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Last updated on 8/23/23

Recognize the various types of keywords

Keywords vs. topics

Google has been lending more and more importance to contextual keywords as well as questions and expressions. This means that Google gives more weight to a topic than to single words. Moreover, even if you type a single word into Google, it will adapt the results to your geographical position, previous searches, and other factors.

Even though we still talk about keyword research today, it would be better to call this step in SEO optimization topic research. You will also find references to key phrases on the internet. These terms are all correct.

Some keywords (or key phrases) are better than others. It just depends on your objectives! 😉

Let's start by examining the various types of keywords.

Brand keywords

These include all the words related to your brand, such as your name, the names of your products, etc.

There is no reason for you not to be the first result for these keywords. They are very important because your customers may not know your website address when looking for more information.

Additionally, some brands are so well-known that most of their SEO traffic comes from people searching their name.

Examples of brand keywords:
  • For a video game company like Ubisoft, these keywords are both the name of the brand, Ubisoft, as well as the names of their games (e.g. Assassin’s Creed).

Generic keywords

These keywords are often a single word: shoes, car, travel, etc. The volume of searches for these types of words is high, but there is usually a lot of competition, and the traffic is low quality.

Ubisoft could try “video games” or “PS4 games.”

Informational keywords

They are often formulated as questions (How? Why? What is?) or include the word “definition.” These keywords are interesting for several reasons:

  • They are less competitive.

  • This traffic is higher quality because people are find out about your product/profession.

  • They allow you project expertise and trustworthiness. When you provide potential customers with a clear definition, they are more likely to trust you for future purchases

Ubisoft can provide a list of games released in 2018 by publishing an article such as “What are the Best Games of 2018?”

Transactional keywords

They begin with verbs denoting an action or a transaction (buy, find, search, book, etc.). These are appealing keywords if you are looking for leads or future customers; however:

  • They often have a lower volume of traffic.

  • They are often competitive.

  • They include many paid ads (sometimes up to four), in addition to the Google my Business reserved space, which tends to push free results far down the page.

For Ubisoft, “Buy Assassin’s Creed.”

Local or navigational keywords

These keywords can indicate either a geographical area (street name, neighborhood, city, etc.) or the desire to go somewhere (nearby, where, find, go to, etc.). They are very popular with businesses which have a physical location or store, particularly for a technique called local SEO, which is discussed later in the course.

For Ubisoft, “Buy Assassin’s Creed nearby.”

Short vs. long-tail


The top searches on a given topic in Google are referred to as short-tail keywords, meaning those with the highest volume of traffic. These are generic or transactional words. The traffic can be of higher or lower quality depending on the type of search, and competition for these keywords is always great.

Graph demonstrating that Short tail keywords have high traffic, but low conversion rates, and  Long Tail have low traffic but high conversion rates.
Short vs. long-tail keywords

Don't start with short-tail keywords when you are just beginning to optimize your SEO. Google will not trust your website sufficiently to rank it highly.

Nonetheless, these searches are very appealing in the medium to long term, especially the top transactional keywords. They receive a lot of traffic and have the ability to attract new leads or customers and disseminate your content across the web. They also project expertise and contribute to the growth of your brand image.

Examples of short-tail keywords:
  • For Nike, “shoes,” “women shoes.”

  • For The Muse, “hiring,” “employment,” “looking for a job.”

  • For EA Sports, “video games,” “basketball video game.”


Long-tail keywords include all the searches related to your activity which have low traffic. They are usually more specific multi-word phrases.

Individually, these keywords hold less value because they often have less traffic. However, it is much easier to be ranked first with multiple keywords on a topic with only a single page of content. Additionally, it often brings higher quality and more interactive traffic. The potential traffic derived from all long-tail keywords can ultimately be much greater than that from short-tail keywords.

Start by creating content with these keywords when you begin optimizing your SEO.

Examples of long-tail keywords:
  • For Nike, “Nike women's running shop.”

  • For The Muse, “Hire web developer San Francisco.”

  • For EA Sports, “Best basketball video games 2019.”

Could I have someone compose short pages for all these long-tail keywords, which would multiply my SEO?

No, not really! You don't want to spam Google with thousands of pages containing only a few words. Google would consider this an attempt at black hat SEO. As you will see later in the course, there is a minimum amount of words you should have on each page. If you are able to compose a long enough article, then it makes sense to give it its own page. Otherwise, it is better to group long-tail keywords by theme.


  • Various types of keywords exist, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Give priority to long-tail keywords when your website is still relatively unknown.

  • Don’t forget to include local keywords if they are relevant to your strategy.

Now that you know more about the types of keywords, let’s examine how to start researching which ones you should use to move up in the Google search results.  

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