what is a keyword

What is a keyword?

What is a keyword? Which keyword types are there? What are the search intentions behind the individual keyword types and what does a long tail keyword actually mean? I explain basic questions about keywords in this article.

A keyword is a search term that an Internet user enters into a search engine to get information on a certain topic or to find anything else on the Internet.

A keyword does not always have to be a single word. In general, Google has greatly increased the importance of a keyword. The search engine is no longer only concerned with displaying relevant texts for entered search terms, but also with capturing the problem of the user who entered the keyword. Google wants to help users find the best answer to their query. In this context, the semantics behind the keyword will also become increasingly important. After all, keywords are not about terms, but about problems that the searcher is trying to solve. A big keyword here is the semantic search or the semantic search engine.


Types keywords

We can classify the keyword types into two categories. The first category describes the search intention of the search queries. That is, what kind of information or interaction does the searcher want to get. The second category refers more to the length of the entered search term.

Google itself reacts to the first category of keyword types by adjusting or filtering the display of search results. If, for example, a user searches for “shoe manufacturing”, this indicates to Google that it is an informational keyword. The reaction of the search engine is the delivery of entries from Wikipedia. In addition, Google also refrains from displaying advertising. In this case, this search results page remains free of advertising.

For example, if an Internet user searches for the term “buy blue shoes“, Google will present him with results from Google Shopping, since a purchase intention becomes clear here.

Keyword types by search intent

Navigational keywords

This keyword type accounts for about 10% of all search queries on the Internet. The most popular Google search queries in recent years in this category include Facebook, YouTube and Google. Based on these examples, it is already clear what type of search intention is described here. In the meantime, the user no longer enters Internet addresses in his browser, but directly the brand or the website without domain, in order to be navigated to his brand company or organization via Google.

The development of this keyword type has two reasons: on the one hand, people do not remember domain names anymore and on the other hand, Google autocomplete is used in case people do not know the exact name or do not want to enter the entire domain name. In this search query, in most cases only one result from the resulting search results page is the correct one.

Informational keyword

An example for the search intention could be “shoes size chart” or “cell phone test reports”. Here, the searcher wants to inform himself, i.e. he is looking for information on a specific subject or product. The search queries at this point are usually very general and thematically broad. Informational search queries usually start with a W-question. Informational keywords have a search share of about 80 %.

Transactional keyword

As the term suggests, these keywords are search queries where the user wants to perform a transactional action. This can be a reservation, downloading software or placing an online order. Transactional keywords have a search volume of approximately 10% and thus the same share of search queries on the Internet as navigational keywords. An example of a transactional keyword would be “buy shoes”. In addition to this, search queries for products, in particular for exact product names, also fall under this category. Google delivers the highest proportion of advertising on the search results page here, as the searcher is willing to spend money and so traders can hope for a high conversion.


Keyword types by keyword length

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords are search terms that are very general in nature. The search volume of short tail keywords is usually high. However, the searching users can have the most different ambitions, therefore an optimization on short tail keywords usually does not make sense, since they do not know exactly whether their visitors have purchase intentions, want test reports or are simply looking for a comparison when they enter the keyword “car” or “Nike”. Since short tail keywords are usually highly competitive keywords where the competition is relatively high, it takes longer to rank well. Also, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to rank for short tail keywords. An example would be a locksmith: For this company it does not make sense to rank for the keyword “locksmith” alone, because the website should be targeted at regional search queries. Therefore, you should optimize for the keyword “locksmith in XY” for this project.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords have much less search volume than short tail keywords. However, long tail keywords offer better insights into the intent of the searcher. However, specific long tail keywords have such low search volume that you have to try to use as many terms as possible in your content in order to have a high diversity of language. With such content, you can succeed in ranking for many long tail keywords and thus generate a good amount of qualitative traffic.

Since the search volume of long tail keywords is not particularly high, you usually have to deal with little competition. They are often specific and the clear requirements mean that the content of the website can be better adapted to the target group.

From experience, I can say that you should generally optimize more for long tail keywords, because there is a clear buying or closing interest here and the traffic is particularly valuable, because the searcher can be offered a much more specific solution.


You have probably already noticed that keywords (and the associated search volumes) need to be examined more closely so that the associated traffic can be evaluated. In another article I have already described why you should focus on qualitative traffic instead of quantitative. Therefore, the following already applies to the selection of keywords: Choose wisely!



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