Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for driving relevant traffic to your website. A key component of an effective SEO strategy is identifying and targeting the right keywords. But not all keywords are created equal – there are many different types of keywords that serve different purposes.
In this post, we will outline the 13 most important types of keywords to know for optimizing your website and ranking higher in search results. Understanding these various keyword categories and how to use them will help you attract more visitors who are actively searching for your products, services, or information. With the right keywords, you can connect with customers at each stage of their buyer’s journey – from initial research to final purchase.
Mastering keyword targeting provides the foundation for an SEO strategy that delivers results. Let’s dive into the 13 essential keyword types and how to effectively incorporate them into your approach.
Seed keywords are the most broad and generic keywords that describe your overall business, products, or services. These high-level keywords cast a wide net and help attract people who may be in the early stages of researching a topic or product category.
For example, if you own a shoe store, some potential seed keywords would be “shoes”, “footwear”, “sneakers”, “boots”, etc. These are very common terms that someone may start with when broadly looking into buying shoes online or in their local area. Seed keywords initiate the process and get people into your funnel.
Seed keywords have high search volumes since they are so general. However, this also means they are highly competitive and harder to rank for. Focus on including seed keywords prominently on your homepage, product category pages, and service overview pages. Also target these keywords in your title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, image alt text, schema markup, etc.
Here are some tips for finding seed keywords:
- Use a keyword research tool: There are many keyword research tools available that can help you identify seed keywords. Some popular keyword research tools include Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.
- Look at your website’s traffic: If you already have a website, you can look at your website’s traffic to see what keywords are already driving traffic to your site. This can give you a good starting point for identifying seed keywords.
- Ask your customers: If you have customers, you can ask them what keywords they use when they are searching for products or services like yours. This can give you a good idea of the keywords that people are actually using to find your website.
Informational keywords help target people who are in the research and consideration phases of making a purchase decision. These keywords are question-based and demonstrate the visitor is looking to learn more about a product, service, or topic.
For example, informational shoe keywords could be “how to clean sneakers”, “what is the best material for work shoes”, or “how to tie shoelaces.” The visitor is not quite ready to buy yet, but they are educating themselves on the subject in order to make an informed purchasing choice down the line.
Informational keywords tend to have lower competition than more direct purchase-intent keywords. They provide an opportunity to attract visitors earlier in the sales funnel by answering their questions and establishing your site as an authority they can trust.
Focus on creating blog posts, FAQs, guides, and other informative content optimized around these terms. Answer common questions from different angles to capture more keyword variations. Position yourself as an expert resource and build credibility with potential customers.
Here are some examples of informational keywords:
- How to tie shoelaces
- What is the difference between a sneaker and a running shoe?
- What are the best shoes for walking?
- Where can I buy shoes online?
- What are the latest shoe trends?
Navigational keywords consist of a brand’s name, trademark, or website URL. People use navigational keywords when they are specifically looking for a company or product they already have in mind.
For example, someone might search “Nike” when they want to get to Nike’s website. Or they may search for “nike.com” to go directly to Nike’s homepage. “How to tie shoelaces” would also be a navigational keyword if it was the exact name of a specific page or article.
Optimizing for navigational keywords focuses on branding. You want your company name, trademarks, product names, and URLs to rank highly when people search for those explicit terms. This allows you to intercept that direct traffic rather than lose those visitors to competitors.
Target your brand name, trademarks, product names, etc. in page titles, headings, anchor text, image alt text, and URLs. Have website pages dedicated to specific products when feasible. Promote your URLs on your social media channels, emails, and other marketing collateral.
Here are some examples of navigational keywords:
- how to tie shoelaces
- [your website’s URL]
- [product or service name]
- [company name]
By targeting navigational keywords, you can attract visitors who are already familiar with your brand or website. This can help you increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
Commercial keywords demonstrate that searchers are in the latter stages of the purchasing process and are actively looking to buy a product or service. These high-intent keywords include terms like “buy”, “get”, “purchase”, “compare”, “discount”, etc.
For a shoe company, potential commercial keywords would be “buy running shoes”, “purchase work boots”, “order custom sneakers online”, “compare athletic shoes”, etc. The visitor is ready to make a transaction and complete the purchase funnel.
Optimizing for commercial keywords allows you to put your products and offers in front of people who are primed to buy. Focus on product, category, and landing pages that promote your selection, deals, shipping options, and other purchase-driving factors like security, support, etc.
Prioritize these keywords in on-page elements – highlight key product features, include calls-to-action, clearly display pricing and ways to buy. Off-page, earn mentions of your commercial keywords from relevant niche sites, influencers, and in customer reviews.
Track conversion rates from commercial keywords to measure how effective they are at driving sales. Refine pages and strengthen optimization to convert even more of this high-intent traffic. Commercial keywords are vital for guiding motivated shoppers straight into purchases.
Here are some examples of commercial keywords:
- buy shoes online
- compare shoes
- review shoes
- best shoes for walking
- where to buy shoes
Transactional keywords are used by people who are ready to make a purchase. They often include words like “order,” “checkout,” or “submit.” For example, if you sell shoes, a transactional keyword might be “order shoes online.”
Long-tail keywords are more specific, longer phrases that contain 3 or more words. For example, “buy red running shoes” or “most comfortable work boots for standing all day”. They are much more targeted than shorter, broader keywords.
The benefit of long-tail keywords is that they have lower competition, so it’s easier to rank for them. The trade-off is they have lower search volume. However, collectively long-tail keywords make up a majority of searches.
Optimizing for long-tails brings in visitors who are more likely to convert, because they’re searching for something so specific. The traffic is highly targeted.
Include long-tail keywords throughout page titles, meta descriptions, headers, content, etc. Target different permutations – singular vs plural, different adjectives, question variations, etc.
Create content pillars and blogs around your long-tails. Go in-depth on specific products, categories, and use cases. Answer the searches step-by-step.
Measure conversion rates from long-tail traffic sources. Refine pages targeting any high-potential long-tails. Add more content targeting untapped long-tail opportunities.
Long-tail keywords bring in qualified visitors. Keep optimizing pages for specificity and you’ll continue driving more targeted, low-competition traffic.
Here are some examples of long-tail keywords:
- how to tie shoelaces for beginners
- best shoes for walking
- where to buy shoes online
- compare shoes
- review shoes
Low-competition keywords are search terms that receive a lower monthly search volume. For example, “narrow width running shoes” has lower competition than just “running shoes” which is a broad term searched by millions.
The benefit of low-competition keywords is that it’s easier to rank for them because fewer sites are targeting them. You don’t have to compete with giant brands and popular sites. This allows smaller websites to better compete.
The tradeoff is that low-competition keywords drive less traffic, since fewer people are searching for them each month. However, the traffic is more targeted. Optimizing for a mix of high and low competition keywords balances volume and conversion potential.
Research low-competition long-tail keywords around your niche using keyword tools. Target these in your content and on-page optimization. Measure conversions from low-competition terms to identify profitable opportunities.
Take advantage of low-competition keywords to rank for very specific searches from motivated visitors. Just because a keyword has low search volume doesn’t mean it’s not worth targeting. The traffic could still be significant and converting for your business based on relevance.
Niche keywords are search terms that relate to a focused or specialized industry, product category, or consumer base. For example, someone selling basketball sneakers may target niche keywords like “indoor basketball shoes” or “wide basketball sneakers”.
Niche keywords enable you to hone in on specific searcher intent and needs. By using niche keywords, you can attract visitors who are more likely to be interested in your particular offering, relative to a broad audience.
The downside is niche keywords have lower search volume as they appeal to a smaller segment of people. But they convert better because the traffic is laser-targeted.
Conduct thorough keyword research to identify niche terms people are using to find products/info in your space. Incorporate these keywords throughout your SEO optimization strategy.
Create niche content pillars, like blogs and guides, optimized around these terms. Become a domain authority within your niche. Measure conversion rates from niche keywords to inform optimization.
Niche keywords help you dominate the searches that matter most to your business. You trade volume for relevance. The high-converting traffic they drive is extremely valuable, but something to note – niche keywords may not have as much search volume as general keywords. This means that you may not get as many visitors to your website if you target niche keywords.
Ultimately, the best way to decide whether to target niche or general keywords is to consider your business goals. If you are targeting a specific audience, niche keywords may be a good option for you. However, if you are looking to attract a lot of traffic to your website, you may need to target general keywords.
Branded keywords include the name of your company, product, or trademark. For example, “Nike shoes”, “Birkenstock sandals”, or “Campbell’s soup”. These keywords contain the brand itself that someone is specifically searching for.
Branded terms are extremely competitive, especially for major brands, because you are trying to rank for your own name. But these searches also convert at a very high rate since visitors have your brand in mind already.
Optimizing for branded keywords focuses on branding elements – url, logo, trademarks, etc. Include your brand name prominently on relevant pages. Publish content about your brand story, reputation, and products.
Monitor click-through-rates on branded keywords. Look for opportunities to improve branded SERP performance by enhancing on-page optimization and authority building content. Register exact match domains if feasible.
Branded searches signify high purchase intent. Ensure your website provides a seamless experience for visitors who know your brand and want your products. Branded keywords deliver targeted, quality traffic.
There is something that you need to think on when it comes to branded keywords – you should decide whether to target branded or general keywords is to consider your business goals. If you are well-known or have a strong brand identity, branded keywords may be a good option for you. However, if you are looking to attract a lot of traffic to your website, you may need to target general keywords.
Unbranded keywords do not contain the brand name in the search term. For example, “running shoes”, “dog food”, or “hotel deals”. These are generic product, service, or industry keywords.
The advantage of optimizing for unbranded terms is you can attract new visitors who may not know your brand yet. The competition is also lower than branded keywords.
However, conversion rates for unbranded keywords are typically lower. Visitors who don’t search for your specific brand may need more touches to build awareness and trust.
Target unbranded keywords on product pages and category pages to get your offerings in front of new potential customers. Create detailed content comparing your brand to competitors.
Measure new vs returning visitors from unbranded keywords to gauge brand awareness growth. Identify high-performing unbranded terms driving conversions and prioritize those for further optimization.
Unbranded keywords cast a wider net and introduce your brand to new audiences. Continue providing value onsite to educate and convert visitors arriving from unbranded searches.
Here are some tips for using unbranded keywords in your SEO strategy:
- Create content that is relevant to your unbranded keywords: Once you have identified some unbranded keywords, you need to create content that is relevant to those keywords. This could include blog posts, articles, or even product pages.
- Use keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions: When you create content, make sure to use your target keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions. This will help people find your content when they are searching for unbranded keywords on Google.
- Build backlinks: Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. They can help improve your website’s ranking in search results. When you create content that is relevant to unbranded keywords, make sure to reach out to other websites and ask them to link to your content.
Analyzing what keywords your competitors rank for provides insight into which terms are most relevant and valuable for your industry. If other brands are targeting and optimizing for certain keywords, those searches are likely worth pursuing for your own SEO strategy.
For example, if you are a shoe retailer, you could look at the keywords that your competitors are ranking for to see what keywords are popular in the shoe industry. This will help you identify keywords that you should target in your own SEO strategy.
Bidding on competitors’ keywords for paid search ads can help divert some of their traffic. Be careful not to violate trademark rights.
Use competitors’ keywords to shape your organic optimization approach. Optimize your on-page elements and content for those same terms. Aim to rank higher than competitors when feasible.
You can use a variety of tools to identify your competitors’ keywords, such as:
- Google Search Console: Google Search Console allows you to see which keywords your website is ranking for, as well as the keywords that your competitors are ranking for.
- SEMrush: SEMrush is a paid tool that allows you to see a comprehensive overview of your competitors’ SEO strategy, including their keywords, backlinks, and website traffic.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is another paid tool that allows you to see your competitors’ keywords, backlinks, and website traffic.
Keep an eye on competitors’ keywords that you want to rank for. See how your rankings for those terms compare over time as you strengthen optimization.
Gleaning keywords from competitors provides a model of what works in your space. Adopt the most relevant, high-potential terms in your own SEO strategy.
Primary keywords are the most critical and highest-priority keywords for your website and overall SEO strategy. These are the specific keywords you want to focus on ranking for at the top of search results.
Primary keywords should be highly relevant to your business and closely aligned with your target audience’s searches. Identify keyword opportunities with high search volume and conversion potential.
To identify your primary keywords, you need to consider your business goals. What are you trying to achieve with your website? Are you trying to generate leads, sell products, or build brand awareness? Once you know your business goals, you can start to identify the keywords that are most relevant to those goals.
For example, a shoe company may prioritize primary keywords like “running shoes”, “basketball sneakers”, “ orthotic inserts”, etc. These keywords likely drive significant qualified traffic for their business.
Optimize primary keywords in titles, headers, content, image alt text, URLs, etc. Create detailed, useful content targeting your most important keyword themes. Strengthen your authority and on-page factors to rank well.
Analyze the rankings and traffic for primary keywords regularly. Double down on optimization for underperforming primary terms. Maintain rankings for your top priority keywords.
Primary keyword optimization is the core of an SEO strategy. Their visibility and prominence filters down to other keywords and pages as well. Consistently focus on your primary keywords.
Once you have identified your primary keywords, you need to use them throughout your website. You should use them in your title tags, meta descriptions, and content. You should also use them in your backlinks.
Secondary keywords are relevant search terms that complement your primary keywords but are lower priority. They may have lower search volume or conversion rates, but still drive valuable traffic.
For example, secondary keywords for a shoe site could include long-tail variations like “best running shoes for plantar fasciitis” or less common terms like “minimalist trail running shoes”.
Secondary terms enhance your reach and bring in traffic interested in related topics. They widen the net beyond your core keywords. Having a mix of primary and secondary keywords targets more searches.
Optimize secondary keywords but focus more effort on primary terms. Evaluate performance to identify any high-potential secondary keywords worth moving up to primary status.
Expand your secondary keyword list over time to go after more long-tail variations, product modifiers, informational searches, etc.
Monitor conversions from secondary terms to ensure they contribute value. If certain secondary keywords don’t convert, replace them with new secondary keyword opportunities.
Optimizing for secondary keywords casts a wider net to attract more visitors. They provide support and diversity to complement your primary keyword foundation.
Having a strong keyword strategy is essential for SEO success. By understanding the different categories of keywords, you can target searches at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Seed keywords will introduce your brand to a wide audience. Informational and long-tail keywords will attract visitors looking to learn more. Commercial and transactional keywords will convert researchers into buyers. Branded and navigational keywords will capture existing brand awareness.
Continuously expand your keyword lists, especially into niche and low-competition long-tail terms. Analyze competitor keywords for inspiration. Identify high-potential keywords and double down on optimizing for those in primary status.
No single keyword type provides a magic bullet. Utilize a diverse mix of keyword types to maximize visibility and increase conversions. The most effective strategies combine both volume and relevance.
Keep researching keyword opportunities within your niche. Add keywords to your content, on-page elements, backlinks, and ads. Monitor performance to double down on what works and expand in new directions.
With a dynamic keyword approach spanning the entire sales funnel, you can connect with customers at every touchpoint. Use these essential keyword optimization tips to boost your website traffic, leads, and sales.