What exactly is a keyword?

What exactly is a keyword

What exactly is a keyword?

If you are not familiar with SEO, you may ask – what is a keyword?

To be honest, its actually a misnomer, because ‘keyword’ (singular) denotes one single word, and we find this confuses a lot of our clients right from the start. In SEO terms, a ‘keyword’ can be one single word (rarely) but in most cases it is a ‘phrase’ – a set of words, which may contain one or several of our targeted keywords.

Therefore a keyword is any word phrase you would like your site to rank for in Google’s search results. That keyword can be a single word, or a keyword can also be a combination of words. 

Here’s a working example –

We have a client who are a drainage company: The Drain People – they clear blocked sewer drains, sinks and toilets etc, for both commercial and domestic customers.

They are based in Leicester, UK, although they cover the whole of the East Midlands region.

One of the main things they want to be found for is when a user goes to Google and searches for ‘unblock drains’

Now, the reality is that most people are now aware that if they simply search for ‘unblock drains’ Google will return results based across the UK, hence not specific to the users location, so common sense dictates that users now combine their ‘keyword’ with their locality in order to get results more relevant to their location.

So, the search most likely would be ‘unblock drains Leicester’ or maybe ’unblock drains in Leicester’ 

This is called a ‘long tail keyword’ and generally denotes a search phrase of 3 words or more.

[ you can test this by searching Google for ‘unblock drains Leicester’ – you should find our client, ‘The Drain People’ near the top of page 1 for this ‘keyword’ ]

As a rule of thumb, the more words in your phrase (ie the longer the keyword tail) the more specific will be the results returned. But you have to balance this against the likelihood a user would enter such a specific phrase.

The image below sums up well the relationship between competition and how specific your keyword is. (courstesy of Yoast)

concept of long-tail keywords
concept of long-tail keywords


Other types of keywords can begin with ‘how to…’  ‘what is….’   – these are sometimes referred to as ‘informational keywords’ because the user is asking a question, seeking advice.

On the whole, three and four word long tail keywords and informational keywords are good keywords for most SEO projects. They will lead to more customers

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