords that are considered “low hanging fruit.” People searching these kinds of keywords are much further along in the buying process, and already know what they’re looking for. Therefore it’s a lot easier to optimize and rank for these keywords.

Sites can have hundreds of Short Term Keywords, to draw in as many people as possible.

Long Term Keywords

Long Term Keywords are used as part of a long term SEO strategy to drastically increase site traffic and SERP rankings over time.

While the short term SEO strategy uses more long-tail keywords, Long Term Keywords use short-tail keywords. These keywords have much higher traffic, but also competition. You can’t expect to rank for short-tail keywords right away, which is why they are part of a long term plan.

Long Term Keywords are a lot more work to rank for, and take a lot more time, but they offer a much greater payoff for the website. Once you are able to rank for these keywords, your site can be seen by thousands of people every day.

Specific Targeting Keywords

Specific Targeting Keywords are long-tail keywords that narrow in on your specific target audience.

In addition to being part of a general short term SEO strategy, these Specific Targeting Keywords are perfect for getting traffic from your target audience. You can target specific phrases that your audience is likely to type in a search engine, dedicating pages specifically to that keyword phrase.

These targeting keywords can be used throughout your page content, as well as in the backend and metadata of the site.

Why are Keywords Important in SEO?

Increasing Page Ranking

Keywords are crucial in increasing your search engine results page (SERP) rankings.

Without the keywords throughout your page’s content and in the metadata, the search engine wouldn’t know when or where to put your website on the SERP. Knowing how to use the right keywords for your website is crucial to getting your site to rank higher and drive more traffic.

Reaching Customers

Using the right keywords means that the right people will find your website.

If you have a dog grooming company, you want to reach people with dogs. Keywords help your site show up for those people when they search for the services you provide.

Keywords also show the visitor to your site that they are in the right place. When they scan your page and see keywords they searched for throughout the content, they’ll know they clicked the right link.

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