Understanding the Difference Between Keywords and Search Terms is the key to creating effective SEO strategies.
Marketers use the terms “search query” and “keyword” interchangeably without malicious intent, but it’s essential to be clear about how the terms differ.
After all, not understanding the difference between Search Terms and Keywords can lead to ineffective strategies for promoting sites in the organic search of Bing and Google.
I personally, especially recently, had to explain to copywriters several times how keywords differ from search queries and why it is not very correct to write “key entry” or “key query” (although useful in terms of semantics coverage).
Therefore, today we will consider the critical aspects of search queries and keywords, starting with the definition (and then I will send my colleagues a link to this post).
What are Search Terms?
Search terms are what people are looking for.
When you ask something (query) from Alice or type something (query) in Google search and press the “search” button, this is called a search query.
The term “search term” refers only to the literal text used to initiate a search. And the information that the user wants to receive is called the “search intent” (intent).
What are keywords?
Keywords, on the other hand, are the backbone of search campaigns.
These are the words or phrases that a paid search or organic marketing campaign is based on.
Keywords are the exact terms or phrases you want your site to display in Google.
And what’s the difference Between Keywords and Search Terms?
The difference between keywords and search terms is whether you’re talking about user or marketer actions.
Users don’t know about keywords and don’t care about them. They want an answer to their request.
Marketers? Well, you and I care a lot about search queries.
Understanding what the audience enters into Google or Bing and how it correlates with content or advertising is necessary to create marketing campaigns that bring results in the form of traffic and money.
This is where understanding user intent comes into play. After all, users are looking for the same content in different ways.
The exact word order in the query may vary, or the user may add some modifier to their query, but in general, the search engine will understand that the meaning of the keyword is the same.
Below is a chart that helps you see the difference between keywords and search terms.
This example shows how many search queries can lead users to the same primary keyword.
Now you can continue to use these terms interchangeably. But remember that the difference between search terms and keywords can change your marketing strategy.
How to use search queries to boost keywords?
Ranking first on Google or Bing for the right keyword can mean big money for your business. And the search queries that your audience performs can help you with this.
Below, I will demonstrate a three-step process that uses real search terms to boost keyword performance.
To do this, we will use exclusively free SEO tools (you can do the same with any other software you are used to):
- Google Analytics;
- Google Search Console
- Google Search.
Find high-value pages
The first step is to identify the pages on the site that best suit your business goals.
Open Analytics. We go to the reports: Life cycle – Traffic sources – Attracting traffic.
You and I will need to make a few changes to the default settings. At the top of the page, click Add Comparison.
Here you should set a condition so that not all visitors are evaluated, but only those that came from organic search. To do this, select: Enable – Source / channel for the first user – google / organic.
The item “All users” can be removed, for convenience. Then you and I will need the second condition for viewing landing pages. In the table below the graph, click on the blue plus sign, select “Page/Screen” and “Landing Page”.
You need to extract data from the resulting table that corresponds to our business goal. Turn the slider to the right and click on the “Conversions” subheading to sort the table by them.
This will sort the landing pages that receive traffic from Google Organic in ascending order based on the number of conversions attributed to each.
Depending on your website traffic and business goals, you may want to focus on achieving some specific goals. For example: adding a product to the cart, making a purchase, or clicking on a phone number.
This information suggests which web pages on the site are most effective in achieving a particular business goal.
I see pages for specific products, categories, and informational articles that led to sales or phone calls.
Now you can download the file in the upper right corner, if we have a large list.
In any case, we have access to the exact URLs and will use them in the second step.
2. Finding the Most Valuable Search Terms
The most effective way to research keywords is to find out what search terms people use when interacting with your site in a certain way.
To do this, you need to explore not keywords but queries. Ready to roll up your sleeves and my valuable search queries? Let’s get started!
Open Google Search Console. Select the project to be analyzed from the drop-down menu in the upper left corner, then click “Search Results” in the “Performance” tab.
The default settings will automatically set the search type to “Web” and the default date range to the last three months.
Depending on the volume and seasonality of your site, this can be quite acceptable. Adjust settings as needed.
Click on the plus icon “New” and select “Page …”. In the URL field, enter one of the high-value page URLs you obtained earlier and click the Apply button.
In the table below, go to the “Requests” tab and observe the main search queries for which the audience has searched for our high-value page over the past three months.
Clicks automatically sort the table; the user finds your page in Google search results and clicks on it. Some of the queries will be similar. Others may show different search intents. Write down two to five search queries of the most relevant interest (clicks) to your business.
At this point, you have a list of search queries that users entered into Google and then interacted with your site in a special way for the business.
Expand Your Horizons with Google Autocomplete
Continuing with the example of cryptocurrencies, let’s take the search query “photography.” It’s time to find out what variations or related terms users might be looking for.
For this method to work, you need to change a few settings. Sign out of your Google account or open a browser window in incognito mode, so your search history doesn’t affect your results.
We need SERP the way our potential audience sees it. Therefore, if your site visitors live in another city or country, you need to use a VPN (or one of the specialized SEO plugins, such as “CleverGeo”).
Now open a Google search and enter one of the search terms you received in the second step. But don’t press “Enter.” You should see something like this:
As you type, Google tries to predict what you’re looking for based on the popularity of user searches. This is called Google autocomplete hints.
This feature has a significant advantage as it effectively detects the long tail keywords (or phrases) most searched on the web. Such phrases usually consist of at least three words and convey a clear need of the client.
Let’s take an example of using autocomplete for one of the high-value keywords found in step two. Type it into Google and write all relevant queries for your audience or business.
Try to go through the alphabet: put a space after the found key, and enter the letter “a.” See how this changes the tooltips. Then do the same with the letter “b” and so on.
Try adding an underscore at a passphrase’s beginning, middle, or end. It can also be useful to add a specific modifier to the query (how, when, where, why, demographic, niche, etc.) to clarify the intent.
Then visit the search results for each of the queries. Pay attention to paid advertising and unique elements (sorcerers). This will help you find additional valuable keywords and hint at the user’s intent.
Understanding the difference between search terms and keywords is the key to creating strategies that work when promoting sites in search, both organic and paid.
Search terms refer to the text your audience is looking for, while keywords are the terms you invest in. By understanding the relationship between these two entities, you can take a fresh look at the keyword research process. And harness the potential that is right under your nose.
Smart marketing is all about using the search terms of your best customers to determine which keywords to invest in.