Search engine optimization is a very broad digital marketing strategy with so many moving pieces. No matter what SEO consultant or agency you speak to, they'll tell you the same:

It all starts with keyword research.

Today, I'll be going over the different types of SEO keywords we use at Ernst Media. And at the end of this post, you'll have a grasp of what they are, and how to use them properly.

Let's get into it!

What is an SEO Keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase used to find information on the Internet through search queries. It's pulled up through crawlers pushed by search engines like Google and Bing.

They decide whether a user's search query relates to a website's content and if that piece of content should be in the top search results.

To help them make a decision in your favor, you need to include a selection of SEO keywords.

The keywords you choose have a direct impact on how your content will rank on search engine results pages. That's exactly why keyword research is so important for a successful SEO strategy.

What Are the Types of SEO Keywords?

Marketers have different opinions on how many types of keywords are used in SEO. I've been a Digital Strategist at Ernst Media for many years, and we always break them down to 9:

Short-tail, long-tail, product-defining, customer-defining, branded, long-term evergreen, LSI, geo-targeting, and the most important keywords targeting specific search intent.

I say the most important because these types of keywords will bring the most SEO benefits to your business.

the different types of keywords in seo

It's plenty, I know. But don't worry. I'll cover each one so you can choose the right SEO keywords to increase your website's organic traffic. Or, if you consider delegating this task to an SEO agency, you'll have a better understanding of their processes.

Short-Tail Keywords

Short-tail keywords, also known as seed or generic keywords, are the most common. People type those to find information quickly, usually for a specific product or service. We use them mainly when creating a primary keyword. A primary keyword is a page's main topic, like "Men's Shorts" or "BMW Wheels."

Such short generic keywords have huge search volume, but don't be tempted. Ranking for any of these is close to impossible with a blog post unless you have the domain rating of "Forbes."

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are more specific and less popular than short-tails. They usually consist of at least three to four words and are great for both e-commerce and service business SEO.

  • They give you more options to include related keywords in a page or blog post.
  • They trigger queries/questions that you can answer and drive organic search traffic.
  • They are very important for any SEO keyword strategy and shouldn't be overlooked.

Product-Defining Keywords

Product keywords help customers find your website when they describe what they want to buy. Thus, we focus on these when working with e-commerce sites that are looking to attract a target audience.

Customer-Defining Keywords

Customer-defining keywords and product-defining keywords can be easily confused, so let me tell you what the difference is.

Product keywords describe a product or service in detail, while customer-defining keywords describe the customer's needs and wants.

They're both great for your SEO strategy, but it's good to know the difference when writing a page or blog post with a specific search intent.

Branded Keywords

People use these types of keywords when they want information about a particular company. That said, we implement branded SEO keywords in a marketing strategy on two occasions:

When we work with a well-established brand or when we run organic search and brand awareness social media campaigns for a client at the same time.

Long-Term Evergreen Keywords

These have a high search volume over a long period of time, making them the best SEO keywords for content websites like food and how-to blogs.

Recipes for “garlic parmesan grilled chicken” have a specific search volume that will rarely waver upward or decrease. The same applies to queries like "How to change a flat tire."

It doesn't have much societal swing, nor is there anything that happens in the news that could sway people to search for such keywords. Once you get high search rankings for those, all you have to do is update the content every six months or so to keep a steady incoming traffic flow.

LSI Keywords

Latent semantic indexing (LSI keywords) have similar meanings to the seed keyword but different contexts. So, if we had a short-tail keyword like “phone,” we could use other words like “cell phone,” “Samsung phone,” “Android phone,” etc.

It may not relate directly to the subject, but it has the same keyword intent, and that's the point. It can be a huge game changer for triggering more search queries, and if used correctly, you'll still be reaching the same target audience.

Geo-Targeting Keywords

These keywords are the main ingredient of local SEO. Using geo-targeted keywords along with tools like Google My Business and Bright Local is the way to get your services at the top search results for your city. I mean, there is another way, but that's part of a Google ads strategy.

Intent Targeting Keywords

The final SEO keyword comes into play when crafting your content based on what people want to do with it. Do they want to buy something or learn more about it?

These types of keywords can be so broad that I have to go more in-depth. The different intentions that people have when they search for information actually give us another four keyword categories.

Pay close attention to those! As Brian Dean says in his article:

"Google’s most recent edition of its Quality Rater Guidelines is obsessed with Search Intent. While backlinks and other traditional ranking signals still matter, if your page doesn’t satisfy Search Intent, it won’t rank."

intent targeting seo keywords

Informational Keywords

These are long-tail keywords or phrases that people use to find information about a subject or learn how to do something. Building topical authority in your industry is the key to organic traffic nowadays, and writing educational blog content is how you show search engines your expertise.

Navigational Keywords

These are words or phrases that people use in search engines to land on a particular page of a website. For example, if you're looking for a "Red Lacoste winter sweater for men," you'll type that in the Google search bar instead of going to the Lacoste website, its product pages, applying filters, etc.

Most of the time, we use navigational keywords in SEO to enhance product page titles and descriptions and for internal links.

Commercial Keywords

These are words or phrases that people use to find products and services without looking for a particular brand. Like the sweater example above, but without the "Lacoste."

People usually think about spending some money, but that's not always the case. So, if you're going to use commercial keywords, check the top search results to make sure you match the user intent.

Transactional Keywords

When typing transactional keywords in the search bar, people are ready to buy. However, often they haven't decided on a brand, model, material, etc. yet.

They won't search for "Nike men's running shoes" but rather go for "Best running shoes for men."

We've noticed that queries starting with "top" or "best" have become quite popular over the last couple of years. While these are utilized mainly by affiliate marketers, if you run an e-commerce business with a large inventory, you can also write "Best of" types of posts.


As you can see, there is a wide range of keywords in SEO to play with. I hope you have a better understanding of the different types and how to pick the right target keywords.

Figuring out the search intent is the key. If you don't get it right, your SEO won't work. Even the best content can get buried on page 10 of Google's search results.

If you want to find out how the keywords in your site are being used and whether or not you're sending out the right intention, come connect with us at Ernst Media.

Let's get an audit together to get you pivoted in the right direction with your target audience!