SEO Keywords

SEO Keywords: Your secret sauce to building a kick @$$ SEO strategy that can change your business forever.

What Are SEO Keywords?

SEO keywords (aka “keyword”, “key-phrase”, “search term”) is used to refer to any ‘word’, ‘phrase’ or even sometimes a full ‘sentence’ that people regularly type in to search engines to get answers to their questions.

Although the terms are used interchangeable, we differentiate “SEO Keywords” from just “Keywords” because the “Keywords” that you use for Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising have different properties/concepts associated with them.

Keywords are words & phrases that we intentionally optimize our content (blog posts, website pages, videos, etc.) around because we know that it is a word that is commonly searched.

How do we know this? Because we can get the information from Keyword tools, or even Google, giving us an average monthly “search volume”.

This allows us to pick search terms that are relevant to our business and we know people are already actively using.

We can find out the keywords people use, and the amount of times they are searched each month on average (search volume) through the keyword research process.

Why Are Keywords Important?

Keywords are important because they guide our SEO efforts, and allow us to strategically build our web pages & website content while focusing on the most important (and ROI driving) areas first.

If we know, for example, that we want to sell more digital marketing services in Los Angeles, California we can actually find out the exact “keywords” people are typing in to Google to look for potential providers.

Then, we can create a page on our website on that topic & optimize our content around those keywords – giving ourselves the best chance to rank well for it.

Once you figure out the “keywords” that you want to target to bring “targeted traffic” to your website you can start planning the rest of your SEO campaign, including:

  • Mapping  your site architecture
  • Planning your services, products & category pages
  • Writing blog content
  • Optimizing sales pages & landing pages

We do this by mapping a group of similar/semantic keywords (like you can see above in the screenshot) to one page on your website & strategically using the keyword (naturally) throughout the content:

source: backlinko.com

How To Choose The Best Keywords For SEO

Choosing keywords for SEO is half science, half art form.

We will cover this extensively in our keyword research guide & content strategy lessons, but the general process goes like this:

  • Use a keyword tool to create a list of all the keywords that are important to your business
  • Organize those keywords into groups
  • Find & add the keyword search volumes & competitiveness (so you can start by going after the easy ones first)
  • Look at the SERPs for keywords to understand potential CTR & traffic
  • Create a website sitemap that covers all the relevant commercial intent keywords
  • Create a content strategy that covers all the relevant informational intent keywords
  • Start writing

To best understand how to choose keywords for SEO, you will first want to familiarize yourself with some foundational keyword concepts.

Keyword Concepts & Properties

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty (KD) refers to how hard it will be for you to rank well for a certain keyword.

The exact definition from Ahrefs on KD is:

Before you start spending time, money, resources on creating content & acquiring links (can be very expensive) you want to make sure that you even have a chance to rank for a keyword.

If you can’t get to Page 1 you aren’t going to get much traffic (if any) from your efforts, so understand how difficult a keyword is going to be to rank for is a very important consideration.

Search Volume

Keyword “search volume” tells us how many times that exact keyword is getting searched in Google every month (on average).

If you had to choose between ranking for a keyword that actually gets searched 10,000 times per month, or one that only gets searched 10 times per month – what would you choose?

Of course you would choose the one with more search volume (assuming they are both relevant to your business, and have similar intent, etc.)

Keyword Density

Keyword density refers to how many times a keyword appears in your content.

An old black hat seo trick was to add your target keyword into a page as many times as possible (called “keyword stuffing”) so when Google came to the page and read the text it would see the keyword in there so many times that the algorithm thought “well, it says this keyword 1000 times, it MUST be super relevant to this, let’s rank this highly).

This no longer works, and once Google caught on they updated their algorithm to actually demote or penalize you for doing this.

So, keyword density is a way for us to analyze a page and make sure we are not “over optimizing” (aka keyword stuffing) our content.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a huge topic, and we cover it in-depth in other articles, but the general idea behind this concept is that before you start writing content for your website you want to do your research first.

Kind of like anything else in life, first do the research then do the work.

Keyword research is the process of finding, categorizing, organizing and planning all the keywords you want to rank for and then systematically creating that content with a strategy in mind – usually one where you start with the easiest keywords (that have decent search volume) first, and work your way up to the harder ones.

Check out our full guide to keyword research for more info.

User Intent

User intent (aka “keyword intent”, “buyer intent”, “search intent”, etc.) is a very important concept of understanding keywords.

This is the ability to understand what the user actually wants when searching for something, so that you (as the product/service provider) can be sure to provide content that satisfies the searchers need.

Understanding the intent behind keywords allows you to effectively prioritize your content creation efforts around the terms that are most likely to bring you immediate sales.

Here are some examples of different keyword intent to make this clear:

  • Commercial / Buyer intent: Person searches “pizza delivery near me”. The intent is probably to buy a pizza, right now. This person is likely to spend money with your pizza place. This would be a great place to put resources to try and rank for.
  • Informational (with some monetary) intent: Person searches “pizza making recipes”. The intent is probably not to buy a pizza, but to make one. Maybe now, maybe later. This person is not likely to spend money with your pizza place right now, but you know they are interested in pizza and maybe could be a good candidate to show some Ads or offers to.
  • Informational (Curiosity) intent: What was the biggest pizza ever made? This person is probably not going to spend money with you anytime soon, or ever, and you probably shouldn’t spend your resources on ranking for this keyword.

Keywords Types

Commercial Intent Keywords

Commercial intent keywords are the keywords or phrases that carry alot of purchase intent.

Meaning, that if someone is searching with this type of keyword they are “ready to buy”, or at least more likely to buy than someone searching with a non commercial intent keyword.

Example, if someone is searching for “emergency dentist near me” they probably have a serious problem and are very ready to buy.

Maybe they just did this and need some serious teeth fixing:

Commercial intent keywords usually have “modifiers” (like a prefix, or a suffix) that people commonly use when they are close to buying, like:

  • [keyword] near me
  • [keyword] discount
  • [keyword] coupon
  • best [keyword] for [XYZ]
  • top rated [keyword]
  • cheap [keyword]
  • etc.

Informational Intent Keywords

Informational intent keywords are almost the opposite of commercial intent – instead of someone searching because they are ready to buy, they are searching because they are not quite yet ready to buy.

Maybe they know their problem but want more information before deciding if they are going to spend money – for example “cost to fix tooth” or “home remedy for headaches”.

This is an informational keyword that still holds some buyer intent – if the person likes the content they read they may end up purchasing (which is basically your marketing funnel / content marketing at work!)

Maybe they want to buy, maybe they don’t.

Maybe they want to DIY (do-it-yourself), but maybe they can be convinced to use a product.

Either way it is still a valuable opportunity for your brand to create content around what they are searching for and put content in front of a prospective/potential customer.

Local Intent Keywords

Local intent keywords are keywords that people are using when searching for businesses near them.

They are keywords that “trigger” a “Local SERP”, that is a Search Engine Results Page with Maps.

They can have “geo-modifiers” on them, like the name of a city:

or just “near me”:

But, they don’t HAVE to.

Google pretty much always knows where you are (because of GPS and IP addresses when connected via Wifi) so even if you type a search that Google normally associates someone needing a local provider with you can still end up with a Local SERP.

Seed Keywords

Seed keywords (aka “primary”, “main” or “parent” keywords) refer to the keyword that is the most relevant to the page you are looking to create, and typically has the highest search volume.

Usually, they are also the shortest version of the keywords (see below for short tail keywords)

Seed keywords are what you start with when you plan a new page or piece of content for your website, and then usually add semantic and secondary keywords to the plan so you can build 1 piece of content that covers all the similar keywords.

For example, when writing this article we identified our seed keyword to be “seo keywords”

Semantic Keywords

Semantic keywords are essentially synonyms of the seed keyword.

They are other variations or ways that people could type something into the search engine but really are looking for the same thing.

For example, if your seed keyword is “dentist los angeles” your semantic keywords would be variations of this like:

  • dentist in los angeles
  • dentist los angeles, ca
  • los angeles dentist
  • dentist in la, ca
  • dentist in los angeles california
  • etc.

All of these are technically different keywords, but the intent of someone using each one of these is the same – to find a dentist in Los Angeles, California.

Secondary Keywords

Secondary keywords are keywords you can use in your content that help make your article comprehensive and high quality.

For example, we knew that when writing an article about “seo keywords” that the reader (you) would need to know a bunch of supporting information to truly understand the concept of seo keywords.

A simple definition would be a good start – but it’s not enough to comprehensively cover the topic.

We knew we would have to talk about other things – this is where secondary keywords come in.

Essentially they are the “supporting” or “sub” topics that should be covered in the content in order to give the reader a high-quality, comprehensive explanation of the topic.

For us, all of our secondary keywords can be found in our articles as H2, H3, H4s, etc.

LSI Keywords

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords are keyword terms that are conceptually related to each other (and to your seed keyword) that search engines recognize usually are used together in content that is about a certain topic, and helps them to further understand (and validate) the topic of a given piece of content / webpage.

Short-tail Keywords

Short tail keywords are just the short versions of keywords.

They usually have the most search volume, and they also usually have alot of keyword variations that have the exact same intent.

For example, if you are writing an article about “vitamins”, then your primary keyword might be “vitamins”.

This is also the shortest possible version of this search query (you can’t search less than one word).

But, other longer keywords called “medium tail” or “long tail” keywords could also be good either to:

  1. Include in the article (secondary or semantic keywords)
  2. Create other articles from (content clusters)

Medium-tail Keywords

Sticking with the example of “vitamins” Some example of Medium-Tail keywords could be:

  • best vitamins
  • best vitamins for men
  • best vitamins for women
  • best vitamins for skin

Long-tail Keywords

Once again staying on the vitamin train, some examples of Long-Tail Keywords could be:

  • best vitamins for women over 50
  • best vitamins for women’s hair growth
  • best vitamins for diabetics type 2

You can see that as keywords get longer, the search intent gets more and more specific.

source: backlinko.com

Search volume also usually goes down (because the more words you add to a query the less statistical likelihood that multiple people will type that exact same string.

The benefit of long-tail keywords though as you can probably see from the screenshot is that the keyword difficulty goes down as well. And, there are just way more of them.

Branded Keywords

Branded keywords are keywords that are your Brand name, or a variation of it.

Branded keywords can be:

  • Your brand name
  • Your brand name + product
  • A brand name of a product you sell
  • The name of someone in your company

Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords is a term used to refer to a keyword that exactly matches what you are trying to go for.

This is usually more used when we are talking about link building, and what to make the “anchor text” of links.

We dive into this in more depth in our Link Building areas and the posts on anchor text.

Keyword Variations

Keyword variations is just a term to mean anytime there is a variation of the seed keyword.

For example, if your seed keyword is: “dentist los angeles” some variations could be:

  • los angeles dentist
  • dentist los angeles, ca
  • dentist los angeles, california
  • dentist in los angeles

Meta Keywords

Meta keywords is an actual HTML thing.

They are are a specific type of html meta tag that appears in a web page’s code, and is used to help tell search engines what the page is about.

They used to be a great place for keyword stuffing, but those days are over.

Meta keywords aren’t really used anymore – but it’s good to know the name if you want to be a master of SEO.

Final Thoughts

There is alot of information to digest when learning about Keywords.

In this post we only covered SEO Keywords.

There is still alot more to be said about keywords when talking about the PPC side (Google Ads), but for now you should have a great foundation of how they work.

If you have any questions about what you read in this article, or if you just want help getting it done, we highly recommend you join the free SERP University Group, where we are dedicated to helping you with all your SEO & Digital Marketing questions.

Join us, and hundreds of world-class marketers, who are helping themselves and their clients make more money with online marketing.

Click here to join.

Devin Schumacher

Devin Schumacher

Devin is one of the world's top search engine optimization experts, and the Founder of SERP Co.

3 thoughts on “SEO Keywords”

  1. Like how you’re taking complex concepts and explaining them in everyday language, Devin. I think may people are familiar with keywords, but I wasn’t aware that entire sentences can comprise keywords. A nice little summary of what keywords are and how to use them to your advantage. I’m thinking about looking into SERP University now.

  2. On one hand, SEO keywords are complex, but your analysis of how to research top keywords shows it’s not as hard as it might seem to the layperson. It’s not something you can learn overnight, but it’s also not something you’re going to need years educating yourself on.

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