Basic SEO

Keywords, search terms, and a keyword strategy – differences and benefits

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As more and more businesses start to establish their online presence, and begin to dig into the SEO world, new questions rise to the surface. Among those is understanding the difference between “search term” and “search keyword”. In general, the difference is rather straightforward. Search terms are what the user enters into a search engine. The keyword is what online marketers and web professionals use to inform their online strategies. A better understanding of keywords can help you see how and why your site ranks and performs for what. To help you with this, we’ve decided to go through some simple definitions and examples. With an improved understanding of these differences you will be able to add a plan to your online activities. This plan, or keyword strategy, will add some purpose and thought to how you appear in searches.

What is a search term?

A search term, commonly known as a search query, is a more general concept than keywords. Whenever you execute a search in a search engine to find a specific result, you enter a search query. Whatever that may be. Perhaps you’re online clothes shopping, so you enter something like “womens jeans”. In this case “womens jeans” would be your search query. That said, if you entered something longer such as “where can I buy womens jeans” this would count as a search term just the same. Regardless of length or grammar, whether you enter a full sentence or one or two words, when you enter something into Google you’ve created a search term.

What is a keyword?

Keywords are a little more complicated than search queries, and their definition is quite a bit more abstract. The term “keyword” is essentially a term for the words used by online professionals to informing their strategies. For the most part, keywords are the essential words found within a search query. These can be anything from words referring to size, color, a certain person, place or thing. The possibilities are as limitless as language. So, in our previous online shopping example, the keywords could be “womens” or “jeans”. However, it could also be “buy womens jeans”, or the two words  “womens jeans”. In effect, keywords is the term used when defining words you wish to target in your strategy for your online activities and content creation.

You can see how the differences in keywords might alter what you rank for in search results. When someone makes a search on Google, it essentially mines the internet for words, entities, and combinations, pertaining to the search. Google looks at the words around them to make sure that they refer to something relevant to the user. Then Google presents the searcher with the results that it thinks suit the searchers’ need.  

Essentially, keywords are the specific words that you choose to create your online content around. Subsequently, different keywords directly affect the search engine results that your site will be visible in.

keywords vs search queries - both inform a keyword strategy

What is a keyword strategy?

A keyword strategy is the plan that helps you recognize what terms or words you want to rank for and target. So, to follow our example, if your keyword strategy is underdeveloped, and simply focus on the keyword “jeans”, Google would present your sites as pertaining to jeans alone. A kin to a wikipage on what jeans are, or the history of jeans. 

It is one of the main reasons why most businesses decide to use consultants and SEO companies for their keyword strategy development. While the above is a hyperbole example (Google will be able to contextualize your site’s content without your express help), it serves the purpose of demonstrating the value behind keyword research and strategy development. 

Following this example, if you develop the strategy further, you can specify more precisely which words you want to target in your keyword strategy. You can target keywords like “sell jeans”, or be more precise by specifying further. Then you might go for keywords like “sell mens jeans” or “sell womens jeans”. If the searcher then entered something like “where can I buy womens clothes”, your site might very well appear.

Back to Basics - how does search engines work?

As we’ve mentioned, Google essentially trawls the internet for the words and phrases that you’ve asked it to look for. Google then filters the results it finds in order to fetch you what it deems the most relevant to what you’re looking for. Google’s algorithms also have a brilliant understanding of human language, so they’re able to take a look at the other words within a given site to make sure that it is indeed the kind of thing you’re looking for.

To use our shopping example again, Google would be looking for sites that contain the specific word ‘jeans’ and supplementary words. Depending on the other words in the search term, it will also look at the other words available to make sure that this is a site which sells jeans, or alternatively just one that’s talking about them. Therefore, it’s always best to use precise and accurate words and phrases within your keyword strategy. It will increase the likelihood of you being visible for the search terms you want to be found through. In our example, using descriptive phrases like “blue skinny jeans” or calls to action (CTAs) like “buy jeans today” tells Google that you’re relevant for online shopping opportunities, rather than definitions or articles about the history of jeans.

How can a keyword strategy help your online business?

With these things in mind, the way in which Google uses keywords to present its users with accurate results can be used to your advantage. This is especially true if you’re looking to become more visible online to potential customers or visitors to your site. It’s important to make it as easy as possible for Google to determine what exactly your site, or a given page on it, is for.

Make it easy for Google

If you’re an online merchant trying to make sure that you’re visible to online shoppers who want to find women’s jeans, you need to make sure that Google will be able to pinpoint your site when matching you with a potential customer. A well developed keyword strategy will ensure you don’t miss any of those opportunities and it is where keywords and good SEO practice combine. Keep in mind Google’s ultimate goal when creating your well developed keyword strategy and content.

Googles Ultimate goal

What tactics can you use?

There are plenty of ways that you can become more visible online. You can add relevant images and expand on product descriptions for every product page. You can also provide blog posts and articles to your site discussing your products or services in detail. Not only do you need to make it clear exactly what kind of services or products you’re offering – do you only sell women’s jeans or do you cater to all genders and categories? What colors and washes are your jeans available in? Do you sell other types of clothing, or is your business specifically dedicated to jeans? 

Making sure that you’re elaborating on what your site has to offer within the language you use to discuss your products is very important. It’s not enough to simply have the word “jeans” on your site.

Use keywords to be visible when people use search terms

By using precise keywords to expand upon your services and discuss them in articles or dedicated description pages, it becomes easier for Google to understand how relevant your site might be to those looking for similar services or information.

While the basic principles are fairly straightforward, it can be a little overwhelming. There are many factors to consider when it comes to keywords and good SEO practice. Google takes much more than only keywords into account when evaluating how relevant your site is to a given search query. However, a well developed keyword strategy can truly give you a boost to ensure you are not potentially losing out on possible search terms you should be ranking in.

If you have any questions about keywords or want us to help you develop a keyword strategy, feel free to contact us or fill out our contact form below!

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