Last Updated: February 10, 2021
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The 21 Types of Keywords in SEO You Need To Know About

There are twenty-one types of keywords in SEO spread across 7 main categories. Knowing these types of keyword will help you target your content at the right audience.

Here are the seven categories:

  • Length
  • Topic
  • Searcher Intent
  • Commerce
  • SEO Strategy
  • Freshness
  • Google Ads
types of keywords in seo

Each of these main types can be broken down into further types of keyword. For example, ‘Length’ breaks down into:

  • main keywords
  • middle keywords
  • long-tail keywords

But before we go any further, what are keywords?

What Are Keywords?

Put simply, they are words or phrases that searchers type into search engines. For anyone who wants their website to be found in the search engines, keywords are vital, for two reasons:

  • You need to know what keywords searchers are using when they look for your product or service
  • You need to make sure that your content contains enough of those keywords for the search engines to know what your content is about.
The Seven Main Types of Keywords in SEO


The most commonly used classification of keywords refers to their length.

1. Short-tail (or head)

Short tail keywords or ‘head’ keywords are keywords comprising a single word. An example would be ‘cars’. Short-tail keywords (a) very high search volume, (b) are incredibly competitive, and (c) are very un-targeted in terms of searcher intent.

2. Mid-tail (or middle)

Middle keywords are keywords comprising two words, such as ‘Italian cars’. These keywords are still very competitive and still have high search volume.

3. Long-tail

Long tail keywords comprise three or more words, such as ‘Italian vintage cars’. They typically have much lower search volume than either head or middle keywords, but they are also much less competitive. These are the keywords that you can rank for on Page #1 of the search results.


This classification refers to the keywords on a particular web page.

4. Primary keyword(s)

The primary keyword is the main keyword that you want the page to rank for. This keyword will usually be found in the title of the article and the slug of the article (the part of the URL that comes after the domain). It should also appear numerous times throughout the body of the article and in at least one heading or sub-heading.

5. LSI keywords

LSI keywords are related keywords. They may be synonyms but more often than not they are simply words that are naturally associated with the main keyword. For example, ‘iTunes’ is an LSI keyword for ‘Apple’ because the two words are often found together and share the same context.

Searcher Intent

This classification refers to the intent of the searcher who typed the keyword into a search engine.

6. Navigational

Navigational keywords are keywords that people use when they know what they are looking for or where they want to go. For example ‘maccas’ (Australian vernacular for McDonalds) would be a navigational keyword. Likewise, ‘apple store’ is a navigational keyword.

7. Informational

Informational keywords are keywords used by people searching for information about a product, a service, or a topic. For example ‘invention of x-ray’ would be an informational keyword. In the context of online commerce, an informational keyword is used when someone is still in the information-gathering stage. An example would ‘dslr cameras’.

8. Transactional

Transactional keywords are used when the searcher is ready to make a purchase. They’ve gathered their information, they’ve made a decision, and now they want to make a purchase. An example of a transaction keyword would be ‘best dslr cameras under $1000’.


9. Branded and Unbranded keywords

Branded keywords are words that contain your company name or a competitor's company name. For example ‘best fitness tracker for men’ is an unbranded keyword, while ‘best fitbit for men’ is a branded keyword.

Depending on your goals, you may or may not want to target branded keywords. For example, if you were trying to attract new customers (people are not aware of your brand) you would target only unbranded keywords and avoid branded keywords.

On the other hand, if you wanted to maximum conversion, you would target branded keywords, since they convert at over two times the rate of unbranded keywords.

10. Customer-defining keywords

Customer-defining keywords are keywords that your target audience use to describe themselves and their activities. In the recreational vehicle market, for example, customer-defining keywords might be ‘RVers’, ‘nomads, ‘campground’, ‘retirees’. ‘freedom’, RV clubs’, etc.

11. Market-defining keywords

These keywords (also known as related vertical keywords) are broad keywords that refer to an entire business or industry. For example, market-defining keywords for scuba diving would include ‘scuba diving’, ‘introductory dive’, ‘certified dive’, ‘referral courses’, and ‘liveaboard diving’.

12. Product defining keywords

These are keywords that refer to specific products. Examples would be Nike Flex Contact, Panasonic Lumix G85, and Breville Barista Express.

13. Geo-Targeted keywords

Geotargeted keywords are keywords that combine a product or service with a locality. They are an important part of Local SEO. Examples would be ‘ventriloquist Sydney’, ‘thoracic surgeon Los Angeles’, or ‘smash repairs Cape Town’.

SEO Strategy

14. Standard keywords

Standard keywords are keywords that result from standard keyword research. This is keyword research where you type a ‘seed’ word into a keyword research tool and sift through the results looking for a keyword that you can rank for and that that has sufficient search volume.

15. Competitor keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords that your competitors are using to rank their content on Google and other search engines. The idea behind competitor keywords is that if your competitors are ranking for those keywords, you can as well (this idea is valid as long as you have a domain authority equal to or higher than your competitors’ DA). To find competitor keywords, you would need an advanced keyword research tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs.


16. Short-term fresh keyword

These are keywords that are related to current events. Their search volume spikes and then falls away as the thing they refer to is no longer in the news or no longer popular. Examples would be moves that have just hit the movie theaters.

17. Long-term evergreen keyword

These are keywords that people are always searching for. They don’t spike suddenly and then fall away to nothing. Examples would be ‘cheap family recipes’, ‘study tips for teenagers’, or ‘best dating sites’.

Google Ads

These four keyword types are ways of determining which kind of searches on Google will trigger your ads.

18. Broad match keywords

Broad match is the default setting in Google Ads. With this setting, your Google ads are triggered on variations of your keywords, including synonyms, singular and plural forms, possible misspellings, and stemmings (e.g. floor and flooring).

19. Phrase match keywords

With phrase match, your ad is only triggered by search queries that contain your exact keyword phrase. For example, if your keyword was ‘tennis shoes’, your ad would be triggered for a search on ‘red leather tennis shoes’ but not on a search for ‘shoes for tennis’.

20. Exact match keywords

With this option, your ad will only be triggered by exact matches with your keyword or close variants. If your keyword was ‘shoes for men’, your ad would be triggered by searches for ‘shoes men’ and ‘men shoes, but not for ‘red shoes for men’.

21. Negative keywords

Negative keywords are keywords that prevent your ads from being triggered. A commonly used negative keyword in Google Ads is the word ‘free’. And the reason is simple: if you’re paying for ads, you obviously don’t want to be wasting your ad spend on searches for free products or services.


As I said in the Introduction, these seven main types of keyword are simply different ways of looking at keywords. Each type focuses on a different characteristic of a keyword.

But the most important type is length:

  • head keyword
  • middle keyword
  • long-tail keyword

This classification of keywords ties in with search volume and level of competition. It is this division of keywords that will tell you whether or not you can rank on Page #1 of Google.

Rob Powell
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