22 Keyword Types To Know

Before we discuss the different types of keywords in SEO and PPC, it's important to understand that Google's algorithms prioritize content that covers a topic comprehensively rather than a page that includes specific keywords.

Unfortunately, some folks are still overly reliant on just keywords.

Google's Hummingbird update in 2013 has helped the search engine evaluate pages based on their context and meaning rather than just individual keywords.

Further advancements with RankBrain and BERT mean that Google interprets entire phrases to understand the searcher's intent.

Which means that you can't just rely on including keywords to rank, like you could in the past.

But does that mean keywords are obsolete?

Not at all.

Keywords serve as indicators of page context and relevance to search engines. Using them in the right places helps search engines understand a page's subject matter and context, which is essential for ranking in search results.

Keywords can be classified based on search intent, length and match type. There are also keywords that don’t fall into a specific category. 

What you will learn

  • What the 22 types of keywords are and how to use them
  • How to check the search intent of a keyword 
  • Whether you need to use all of these types of keywords to rank better 

1. Keywords by search intent

Search intent is the purpose of a search. It defines what people expect to see when they type a keyword into a search engine. 

There are four types of search intent:

  • Informational: looking for information 
  • Navigational: looking for a specific website or page
  • Commercial: doing research about a product or service before buying 
  • Transactional: looking to buy something

You can identify the search intent of a keyword by examining the pages that currently rank for it. 

  • Searchers tend to ask questions when looking for information. They often use these words: how, what, who, when, where, why, guide, tutorial, how to, examples and ideas
  • Searchers use brand, product and service names when trying to navigate to a website or page. 
  • Commercial investigations often use the words best, top, rated, review or comparison
  • Transactional searches use the terms buy, purchase, order, price, pricing and cheap
When you successfully align your content with searcher expectations, you provide a better experience, increase engagement rates and the chance of conversion. 

Note that a lot of keywords have mixed intent.

In this case, Google will show different content types in the top 10. For example, you might see in-depth product reviews and comparison posts for a keyword like “best vacuum cleaners 2024”. 

2. Informational keywords

Informational keywords are used by searchers who want to learn something. 

They are frequently posed in a question format and are usually long-tail. 

They can look like this:

  • how to find keywords to rank for
  • what is keyword difficulty
  • WordPress installation guide 

Informational keywords target leads at the early stages of the buyer’s journey.

Since searchers are unlikely to take an action, these keywords tend to have a low conversion rate. 

Ranking for this type of keyword builds brand awareness and establishes you as an expert in your niche. You can also generate backlinks when ranking high for these keywords.

3. Navigational keywords

Searchers use navigational keywords when looking for a specific website or page. 

They might use keywords like:

  • Instagram
  • Surfer blog
  • Spotify login

To rank for relevant navigational keywords, it’s important to use them in your content, meta tags and schema markup. 

These keywords will become a great source of organic traffic the more popular you become because they'll comprise branded keywords.

4. Commercial keywords

Commercial keywords are used to research brands, services or products. A searcher may be looking for reviews or discounts or want to compare products. 

Here’s what they can look like:

  • Starbucks autumn coffee flavors
  • Costa vs. Starbucks calories
  • NordVPN discount code

Commercial keywords have the potential to attract high-quality prospects, as these searchers are ready to make a purchase.

They're often short tail keywords and will include a brand or product name.

Target them with comparison posts, product or service reviews and in-depth analyses. 

5. Transactional keywords

Transactional keywords show a strong intent to make a purchase or take action. Searchers use them at the final stages of the sales funnel. 

They usually include the terms “buy”, “for sale” or “near me”. For example:

  • hardware store near me
  • buy used newborn car seat
  • honda civic for sale 

Transactional keywords can be targeted with highly optimized product pages and paid ads. They drive quality, relevant, ready-to-convert traffic. 

6. Primary keywords

A primary keyword is the main keyword of a page.

You’ll use it multiple times in the body of the page, as well as in the title, meta description and H1. 

To select primary keywords, consider the following:

  • Search volume: Do people search for this keyword? How many visitors can you expect? Is targeting this keyword worth it? 
  • Search intent: What kind of content do searchers expect to see? Can you create it? 
  • Business relevance: Can you convert these searchers?  

For example, the primary keyword of this article is “types of keywords.”

Pro tip: Enter your primary keyword into Surfer to check if your page is optimized to target your main keyword.

7. Secondary keywords

Secondary keywords are closely related to the main keyword. You should use as many of them as possible throughout the body of the page.

You can identify them by: 

  • Brainstorming relevant keyword ideas, their variations and related terms 
  • Using mid to long tail phrases of your primary keyword
  • Analyzing the terms that pop up in Google’s Autocomplete, “Related Searches” and “People Also Ask” sections 

For example, here are some secondary keywords from Google Autocomplete that could be potentially used in an article on "speed reading."

The secondary keywords of this article can be “types of keywords”, “keywords by intent”, “keywords match types” or “long-tail keywords”, for example. 

You can also simplify this process by using Surfer to get a list of secondary keywords and how often you should optimally use them in your article.

8. Seed keywords

A seed keyword is a short phrase that broadly describes a topic. It is the starting point of keyword research. 

Seed keywords basically outline your core subject. Their main purpose is to seed more long-tail keywords that you can actually target.

For example, if you run a fashion blog, you could find seed keywords by: 

  • Brainstorming broad topics related to fashion, like “2024 spring trends” or “beachwear trends 2024” 
  • Browsing Instagram and finding trending topics like “street style” or “casual Friday”

If you have a bakery, your seed keywords could be baking cakes, custom cakes or organic pastries.

Pro tip: Enter your seed keyword into Surfer to generate a content map with related keywords.

For example, here's a snippet of keywords from a list of 101 keyword ideas for the seed keyword "cosmetic surgery."

9. Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer, highly-specific queries.

They have a lower search volume, but due to their clearer and more refined intent, they tend to have a higher conversion rate.

Long-tail keywords are usually significantly less competitive than their shorter variations. 

You can find long-tail keywords by:

  • Checking Google Search Console's queries report for the long-tail keywords searchers are using to find your pages
  • Checking Google’s Autocomplete, “Related Searches” and “People Also Ask” sections
  • Browsing forums and other online communities in your niche
  • Analyzing the keywords your competitors are ranking for

For example, “keyword types for SEO” is a long-tail keyword for this article.

Sorting Surfer's content plan by ascending search volume will bring up long-tail keywords to the top.

10. Niche keywords

Niche keywords are specific terms that appeal to a small segment of a target audience.

They usually have a lower search volume. However, because they are often highly specialized, they attract highly qualified traffic. 

For example, if you blog about computers, a keyword like “4080 cuda cores” will be considered highly niche.

You are targeting experts who are looking for specific information about this graphics card. 

Niche keywords won't be easy to find but you can employ the below methods.

  • Browsing online communities and social media
  • Conducting surveys or interviews with your existing customer base to gain insights into their specific needs and the terms they use.
  • Utilizing keyword research tools to discover long-tail keywords that are relevant to your niche but have low competition.
  • Applying modifiers that narrow down broad search terms to more specific ones. Modifiers can include geographic locations, specific product features, or particular user problems.
You likely won't find a niche keyword on a platform like Quora, but a subreddit with dedicated enthusiasts will likely reveal many keywords you can use.

For example, while using Surfer to find keywords for rhinoplasty, I discovered a niche keyword like "oculoplastic surgeries"

While the search volume for such a specific term is high, the traffic it attracts will be highly targeted.

Users searching for this term are likely looking for an exact match to their needs and are closer to making a purchase decision.

11. LSI keywords

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are terms related to the main keyword. 

Google’s John Mueller has stated that LSI keywords are a made-up term, and aren’t important for SEO.

LSI itself dates back to the 80’s, while Google today relies on more modern, word-vector-based technology to understand search queries. 

If you want to find important keywords that are often mistakenly called LSI keywords, you can follow the same principles we covered under secondary keywords.

For example, the LSI keywords for this article include “types of keywords in Google Ads”, “transactional keywords” and “navigational keywords” – all secondary terms or related variations.

12. Evergreen keywords

Evergreen keywords maintain consistent search volume over time.

A search term like “how to lose weight” is a good example of this type of keyword. These topics are perpetually relevant regardless of the season or year.

Their long-term relevance and popularity mean they can attract consistent traffic. They can also help establish you as an expert in your niche because so many people are repeatedly searching for answers.

But this is the same reason that makes evergreen keywords competitive.

When looking for evergreen keywords, check Google Trends to ensure they are not losing popularity.

Ask yourself whether the topic will remain relevant in years to come. 

Update your evergreen content when:

  • There is new data available
  • Some of the information becomes outdated
  • You can offer a newer point of view

You can use Surfer to generate content for outdated pages automatically.

For example, the highlighted text was generated to update an article about republishing blog posts.

The same optimize feature added relevant keywords that the article was missing and ensured that the page remained optimized for its target keyword, even with the addition of new content.

13. Low-competition keywords

Low-competition keywords, also called low-hanging keywords, are the ones you can rank for without much effort.

They can be used to rank new websites or pages quicker without a strong backlink portfolio. Low-competition keywords are often long-tail in nature.

You can identify low-competition keywords by looking at the websites that rank in the top results.

There is likely high competition if you see popular brands and authoritative websites ranking for the keyword.

For example, searching for "how to make money online" is a competitive term.

But modifying this search term with a specific persona leads to less competition.

The search results show 2 websites belonging to individual artists. They're basically portfolio websites without a strong brand backing, meaning that the keyword is not very difficult to rank for.

This can be a tedious process, so you can use Surfer to uncover keywords with low competition.

Surfer's content plan will indicate how challenging the keyword will be to rank for your specific website instead of providing a standard number like other SEO tools.

So you can benefit from knowing if this is a keyword you would like to target.

For instance, "writing SEO content" is a hard topic to rank for our blog.

Look for keywords with a low or easy difficulty score if you're a relatively newer website. A lower score typically means less competition and a greater chance for your site to appear in the top search results.

Remember that “low-competition” is a relative term.

If you have a high domain authority or backlinks from relevant, quality websites, you may be able to rank for keywords with a high keyword difficulty score without too much effort. 

14. Branded keywords

Branded keywords are search terms that contain the name of your brand, product or service. “Surfer Content Editor” is a branded keyword. 

As you can see, some of our competitors like to bid on our branded keywords.

Branded keywords will attract searchers who are already in the final stages of the buyer's journey. They will be easier to convert. 

Check your Google Search Console for terms that searchers are already using to find your products or services.

You can then use them on relevant pages to help them rank better, or create new pages that directly address the search query.

15. Competitors' keywords

Competitors’ keywords are the terms rival websites rank for. 

Knowing what keywords your competition is using can help you:

  • Understand what your target audience is looking for
  • Better optimize your content and meta elements 
  • Find opportunities to outperform the competition
  • Identify content gaps and overlooked or underserved keywords 

You can use a tool like Surfer Audit to uncover which keywords your competitors are using on a page. The ones in green are keywords that are present on their page.

You can also visit their sitemap to see a list of all their pages.

For example, this is a snippet of Coffeegeek's sitemap that I found at coffeegeek.com/post-sitemap.xml.

But you can also use a site modifier to find all indexed pages for the site on a specified path.

Either of these techniques will give you an insight into which keywords and topics your competitors are going after.

16. Google Ads keywords

Google Ads keywords are used in pay-per-click campaigns on Google's advertising platform.

For example, "SEO tools" may be a relevant keyword for which to run ads.

Finding keywords for Google Ads follows the same process as manual keyword research. You must identify seed keywords and then pick related keywords that make sense for your business.

You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner.

When creating ads for your Google Ads keywords, it’s important to consider searcher intent, the stage of the buyer’s journey the searcher is in, and to use the most relevant page as the landing page URL.

17. Exact match keywords

Exact match keywords are a term used in Google Ads.

They refer to results that perfectly match the keyword entered into the search bar. They are highly targeted but may have a lower reach for ad campaigns because they are only meant to show up when users search for the exact keyword.

You should use them in your ad campaigns when you want to target a highly specific audience with high-value products or services.

While the exact match concept is less rigid in SEO, it involves optimizing content with specific phrases that users are likely to search for.

The role of exact match keywords in SEO is to signal to search engines the precise focus of a page, which can help the page rank prominently for those specific queries.

Naturally, incorporate these keywords into important on-page elements such as the title tag, meta description, header tags, and within the first paragraph of your content to emphasize their importance.

"Content management system examples" is an example of an exact match keyword for a blog post about CMS examples.

Remember, search engines can identify the topic of your article, so you don't need an exact match keyword.

Just use your primary keyword in most cases.

The advantages of using exact match keywords include:

  • improved targeting, as your content is more likely to meet the specific search intent of users.
  • potentially higher conversion rates, as visitors who find your content through exact match searches may be closer to making a decision or taking action.
  • enhanced clarity for search engines about what the page is about can help achieve better rankings for those terms.

Don't use an exact match keyword in your anchor text too frequently, as they will be considered over-optimized.

18. Phrase match keywords

Phrase match keywords are also used in PPC campaigns.

An ad will be triggered when the search query includes the whole phrase or close variations of the phrase.

These keywords offer a medium ground between exact and broad match keywords.

Use them for ads when you want to reach a slightly wider audience who may be using synonyms or similar terms when searching. 

Use phrase match keywords throughout your content to help search engines better understand what the page is about.

Make sure the context in which the keyword is mentioned is semantically and contextually relevant. 

"Web content management systems examples" is an example of a phrase match keyword for the same blog post about CMS examples.

19. Broad match keywords

Broad match keywords are another PPC term. They will trigger ads when searchers use terms that are related to your keyword. They have the highest reach, but also the lowest relevance. 

In SEO, broad match is less of a defined term but relates to targeting a broad range of related keywords and topics to increase the chances of ranking for a variety of search queries.

"Wordpress web app examples" is an example of a broad match keyword for the CMS examples blog post.

In paid advertising, use them to reach new audiences.

This can be particularly useful for brand awareness campaigns or when trying to understand a broader market segment's search behavior.

Ideally, you should supplement your broad match keywords with more targeted phrase or exact match options.

20. Negative keywords

Negative keywords are terms you can add to a PPC campaign to prevent your ads from appearing for irrelevant searches.

This ensures that your ads only appear for searches that are most likely to convert, enhancing the relevance of your campaign and improving the chances of reaching your target audience.

For example, if you sell high-quality shoes, you can exclude the term “cheap” because they'll be less likely to purchase from you.

Doing so will ensure that anybody searching for "cheap shoes" won't see your ads. 

You may want to exclude search modifiers like "free," "used" and "download" that cater to a crowd looking for easy access.

You can compile a list of negative keywords by:

  • Doing regular keyword research and making note of any keywords you don’t want to rank for
  • Checking Google’s Keyword Planner for terms you don’t want to rank for
  • Checking your Google Ads “search terms” report for keywords searchers have used to trigger your search ads you would like to exclude 

Including negative keywords in your ad campaigns will prevent you from wasting money on ads that don’t convert.

They can also improve your Ad Quality Score, which determines whether your ad will be shown over a competitor's if you're bidding for the same keyword.

21. Locational keywords

Locational keywords are search terms that include geographic locations, such as cities, neighborhoods, or regions.

They are important for local and mobile SEO, as they help your pages show up when someone is looking for a specific service in your area. 

Any page that targets a specific area should contain variations of relevant locational keywords.

For example, if you are a restaurant in Astoria, a neighborhood in New York, you will want to include terms like “Queens,” “New York,” and the obvious “Astoria.” 

Add locational keywords to your Google Business listing and other local directories to enhance your visibility in local search results.

When choosing locational keywords, consider who your market and organic competitors are. Check the terms they are using and include their relevant variations. 

22. Product keywords

Product keywords directly relate to your brand’s offer. They will include the product's name, with or without the brand name.

For example, “Keyword Surfer” is a product keyword that users type when looking for our free Chrome extension.

Think from the customer's perspective and identify the terms they might use when searching for products similar to yours.

For example, users searching for keyword extension are looking for the same Chrome extension.

Product keywords should be used to optimize product pages and descriptions.

When internally linking to a product page, use the name of the product or the product keyword as anchor text.

Like here, for example.

This helps with SEO and guides visitors towards your products, potentially increasing conversion rates.

How to check keyword intent type?

To check for keyword intent, analyze the search results pages for your target keyword to identify whether informational pages or commercial pages are showing up.

Enter a keyword into Google or any other search engine and observe the types of results that appear. Are they informational articles, product pages, or forums?

For instance, a SERP filled with 'how-to' guides likely indicates informational intent.

Look for common phrases and modifiers in the keyword.

Words like 'buy,' 'price,' 'how to,' 'best,' or 'review' can signal the intent type.

For example, 'buy' indicates transactional intent, while 'best' might suggest commercial investigation.

If the intent is mixed and you notice different types of posts ranking well, analyze similar keywords and relevant variations to learn more. 

Should you target every type of keyword for SEO?

No, you shouldn’t try to target every type of keyword because most of them will not be relevant to your content. Remember, keywords serve two purposes. One, they indicate to search engines the context of your page, and two, they signal to readers the relevancy of your content.

The keywords you need to use depend on the type of content you are creating and the goals of the page. Not all keywords work well in every situation.

For SEO, the only keywords you need in your article are primary and secondary keywords. Seed, long-tail and evergreen keywords are more of a strategy.

Remember that pages don't rank for a single keyword, so you will naturally include different keywords when you write for a topic.

Key takeaways

  • The use of NLP and advanced algorithms in Google means that topics are more relevant than keywords today. However, keywords are the easiest way to signal to search engines and readers what your page is about
  • There are 22 types of keywords for SEO and paid advertising
  • They can be generally classified according to searcher intent, match type, length and competition
  • It's important to use primary and secondary keywords in your content but you don't need to address every keyword
  • Choosing the correct keyword type will help you align your content with what searchers are looking for, provide a better experience and convert more leads.  


Understanding what different types of keywords can be used for will help improve your SEO and PPC strategies. Take some time to get to know the different types of keywords and their purpose.

Before writing or optimizing a page, ensure you've chosen the right intent-related keyword and using all relevant organic keywords, including product or long-tail.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics