What are keywords in SEO?

This post talks about keywords

"In this article, the types, purpose, and merits of different kinds of keywords and their bearing on searchability as well as readability of digital content are explained! It also teaches how to find the rankable keywords using various tools."

What are Keywords in SEO – Introduction!

The title “What are keywords in SEO” assumes the readers are conversant with the acronym SEO. Anyway, let me quickly educate the uninitiated readers about SEO. It stands for search engine optimization. It’s a process of synchronizing the content of websites to the ranking algorithms of search engines. 

In the simplest of explanations, keywords are the strategic use of words and phrases in or around content that helps Google and other search engines rank it according to the relevance of a query. In other words, keywords are the key to optimizing content for search engines.

The Internet is a vast reservoir of Information and knowledge. Keywords play a critical role in extracting that knowledge and also ensuring the most appropriate content reaches the right audience. You can think of internet at a gigantic knowledge management system and keywords as the means to manage and use the knowledge to the best possible extent.

SEO is the lifeblood of anything online! There are over two hundred content ranking factors, most of which revolve around achieving search engine optimization.

Now that you understand the significance of SEO, it is essential to know that keywords are its building blocks. Keywords are the words and phrases that help content organically rank on search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Furthermore, the exact keywords are used for placing advertisements on search networks and tons of websites and digital properties online. I will elaborate more in relevant sections of this article.


What are keywords in SEO


What is meant by On-page SEO?

On-page SEO means optimizing a website and its content from within. It includes using relevant keywords in the proper context and scope, including in the alt text of images, etc. Interlinking various pages and posts on a website and linking to high-quality external pages also come under on-page SEO.

What is Off-page SEO?

All search-optimizing activities done outside a website’s content are bracketed into the off-page SEO bracket. It includes creating relevant backlinks to authority sites, properly indexing site pages, optimizing page load speed, etc.

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Overloading a website with keywords to achieve higher search ranking in Google and other search engines is called keyword stuffing.

Is Keyword Stuffing SPAM?

Keyword stuffing, also called webspam or spamdexing, is considered an ill practice and does not derive any positive results regarding organic search ranking. Instead, it can attract penalties from Google and other search engines; to make matters worse, it also adversely affects content’s readability, and your site could fall further down the search results. To make matters worse, yields matter; it also adversely affects the readability of content, resulting in poor user experience.

What are keywords in SEO – Explained!

So, it is cast in stone that keywords are vital for search engine optimization. Now let me formally define “what are keywords in SEO “? They are the words and phrases users use on search engines to find specific information or solutions to some problems.

Everybody wants to rank their websites, blogs, or whatever they create online. Without ranking, the content will not be visible to the probing eyes of the right audience. Unoptimized content will not get enough traffic to meet any content objectives, no matter how good it is to read or how valuable insights it provides.

Furthermore, consider the ever-increasing ocean of digital content out there. Every minute, tones of pages add to the collection of billions of pages already accumulated in search archives. One cannot assume to publish something and be found automatically by the right audience in search results.

Content writers must diligently optimize every paragraph for a well-thought-out keyword or phrase. Keywords are the soul and spirit of SEO; without suitable keywords in writing, digital content is as good as non-existent.

Readability vs. Searchability of Content!

Interestingly, the words and phrases used may or may not be grammatically or syntax-wise always correct. Still, they are entered in search queries several times by different users from different locations. Hence, they become essential for SEO because these words and phrases are associated with specific perceived meanings in the eyes of multiple searchers.

For instance, when looking for a cost-effective flight or hotel on Google or any other search engine, most people use the phrases “cheap flights” or “cheap hotels,” respectively. Still, searchers for these queries are not looking for substandard flights or hotels. Instead, they are looking for cost-effective services in these sectors.

No content writer can afford to ignore keywords in their content. Otherwise, their content might not organically reach the right audience to find any search audience writing.

Grammatically incorrect phrases may enhance content SEO but certainly compromise the readability of writing. But remember that search adaptability takes precedence over readability for web content.

This challenge of dealing with misspelled or poor syntax “keywords” makes digital content writing a specialized art where writers have to strike the delicate balance between their content’s Searchability and readability.

Types of Keywords based on Length:

Not all keywords are made equal; they vary based on several factors. The length of keywords or phrases is a significant distinguishing factor. Let’s discuss two broader subcategories of this classification.

Short tail Keywords or shorter Keywords:

These are smaller, usually one or two-word keywords. Such words are generic. They target so many pages and end up targeting nothing for most writers. They are also called head or generic keywords.

Let me explain this: consider a word like a laptop. It would be relevant for content related to laptop manufacturing, laptop sales, laptop repairs, laptop accessories, laptop chargers, laptop reviews, laptop bags, local laptop stores in various locations, etc.

Therefore, it is not relevant for someone selling or repairing laptops from a store in Miami, Florida, United States, as they will not get any search traffic as their page would be buried under the pile of pages of Himalayan proportions. 

Keyword Research Example-1

Now, let us expand the exact search with a two-word phrase. I will make it “laptop repair” now. Remember to search in incognito mode to get relatively neutral and generic results. Let’s see what pops out in Google.

Keyword Research Example-2

Writing short-tail yields keywords like “laptop” and worsens matters, adversely affecting content’s readability and humongous untargeted results. Remember, only ten results appear on the first page of Google or any other search engine, and for short-tail keywords, search engines can line up multi-million pages.

A two-word keyword, “laptop repair,” is explained. It is still too short for any targeted results! Let us expand it further by making it “Apple laptop repair.” You can still notice so many pages in the search results that ranking on the first page is impossible.

Keyword example-3

Long-tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords barely start with four keyword phrases. However, finding something worthy composed of three to four words might still be possible but less likely. The challenge is that such terms should make some literal sense and be specific enough to avoid being bombarded with search engines’ endless listings of content pages.

Long-tail keywords tend to give a clearer search intent signal to search engines. It simply means that if the search engine can understand what people are looking for, they will show the focused and relatively fewer results in SERP.

From the perspective of web content writers, writing content around long-tail keywords is likely to result in lesser and more focused traffic, but the chances of ranking in the top results are much higher.

Search intent is one of the most significant search relevancy factors, and long-tail keywords better express it. You will understand search intent in more substantial detail in the later sections of this article. Keep reading!

Goldilocks Zone of Keyword Research:

This Length of phrases is where the goldilocks zone of search results exists for most businesses, particularly smaller ones. Five to eight-word terms can still draw reasonable traffic and be less competitive and focused. The queries in this range can make complete sense and still offer the opportunity to rank on the first page of Search engines.

Observe the screenshot below to get the point and notice the number of results displayed in Google for “Onsite Apple laptop repair service in Miami, Florida.”


Keyword Example-4


The phrase mentioned above has much less targeted content indexed in search engines. Thus, this key phrase can be used for related businesses to create content around it and get good rankings in search results, yielding targeted organic leads.

Keyword types based on other advanced criteria:

So far, I have discussed the relevance of keywords based on the length of phrases and how long-tail keywords tend to be more worthy. They can provide an opportunity to rank in Google and other search engines and thus are a great source of relevant, targeted traffic for a business.

It sounds simple enough? I wish SEO were as uncomplicated and a sort of linear equation. Life would have been a lot easier for web admins and content writers.

However, other layers complicate keyword research and require some skills to pick the right keywords. After all, there are billions of keywords out there; no one can target all keywords in their niche, but one must choose the right battles to increase the chances of success.

Keywords based on Search Intent:

Search intent is a matrix that judges the relevance of a query(keyword) for content based on the interpretation of the intention behind the question. Search engines, powered with artificial intelligence, estimate the context of every query and evaluate the nature of expected information by most people for that query.

AI search bots may not always correctly pick the search intent for every user, but broadly, it is what most people, say about 80 percent, would want to see for that particular query.

According to Ahrefs, search intent answers the ” why part of the search queries.

Think from the perspective of Google. It wants to serve its audience with the best results because, like any other business, customer satisfaction is of paramount importance for Google, too.

Now, think of the example above where a user writes the keyword “laptop” in the search bar. Search engines are likely to list budget laptops first rather than any article on laptops explaining the features of any particular brand or model for the said query. Search Engine’s algorithm, in this case, figures out that the most prominent search intent is to find a listing of budget laptops rather than a detailed blog about notebooks.

As a web content writer, besides filtering keywords with their length, niche relevancy, article suitability, and competition, it is a good idea to imitate search engines’ algorithms in decoding search intent before picking the appropriate keywords. Intelligent web content writing must be in sync with the search intent of a chosen keyword.

So, the valuable lesson here is that keyword search intent is a significant factor in choosing the right keyword before penning time-consuming quality content around it.

Types of Keywords Search Intents:

It takes some practice and experience to judge keywords’ search intent correctly, but some have explicit and clear search intent. A web content writer should be cautious in choosing such keywords, as aligning the content’s tone and substance with the search intent is essential. Category of those specific search intent keywords are listed below:

Informational Keywords:

Informational Keywords warrant specific factual information, not a detailed analysis, for example, “How many teams are playing in the Tokyo Olympics?” or “How many pounds are there in a kilogram?” etc. There is relatively less scope and worth in writing long articles around them.

Transactional Keywords:

The transactional keywords are the ones that facilitate financial transactions, for example, Miami to New York flights. These keywords draw high Cost per Click (CPC)  and are usually more in demand for advertisements as they have a greater chance of resulting in sales.

These are also referred to as affiliate keywords due to their suitability for affiliate marketing. More CPC means high competition and difficulty in organic rankings for content creators, so writers should think diligently before writing content around them.

Navigational Keywords:

Navigational keywords are essentially brand keywords associated with well-established brands or identities. For example, if someone writes Venus Williams in the search bar, it is clear the intent is to know about the famous tennis star, or if someone types Nike, then there are no prizes for guessing that the searcher is most likely searching for Nike’s official website.

Comparison Keywords:

Comparison keywords are the ones that compare two or more things, like “best smartphones below USD 300.” These keywords are excellent for writing long content as the searcher searching for such queries is likely seeking more details before finalizing a product. Affiliate bloggers often target them as much as they do to transactional keywords.

Local Keywords:

Local keywords are the ones that show results for local businesses. For instance, queries like “saloons near me” or “restaurant near me.”  These queries will list different results depending on the searcher’s location. Search Engines understand that the local listings are in tune with the end user’s search intent.

So, if your business is regional or global, these keywords offer little juice to write content around them.  Still, Local companies can boost their ranking among peers by optimizing their content around these keywords in platforms like Google My Business and local directories.

Keywords based on Keyword Difficulty(KD) or Search Difficulty (SD)

Keyword difficulty (KD), as called by ahrefs or search difficulty (SD) portrayed by Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest, is another significant filter for finding keyword opportunities. These reasonably relevant keywords may match the desired search intent, but the keyword researcher must find out.

These phrases can have decent traffic, yet they are much less competitive. Hence, they could become the potential gold mine for a business as ranking pages in top SERP results becomes relatively more straightforward for such keywords or phrases.

Now, for the uninitiated, the competitiveness of a keyword relies on many advanced factors like domain authority, number and quality of backlinks pointing to a page, average Length, and quality of content submitted to search engines around a particular keyword, etc. None of these factors are easy to outgun or achieve quickly; thus, the best bet for small businesses and new websites is to find a relevant keyword with low keyword or search difficulty and build content around it.

How do you find the Rankable Keywords for SEO?

There could be many ways to find the correct set of keywords for your business, but finding the best ones and hidden gems that could potentially give your business content a fillip is challenging. Keyword research is where Keyword tools come into play. Let me quickly list the tools that can be used for this purpose and help you find the rankable keywords for SEO.

Google Keyword PlannerKeyword Planner is one of the most accessible and reliable tools. It is bundled with the Google ads interface. The best part is that it is easily accessible but has limited advanced features like gauging keywords or search difficulty.

SemrushSemrush is one of the most essential and popular tools. It helps you figure out opportunity keywords and search intent questions very quickly. After that, it offers a free trial and a paid tool.

Ahrefs – Ahrefs is another popular keyword research tool that can help you find low KD-relevant keywords and associated queries and questions pertinent to your business. It has a low-cost 7-day trial, after which it’s a paid and expensive tool.

UbersuggestIt’s a relatively newer kid on the block, but certainly, it is in the big boy’s league. It offers three free searches daily, and for more, one needs to buy its subscription. The good thing is that three free searches daily are not limited by days, and it has a lifetime purchase option with a relatively affordable single payment price.

JaxxyIt has its merit. It comes with a free trial and is quite an effective tool as it offers all the professional features of the free trial.

TheHoth is a free tool that gives excellent data for the US, UK, Canada, and Australian search markets. It is worth having a look.

H-SupertoolsThis website has quite a few valuable tools related to digital marketing and keyword research, and the best part is that all of them are free to use. H-super tools are helpful, but lesser-known tools are available for keyword searches. It can give you quite valuable insights into content creators.

What are Keywords in SEO – Conclusion!

I hope I have satisfactorily answered the question, “What are keywords in SEO?” Still, to summarize the article, I would assert that keyword research is both an art and a dynamic, fast-evolving science. Modern SEO and success on the internet depend greatly on figuring out the specific premise for keyword research and then diligently finding the relevant set of keyword opportunities.

Of course, great and value-providing content still needs to be weaved around chosen keywords, but if a business fails to pick the correct set of keywords, the battle of ranking is lost even before it begins.

Video Tutorial on What are Keywords in SEO?

If you liked reading this piece of writing, it’s time to take your learning a notch higher. Watch my engaging Skillshare class on Keyword Research. The course  “SEO Keyword Research:  Master SEO Keyword Ranking using Free Keyword Tools!” is a comprehensive guide on the SEO and Keyword Research topic.


Keyword Research Course


This class has engaging video lectures totaling 43 minutes, which can help you understand “What are Keywords in SEO” more comprehensively. As a bonus, you can watch the entire catalog of Skillshare classes for one month for free. So take advantage and watch the class videos now!

Read More Exciting Articles on WorthyMBA

Step by step build your online business here
Get free plagiarism checker with Grammarly
Grammarly Writing Support