A Comprehensive Guide To Understand What is Keyword in SEO

what is keyword definition meaning examples guide

Even if you have a little clue about running a business digitally, you’d know the importance of Keywords. Whether you’re a small enterprise, an agency, a consultant, a store, restaurant, publisher, blogger, or a part of any other business, then you’d know that a great SEO strategy is a sure-shot way to generate more leads and convert them into business. Now, what on earth is a great SEO strategy? Well, there are over 200 parameters that Google looks for, before ranking a website. That said, it won’t be wrong to say that a good keyword strategy sits at the crux of it. Therefore, the importance of understanding what is keyword in SEO cannot be overstated.

The better the keyword research & strategy, the higher are your chances to rank on SERPs. Let’s take it from scratch.

1.    What is Keyword?

The most straightforward definition of a Keyword from the digital marketing perspective is – Anything that a user searches in the search box of a search engine, is a keyword.


First things first, don’t get confused in the singularity or plurality of the word Keyword. A keyword can be a single word or a combination of multiple words (also called as a key phrase). For example, “Movies” is a keyword and even “find free movies online” can be called as a single keyword because that’s the Query a user is searching for.

1.1 Correlation between Keywords and Google Search

Let’s say you search for “Music” on Google Search Box, what do you get?

SERP for keyword music

Now imagine, when you entered the keyword, Google ran its algorithm at the backend to find the best possible results related to the search query. Their algorithm looked at billions of posts available on the internet space, and reverted with the results in less than one second!

How does Google do it? Keywords are the common thread between a user, search engine, and businesses/publishers.

It’s not just Google, but almost everywhere, we are living in an era of Keywords and Hashtags to be able to make sense of so much data. So, the results that Google shows will depend upon the keyword you entered in the search query.

2.    Types of Keywords

Do you feel that “movies” and “find free movies online” are two similar keywords? Of course, they are not. In fact, they’re not even a subset or superset; they are entirely different keywords from a user’s perspective. I have explained why under the subheading User Persona & Google Algorithm.

Now, let’s see the three categories of Keywords defined in the Digital Marketing world namely:

2.1 Head Keyword

Head Keywords are those that describe a broader category of a subject, for example, Yoga or Movies. Now, a user searching for Yoga on Google Search may or may not be looking for any kind of Yoga Classes or Tutor. Therefore, Google will rank a website that talks about Yoga in & out. Most probably, that site will be either Wikipedia or any other trustworthy information portal rather than a business.

Head keywords are mostly single words.

2.2 Body Keyword

Body Keywords are those that fall under a slightly more targeted search. Now, these keywords can be “free movies online” or “yoga teacher”.

When a user searches for these queries, Google will then churn its database on the basis of the Keyword entered by the user, matching it with the relevant business providers or websites based on that keyword, and present the search results.

Body keywords are usually two words. Sometimes they may even be three.

2.3 Long Tail Keyword

Now, this is where you literally get into the shoes of users and find out what they’re looking for, precisely. Long Tail keywords are usually more than four words. It can even be “How much water should I drink a day.”

Now let’s say you run a Yoga Studio in your city, in which you provide Classes as well as Teacher Training, and you are looking for leads through Google Search. You may also want to target coming in the Maps results of Google Search because that’s where a user will find you. So, what do you do? You optimise your pages/posts based on the search query, that may be “yoga teacher training in <city>”. That way, you will have a higher chance of ranking first on Google, since your business or service will fit right what the user wants.

It is said that more than 70% of the search queries on Google Search Box are long-tail keywords. Therefore, if you’re starting your business or service or a blog, long-tail keywords are your best friends.

3.    User Persona & Google Search Algorithm

Well, technically, no one knows what is the algorithm that Google follows while ranking a website on its SERPs. Anybody who is telling you a strategy may have worked for that person, business, or service, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too!

From what we know, we can say what Google is trying to build is – A search engine that understands queries like a human would do. So, imagine Google Search as a Person, and how do you talk to this person? Through Keywords of course!

Therefore, if you are a business owner, service provider, or a publisher, what you must work on is find out what is the persona of the person who might be interested in your service and how can you deliver it to him/her.

Now, how do you define the persona? It is directly related to what the user is searching on the internet. Let me explain by giving some examples –

3.1 Understanding Persona based on Search Queries

Case-1 – Let’s say a user puts a query – “Chinese” in the Google Search Box.

SERP for keyword chinese

Now here, somebody is asking Google “Chinese”, so how should Google respond? It will look for millions of websites and will show the results (web page) that are best optimised for the word “Chinese”. Therefore, it will show the user some news related to Chinese, Wikipedia pages on “Chinese Language” and “China”, etc.

Will this search engine results page (SERP) have an advertisement? Probably not! Because no business can indeed be defined by the word Chinese.

Case-2 – Now, let’s say a user types the words “Chinese Recipe” in the search box.

SERP for keyword chinese recipe

Now Google will understand this query much more intelligently, and Google knows that the persona of a user who is typing “Chinese Recipe” wants to know how to cook one, but is probably not sure which one, so Google will show Listical Posts addressing multiple Chinese Recipes.

Case-3 – What will happen when a user searches for “How to make Dim Sum”?

how to make dim sum SERP example what is keyword

Now here, Google will try to understand the search query first – So, it contains “How”, “Make”, and “Dim Sum” (Google neglects the stop words such as ‘to’, ‘of’, ‘for’, etc.). Google’s Algorithm will now run to find out the best results that are related to these words and come up with the best results. Google can understand these Long-Tail queries much better than Head or Body ones.

3.1.1 Now where do business and ads come into the picture?

Case-4 Now, let’s say, a user types “Chinese Food Delivery” in the search box.

SERP for chinese food delivery keyword example

Now Google will know that “This guy wants some Chinese Cuisine delivered to his place”. The chances are that this user will be sitting with a credit card in his/her hands!

So, what will Google do? First, it will show the user some advertisements! Because there will be businesses which will be paying Google to come on the top results. Google will show them!

Therefore, these types of queries come with a lot of commercial value, in fact, the business in these queries is so much that more than 95% of Google’s Revenue is still through Advertisements!

But, don’t get lured into believing that you will have to pay Google every time you rank first.

3.2 Do you need to Pay Google to come on the first page of SERPs?

It is a common misunderstanding that you need to pay Google to come on the first page of SERPs.

Whenever you search for a keyword (related to some commercial entity on Google), you get two types of results – Organic and Paid.

Paid results are those which show up with a little “ad” written below the links. Whereas, all the other links that show up as the results are called Organic Search Results, meaning that they are ranking because that particular post or page is optimised for the keyword entered as per Google’s Algorithm. Hence, organically, or naturally.

4.    Meaning of Keywords for different stakeholders

Now see, all of the above information is okay. But what is this all about? How do you find keywords related to your business or niche? When you say the word keyword – does it ring a bell about Google AdWords?

Let me categorise businesses into two categories:

  1. Businesses Providing a Product or Service
  2. Publisher/Blogger

4.1 For a Business or Service Provider

While creating a keyword strategy for a product or service, there are three primary questions that you must ask yourself –

  • What are the keywords that resonate the most with your business?
  • What are the keywords that a user is typing to find you?
  • Should you consider Google AdWords to bring leads to your site? If yes, then what are the keywords should you target to bid on?

4.2 For a Publisher/Blogger

Now keywords and keyword ideas for writing a blog post may be different from your business. If you’re a publisher and writing content to develop a readership, you would probably look out for keywords that a user is searching to get information about that topic.

4.3 Case Study – Grammarly

Let me summarise everything by giving an example of Grammarly.com.

So, Grammarly offers a tool to check your write-up on punctuation, grammar, plagiarism, vocabulary enhancement, etc.

Now, the keywords that define their business or service are – “Grammar Check”, “Plagiarism Checker”, “Spell Checker”, etc.


Now, think this way: What blog posts should Grammarly write to generate readers? Precisely, what “keyword” should they target?

They will and are targeting keywords in their blog posts about the usage of words in the English Language such as “Difference between Affect and Effect”, “Metaphor Definition”, etc.

Therefore, the blog posts are used in generating traffic around a topic. Then you target your readers to become customers.

So, they must have performed two entirely different keyword research strategies while doing so.

Was this article helpful?
Thanks for letting us know!