Exploring the Different Types of Keywords: A Must-Know for Every Digital Marketer

Keyword research is undeniably critical for your SEO. Yet, the process itself demands a lot of attention and careful consideration which can leave you feeling overwhelmed. With a multitude of keyword types out there, How do you determine which keywords align with your strategy?


That’s where understanding the types of keywords and their respective use cases becomes crucial. By knowing when and how to use keywords based on their types, you can craft better strategies that will propel your website to new heights.


Throughout this article, we’ll explore the various keyword types you’ll encounter, uncover their distinct functions, and provide strategic insights on effectively incorporating them into your keyword research.


A featured image of a marketer who's doing keyword research.


Why Keywords Are Important in Search Engine Optimization

Keywords, as you probably know it, serve as the vital link between users’ search queries and the information they seek. When individuals search for specific terms and phrases on platforms like Google, keywords become the conduit that directs them to the content you provide.


In fact, an impressive 73% of marketers recognize the significance of keyword research and utilize it in establishing a strong bond with their desired customers. Suffice it to say, as a business, understanding and selecting the right keywords is not just important; it’s essential for connecting with your target audience.


SEO keywords range from singular words to complex phrases and are used in website copy to attract relevant, organic search traffic. However, choosing the right keywords for your content isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. It requires a deep understanding of your target audience and their search intent.


Different Types of Keywords For SEO

There are plenty of keyword types when you’re researching. Some are better used in educational content, some are great for landing pages. The type of keyword used can determine your search engine rankings with the right keywords leading to higher visibility.


To better understand them, we organized them into 4 keyword categories.


1. By length

Let’s start with the obvious, length. When you’re doing your keyword research, you’d probably heard “short tail” or “long tail” keywords before. But what are they?

  1. Short Tail Keywords: Short tail keywords, often referred to as head terms, are usually one to three words long. They typically have a high search volume but also a high level of competition and broad search intent.Example: ‘smartphone’ is a short tail keyword.
  2. Mid-Tail Keywords: Mid-tail keywords are more specific than short tail keywords but less so than long-tail keywords. These are generally phrases of three to four words that display a clearer intent but still have a fair amount of competition and search volume.Example: ‘Android smartphone reviews’ can be considered a mid-tail keyword.
  3. Long-Tail Keywords: Long-tail keywords are phrases that typically contain four or more words. These are very specific and generally display a clear intent. They tend to have a lower search volume but can often result in more qualified search traffic.Example: ‘Best Android smartphones for photography’ is a long-tail keyword.


It’s important to note that the majority of search requests on Google, comprising 50%, are actually mid-tail and long-tail keywords. In contrast, only 8% of searches are attributed to short-tail keywords. This indicates a significant shift in searchers’ behavior, as they increasingly use specific and descriptive keywords to obtain precise and relevant search results.


This trend reflects a growing desire for targeted information and the need to find answers tailored to their specific queries. As a result, businesses and content creators need to adapt their keyword strategies accordingly to be found easily by their potential customers.


2. By level of specificity

This goes to the next type of keyword phrase—keywords based on their specificity—which are commonly utilized in paid search ads.


If you’ve done PPC campaigns before, you’d notice that paid search ads offer a range of keyword options to optimize your ad targeting. Here are the three types of keywords that you would encounter:

  1. Broad Match Keywords: Broad match keywords allow you to reach a wider audience. When you use broad match keywords, your ad could be triggered by searches for closely related phrases or broad search terms.Example: If your broad match keyword is ‘boots,’ your ad may appear for search queries like ‘shoes’ or ‘footwear.’
  2. Phrase Match Keywords: Phrase match keywords are phrases that are part of the user’s search query.Example: If your phrase match keyword is ‘leather boots,’ your ad may appear for the search terms ‘women’s leather boots’ or ‘black leather boots.’
  3. Exact Match Keywords: Exact match keywords are phrases that exactly match the user’s search query.Example: If your exact match keyword is ‘women’s leather boots,’ you’re targeting users who type in that exact phrase and only that exact phrase.


It’s important to choose the appropriate level of specificity for your keywords based on your advertising goals and target audience. Broad match keywords can help increase visibility and reach, while phrase match and exact match keywords offer more precise targeting.


3. By Search Intent

Search intent, also known as user intent or query intent, refers to the underlying motivation or purpose behind a user’s online search query. It represents the specific information or action the user is seeking when they enter a search term or phrase into a search engine.


Keywords that are categorized by their search intent are heavily based on the intended purpose or desired outcome of the user’s search query. This classification helps marketers and content creators understand the user’s needs and create content that aligns with those needs, ultimately improving the relevance and effectiveness of their digital marketing efforts.

  1. Informational Keywords: When users search for information, they use informational keywords.Example: ‘how to boil an egg’ to ‘What is the history of the Roman Empire.’
  2. Navigational Keywords: Navigational keywords indicate that a user is looking for a specific website or webpage.Example: ‘Facebook login’ or ‘Amazon deals’
  3. Commercial Intent Keywords: These keywords indicate that a user is in the product research phase and is likely to make a purchase in the near future.Example: ‘iPhone 14 reviews’ or “Things to do in Maldives”
  4. Transactional Keywords: Transactional keywords indicate that the user is prepared to make a purchase.Example: ‘buy iPhone 14’ or ‘discount on air tickets to Maldives.’
  5. Customer-Defining Keywords: Customer-defining keywords, as the name suggests, are specific keyword phrases that are used by particular groups of people or customers. These keywords are tailored to target specific segments of the population based on their characteristics, preferences, or interests.Example: If your target market is “vegan athletes,” your chosen keywords would probably be “plant-based meal plans for active vegans.”
  6. Geo-Targeting Keywords: These are location-specific keywords. If you’re a local business, you can target potential customers in your area by using these keywords.Example: ‘Italian restaurant in San Francisco’
  7. Product Keywords: These keywords are related to specific products or services that businesses sell. These can be classified into two main types: generic and specific.
    • Generic Product Keywords:Generic product keywords are broader terms that encompass a category or type of product without specifying a particular brand.Example: If a business sells smartphones, some generic product keywords they might target include “best smartphones,” “top-rated smartphones,” or “latest smartphone models.”
    • Specific Product Keywords:Specific product keywords, on the other hand, are more precise and directly relate to a particular brand, model, or variant of a productExample: If the business is wanting to sell a specific model of smartphone, they could use terms like “[model name] reviews,” “buy [model name],” or “[model name] features.

    In a nutshell, generic keywords help attract a broader audience and build awareness, while specific keywords target customers who are closer to making a purchase decision.


By relevance to On-page SEO

On-page SEO is an essential aspect of optimizing your content for search engines. Incorporating relevant keywords into your content increase your chances of ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This category of keywords is relevant for optimization.


The following types of keywords for SEO are mainly the following:

  1. Primary Keywords: Your primary keyword is the main term you want your content to rank for, while secondary keywords are additional phrases that support your primary keyword.Example: “vegan recipes”
  2. Secondary keywords: Secondary keywords, also known as supporting keywords, are additional phrases that complement and support your primary keyword. These keywords are related to your primary keyword and provide more context and specificity to your content.Example:: “plant-based meals,” or “healthy vegan dishes”
  3. LSI Keywords: LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords are terms and phrases closely related to your primary keyword. These keywords are not just synonyms but rather words or phrases that are semantically linked and provide context to search engines.Examples: “vegan desserts,” “plant-based cooking,” and “vegan meal prep”


How to Implement These in Your Keyword Research Process

With all of these types of keywords, how can you know where and what type should you use in your blogs, landing pages, and ads?


To provide you with a clearer picture of when and how to use these keyword categories, we have prepared four scenarios that demonstrate their implementation in real-life situations.


Scenario 1: Using keywords by varying length

Let’s say a business is launching a new line of smartphones. They can implement the different types of keywords by length as follows:

  • Short Tail Keywords: The business can target keywords like “smartphone,” “latest phones,” or “mobile devices” to capture a broader audience interested in smartphones.
  • Mid-Tail Keywords: The business can focus on keywords like “Android smartphone reviews,” “best budget smartphones,” or “top camera phones” to target users with more specific intent and preferences.
  • Long-Tail Keywords: To attract highly qualified search traffic, the business can optimize for keywords like “best Android smartphones for photography,” “waterproof smartphones under $500,” or “smartphones with long battery life.”


Scenario 2: Using keywords by their level of specificity

Let’s consider a shoe retailer running a PPC campaign. They can implement the different types of keywords based on their specificity as follows:

  • Broad Match Keywords: The business can use keywords like “shoes,” “footwear,” or “athletic footwear” to reach a wide audience interested in various types of shoes.
  • Phrase Match Keywords: The business can target keywords like “leather boots,” “running shoes for women,” or “casual sneakers for men” to capture users searching for specific shoe types.
  • Exact Match Keywords: To maximize precision in targeting, the business can use keywords like “women’s leather boots,” “men’s black dress shoes,” or “children’s sports shoes” to reach users with a specific intent to purchase.


Scenario 3: Using keywords by their search intent

Suppose a travel agency wants to optimize its website for search intent. They can incorporate the following keyword categories:

  • Informational Keywords: The agency can create blog posts or guides targeting keywords like “best travel destinations in Europe,” “how to plan a budget-friendly vacation,” or “travel tips for solo travelers” to provide helpful information to users in the early research phase.
  • Navigational Keywords: To cater to users searching for specific websites or services, the agency can use keywords like “Flightbookers official website,” “hotels.com reviews,” or “Disneyland ticket prices” to capture users seeking specific destinations or services.
  • Commercial Intent Keywords: The agency can target keywords like “vacation packages to Hawaii,” “luxury resorts in the Maldives,” or “best Caribbean cruises” to attract users who are researching and comparing options before making a purchase decision.
  • Transactional Keywords: To target users ready to make a purchase, the agency can optimize for keywords like “book flights to Paris,” “all-inclusive vacation deals,” or “discounted hotel rates in New York” to capture users who are actively looking to book travel services.


Scenario 4: keywords for optimization purposes

Let’s assume a food blog wants to optimize its content for on-page SEO. They can utilize the following keyword types:

  • Primary Keywords: The blog can focus on primary keywords like “vegan recipes,” which represent the main topic and theme of their content.
  • Secondary Keywords: To provide more context and specificity, the blog can incorporate secondary keywords like “plant-based meals,” “healthy vegan dishes,” or “gluten-free vegan desserts” to support and enhance their primary keyword.
  • LSI Keywords: The blog can include LSI keywords such as “vegan meal prep,” “plant-based cooking techniques,” or “vegan ingredients substitutes” to provide semantic relevance and context to search engines, improving the visibility of their content.


Climbing to the Top of Search Rankings by Choosing the Right Keywords

The various types of keywords we explored in this article provide valuable insights into how users search and what they are looking for. From considering keyword length to understanding search intent, specificity, and relevance to on-page SEO, each category plays a crucial role in optimizing your content and connecting with your target audience.


In the end, successful keyword research and implementation require a deep understanding of your target audience, their search behaviors, and the goals of your digital marketing campaigns. By utilizing the right types of keywords at the right times, you can propel your website to new heights, attract organic search traffic, and establish a strong connection with your desired customers.


So, whether you’re an experienced digital marketer or just starting on your SEO journey, embracing the power of keywords and their various types is a must-know skill that will set you apart from the competition and lead you to digital marketing success.