Keyword Types and Search Query Types: Know Your Keywords to Succeed at SEO!

Keywords drive SEO. Users start a search query on Google by typing in keywords such as “knee pain” or “best knee doctor in New York City.” We sort of all know that. There’s some discussion about so-called semantic search, such as Google figuring out related searches and searcher intent before you even tell it, or when you talk to a Google (or Alexa) device in a more conversational style, such as “Hey Google! Tell me what to do about knee pain.” We’ll leave that aside for now, but just notice how even in a more conversational style the search query is punctuated with keywords: “Hey Google! Tell me what to do about KNEE PAIN.”

Let’s review some keyword types and this will set the groundwork for better SEO targeting.

Educational or Early Stage. This type of search query or keyword occurs when a user is early in the sales funnel as in “Ouch! My knee hurts,” and he Googles “Knee Pain.” He’s not ready to buy anything at this point. He’s just researching the causes of knee pain, or just using Google as an access point to educational articles. If he were buying a car, this is also the searches for “new car models” or even “new Chevys.” It’s far from a buy decision and more in an informati0n-gathering mode. Hence, that’s why we call these types “educational” or “early stage” keywords. There’s usually a lot of volume in these queries, but the likelihood of an immediate purchase is far fetched.

Transactional or Late Stage. In contrast, transactional keyword queries come close to the buy. Rather than Googling, “Knee Pain,” you Google ” Best Knee Doctors in San Jose.” This means you’re done with research, and you’re ready to do something, or rather buy something. So rather than Googling “Causes of hair loss,” you Google “FUE Transplant New York City” because you already know you want to purchase a hair transplant and you already know what Follicular Unit Extraction is. These late stage keywords are often the best for SEO, because they are “where the money is.” They are even better for AdWords, because there you’re spending money to get clicks and you want clicks that end in conversions or sales.

Keywords and Search Queries

Branded / Navigational Keywords. These are your company name, or when you’re using Google to “get to” a brand website. So rather than typing in you just go to Google and type in GEICO. This is your company name, and it’s called a branded search query. Some people call them navigational as when they’re using Google to “navigate” to your website (not to be confused with direction search queries in the real world like “Pizza near me” or “Pizza Hut Tulsa Oklahoma Midtown.”) But no no no, don’t go to Pizza Hut. It’s just not very good.

Reputational. Searchers want to know if you can be trusted, so they often Google your name plus reviews as in “Mecca Coffee Company Reviews” for Tulsa’s best coffee and tea emporium, or “Geico Reviews” if they’re thinking about buying Geico. As SEO’s, we want to make sure we rank for our reputational search queries and we want to make sure that what they find is awesome. So check out your search for your company plus “reviews.” What do you find? It had better be good.

Implicit Geographic. This is a special type of search query such as “Pizza” or “Divorce Lawyer.” Google “figure out” that you aren’t really doing an educational query. You know what pizza is, or unfortunately, you know what divorce is. So you’re implicitly asking for “Pizza near me” or “Divorce lawyer near me.” Google snoops on your mobile phone or IP address and “knows” where you are and secretly appends this to your query, so a search for “Pizza near me” is really a search for “Pizza Tulsa” or really even “Pizza 74135.” Here’s a tip: try not to get divorced in the first place, and if you’re going to get divorced, don’t just go with the divorce lawyer nearest you. Actually the same goes for pizza. The nearest pizza isn’t always the best.

Micro. These are special searches that are short tail but very very specific. So a search for TAG Heuer (the watch brand) often gets you right to the Tag Heuer website or the nearest retailer near you. It’s a short tail, but very specific. Or a search for “FUE transplant” is also a micro search. Often, but not always, these are geographic in nature or branded. But what they aren’t is long tail – with lots and lots of words in the keyword query. They’re just very specific even if they are just one word or less. “Trump” would be a micro search, to be political; as would “military RTOS” to use one that’s not geographic or branded.

Well, there you have it: my quick run-down of keyword queries by types. Oh, and here’s a categorization I don’t like. Long tail vs. short tail. I don’t like this categorization because the number of words in the query doesn’t tell you very much. It’s better to focus on the implied “searcher intent,” and generally speaking as SEO’s we want to optimize for transactional keywords, which are also called “buy” keywords because people who type in “knee doctors in San Jose” are ready to BUY something.

Thank you for watching!

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.