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In general, keywords are used to describe the content of a work of art or a document in different areas such as art and culture, media, or industry. Today, the term keyword is primarily used in digital marketing and SEO to describe a word or group of words that internet users use when performing a search with a search engine such as Google.

Types of keywords

In SEO, keywords are classified as money, brand, compound, or other keywords, based on their content.

Money keywords

A money keyword is a keyword with high search volume and high competition in terms of ranking in Google search. For commercial websites, "money" means that these keywords are associated with a purchase intention. Examples of money keywords are "buy mountain bike" or "web design offers". For other, non-commercial websites, "money" describes the informative nature of the website content. For example, "mountain bike repair instructions" or "castles in Scotland".

Brand keywords

A brand keyword contains the brand name of a company or variations of it. Examples are “Nike", "Apple" or "IBM". In most cases, keywords of this kind are used for informational searches when users want to find out more about products or a company.

Compound keywords

A compound keyword is a combination of a money keyword and a brand keyword. The search intention is usually the purchase of a specific product. Examples of combined keywords are "buy Adidas basketball shoes" or "Honda CBR650R cheap".

Other keywords

All keywords that cannot be assigned to one of the above categories are so-called "other" keywords. Examples are "information" or "click here".

In SEO, the aforementioned keyword types are additionally distinguished into short-tail and long-tail keywords.

Short-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords
Figure: Keywords - Author: Seobility - License: CC BY-SA 4.0

A short-tail or short-head keyword consists of three or fewer words. A short-tail keyword has a high search volume and is subject to strong competition. Search engine users use these keywords when they search for information or products in the first step. For this reason, it is very difficult to determine clear search intent for short-tail keywords. Conversion rates for these keywords generally are very low.

Long-tail keywords

A long-tail keyword consists of three or more words. With long-tail keywords, users can get more specific search results. For example, a search in Google with the short-tail keyword "headphones" will produce approximately 26 million results. Searching with a specific long-tail keyword such as "Beats Studio 3 Bluetooth Black Headphones" reduces the number of search results to a fraction. Long-tail keywords usually have a low search volume and low competition. Long-tail keywords also play an increasingly important role in SEO for voice searches with mobile devices, such as "Where can I find the best Italian restaurant in New York?”.

Importance of keywords for on-page SEO

Using relevant keywords on your website is an essential part of on-page SEO. The keywords show search engines for which topic your website should be indexed and listed in search results. You should use your main keyword in the title of your website, in the meta-description, in the first heading [H1], in the content, and in ALT attributes of images. More important than a high number of keywords, however, is the value that your content offers to visitors, as well as a good structuring and legibility of your content.

Keyword SEO Checker

Check if your site is optimized for your most important keywords

Importance of keywords for off-page optimization

You can achieve positive effects for the ranking of your website if relevant keywords appear in anchor texts of backlinks (links from other websites that refer to your website). Google and other search engines analyze these anchor texts and use them to assess the relevance of the linked page. However, the excessive use of brand keywords, and in particular money keywords, is considered spam and can be punished by Google.

Keyword tools

For SEO, various free and fee-required tools for keyword research are available on the web. You should always use such tools for checking your rankings for specific keywords instead of googling your own website as Google personalizes and localizes search results.

Google itself offers the tool Google Suggest (Google Autocomplete) and the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool. Google Suggest is an extension of the search engine. When a keyword is entered into Google search, the tool displays a list of suggestions for keyword additions frequently entered by users. The Keyword Planner tool in Google Ads provides information about search volume and expected traffic for each keyword. The tool also allows you to search for synonyms and provides information on the competitive situation for each keyword.

Google Suggest

Screenshot showing Google Suggest of

Ubersuggest is an SEO keyword tool that, after entering a search query, provides a comprehensive list with keywords based on search volume, competitive situation and potential value of the selected keyword. This keyword tool is free as well.

AnswerThePublic and Hypersuggest help with searching for questions frequently entered by users in Google Search (so-called W questions).

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