Arpad Balogh
May 1, 2022

As a small business owner, you must have heard in countless videos, and read in countless blog articles that you should focus on improving your website's search engine ranking through using keywords on your website.

That's good advice, but
what are keywords?

What types of keywords are there?

What is the difference between long tail and short tail keywords?

How do you use them without ruining your chances of ranking?

This article will explain all that to you in detail.

Let's get into it!

What is a Keyword: Definition

A keyword is a word or phrase that describes the topic of a particular page or piece of content.

In SEO, Keywords (or search queries) are words or phrases that people enter into search engines like Google or Bing to get relevant search results.

In search engines, it is also defined as an index term.

Different Types of Keywords

Given how long a keyword is and how competitive it is, we can classify them into different two different categories.

Long Tail Keywords

long tail keywords

A long tail keyword is a keyword phrase that is made up of 3 or more words.

An example of a long tail keyword could be "best camera for vlogging under $500".

As you can see, this keyword is very specific and probably has low search volume.

But the good news is, it's also much easier to rank for long tail keywords.

This is because there is less competition for these keywords and they are more specific, which means that the people who use them are usually further down in the buying cycle.

In other words, they are more likely to convert into paying customers, since they are not broad.

On the other hand, these have much less search volume than short tail keywords have.

Short Tail Keywords

short tail keywords

A short tail keyword is a keyword that is only one or two words.

An example of a short tail keyword could be "camera", "vlogging", "best camera" or even "buy camera".

As you can see, most of these keywords are very broad and catch hundreds of thousands if not millions of searchers every day.

But, the potential for sales and revenue is much higher here. Just imagine ranking for "buy camera" on the front page of Google and racking in hundreds of thousands of people to your website. That would be a huge payday!

Since these keywords are so broad and have such a high search volume, they are also very competitive.

This is because there are already hundreds of thousands of websites and pages trying to rank for these keywords.

So if you're just starting out, you will have a very hard time ranking for them.

Which should you go for as a small business?

As a small business, most of your keywords are going to be local based or long tail.

If not and you can only think of short tail keywords, you should always
use a free or paid keyword research tool to find some.

You should start your SEO Strategy by targeting these smaller keywords to ramp up some traffic and then you can move on to higher competition keywords.

Keyword Search Intent

Not every keyword is created equal.

Just like in digital marketing, users have different buyer phases, different keywords will have different levels of search intent and you will have to decide what type of customers in what stages you want to attract with each target keyword.

There are four main keyword search intents:

Informational Intent

informational intent

If a person searches for informational intent keywords, they are looking to gain new knowledge or find out more information.

They are not ready to buy yet at all, but they may be in the future if they like what they see.

You can use content marketing and Search engine optimization tactics like
writing blog posts to target these types of keywords and then use lead magnets to capture these people as leads and nurture them into buying customers.

You are in this stage at the moment and you can see the lead magnet on the right!

There are also informational keywords that people just simply type in to get answers to their questions.

For example, "How long is the Great Wall of China?". As you can see people who type this in aren't looking to get information about a product or looking for a solution to their problem, they are just curious.

And Google knows that. Because of this, zero-click searches in Google are getting more and more popular, where Google is answering the question on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), rather than having people click on a website to find the information.

It's great for the user, but not so good for the website owners.

navigational intent

Navigational intent keywords are people who know about your brand or website already and are trying to find it.

For example, if someone types a search term in like "Facebook", they are most likely looking to go to the Facebook website.

For smaller brand names, you can try and rank for this, but for larger names like Facebook, it won't make too much sense, since people who want to go to a specific website will go to that website, not yours.

Transactional Intent

transactional intent

Transactional intent keywords are when a person is ready to buy something and they search for something like "Buy Camera".

These are very powerful keywords, as you can get people who are at the final stages of their buying journey.

Since these are the most valuable keywords and people have their wallet out, most of these terms are going to be really competitive.

You may need to invest more in your SEO and content marketing strategy here if you want to rank for these keywords.

"I don't want your product" Intent

There are also type of keywords that only attract tire kickers, who don't want to buy anything from you, but just want free stuff. Don't get us wrong, free stuff is always good, but these people won't be your main customer base or if they will be, they are more likely to complain or get a refund.

These type of keywords contain:

  • Free
  • Torrent
  • Download
  • PDF
  • WSO

If your keywords has any of these words in it, don't rank for them. Unless of course you are purposely trying to take the space for these keywords to push spammy sites down.

How and Where to Use Keywords

Finding the right target keywords is the first step, but you must also find the right place to use them.

When it comes to using your keywords, keep in mind that there are different types of web pages on your website and you need to make a decision where to put your keywords depending on which page it will be.

For example, you don't need to use keywords on your contact page or privacy policy page.

Let's see where you can use keywords on the right pages.

Keywords in the Title Tag

The title tag is a very important place to put your keywords. It's one of the main ranking factors.

One thing to make sure of is not to overdo it. Having your keyword once in the title or having one keyword in your title is completely enough.

If you add too many,
you may be keyword stuffing, which can lead to a penalty or getting filtered out in the SERPs.

Keywords in Meta Description

Putting your keyword in the meta description is not a ranking factor, but it's still important to put your keywords in there.

A good trick is to search for your keyword and then look at what words and phrases Google bolds out in other websites' listings.

You want to include those words/phrases in your description as well to make it optimized.

Keywords in Content

The main purpose of keywords is to include them in your content or create content using them.

There are several ways you can optimize your content for a keywords.

First, the best practice is to find a primary keyword and several secondary keywords that you want to optimize your page for

The old and conventional way is using some kind of tool to calculate the TF*IDF or keywords frequency of the competitors content.

This is a very common technique and a lot of SEO experts do it still do this day.

A more conventional and easier way is to use
a tool like Surfer SEO and optimize your content for entities. In this approach, rather than for keywords frequency, you focus on adding NLP entities in your content, based on what your competitors are using and what Google wants to see.

We recommend the latter method.

Keyword Metrics

There are several metrics that you can look at when choosing your keywords.

Search Volume

The first is search volume. It indicates how many people search for that keyword every month. Different tools show different results as none of them have access to Googles database.

The best results are from Ahrefs, which has it's independent database, compiled with the data of the Keyword Tool from Google.


Some tools provide a Difficulty score for each keyword. The higher the difficulty, the tougher it is to rank for.

These metrics are only for showcasing and quick analysis though since none of these tools have access to Googles database.

They mostly look at backlink data to determine how hard it would be to rank for a keyword.

How to Find Keywords

In order to find the perfect keywords for you, you have to do keyword research. Keyword research is the process of finding the best keywords that your target audience searches for.

There are several tools that you can use to find these phrases people search for.

We have a full blog post on using these tools!

Do You Want More Customers?

If you are looking to generate more customers, check out this guide and learn how.

You'll find 5 steps that will help fix the most important things on your website today!


There are many factors to consider when choosing the right keywords for your website.

But there is no one size fits all approach, as every website is different and uses a different style of keyword optimization.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that its tailored to your needs and in line with Google's guidelines for SEO.

About the author

Arpad Balogh is a Hungarian SEO Expert and Strategist with more than 8 years of experience in the field. He loves dogs, he is afraid of empty pools (so weird, right?), loves vegan food and has a passion for telling very bad jokes.

Technical SEO, Structured Data and Keyword research are the areas he loves the most.

As a Founder of Slothio, His mission is to help 5,000 small business owners to grow their business in the next three years, help them be happier and enjoy life more.

Arpad Balogh

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