How Many Types of Keywords are there in SEO?

How many types of keywords there are in SEO depends on what keyword categorization you’re looking at: there are 4 different keyword types by Search Intent, and 3 different types of keywords by Word Length, which are the most common “types of keywords”.

There are, however, numerous different keyword categorizations that can be made beyond intent & length. Some of these are Difficulty, Volume, Match Type, Seasonality, Focus, Brand Relation, & Definition.

Keywords by Search Intent

Search Intent refers to why users are making a particular search. The classification of intent is made by Google’s AI learning what kinds of results users looking up a particular keyword interact with the most.

Search intent can become predictable using a combination of logic and semantics. If you’re just starting out or are unsure of your analysis, then SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool is a great way to jumpstart your keyword research process.

SEMrush keyword data: "keyword research process" marked as informational keyword, "keyword research seo tool" marked as commercial keyword.
  1. Informational

Informational keywords are used when users want to learn more about a topic. For example, people looking up “keyword research process” likely want to see a guide as opposed to wanting to find a specific business or product.

  1. Commercial

Commercial keywords refer to keywords that users are making with the intent of buying something, but they don’t know what that is quite yet.

For example, “keyword research seo tool” is a commercial keyword because users are looking for getting/buying a tool, but they aren’t necessarily at the buying stage – they could still be browsing to learn more about what the best tool for them is.

  1. Transactional

Transactional keywords refer to keywords users are searching for when they’re ready to make an on-the-spot decision and know exactly what they want to get/buy:

SEMrush keyword data: "fiverr keyword research" marked as transactional keyword.
  1. Navigational

Navigational keywords refer to queries users make when looking for a particular business, product, or where to find information about that business or product. These are often brand names, websites, trademarked product names, or specific services.

SEMrush keyword data: "keyword research tool google" marked as navigational + transactional keyword, "ahrefs keyword research" marked as informational + navigational keyword.

Sometimes, queries labeled as navigational are assigned to queries users type in when looking for a specific online resource, too:

SEMrush keyword data: "moz keyword research guide" marked as navigational keyword.

Keywords can have dual intent, in the example above – “ahrefs keyword research” is labeled as a mix of informational and navigational intent, because users are likely split between those that want to log into their Ahrefs account, and users that want to learn more about the tool.

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Keywords by Length

  1. Root Keywords

These are the base words that make up keyword combinations later on. They are often incredibly difficult to rank for. An example of a root keyword in the SEO niche would be “keyword”.

  1. Short-Tail Keywords

Short-tail keywords refer to keywords that contain the root keyword + an additional 1-2 words. For example, “keyword research tool” is a short-tail keyword. These keywords are usually dominated by established businesses.

  1. Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are, in simplest terms, keywords made up of 3+ words. These keywords are (often, but not always) easier to rank for, and searchers are usually more sophisticated.

For example, someone looking for the term “keyword” may be looking for the definition of that word. They may not even be looking for keywords in the context of SEO or content marketing, at all. But someone looking for “free keyword research tool for bloggers” is almost certainly looking for a product in the marketing space.

SEMrush keyword data: "free keyword research tool for bloggers" marked as commercial keyword.

Keywords by Match Types

These are classifications of keywords in the keyword research stage (which can be both for SEO or PPC). They refer to the keyword you’re using as the seed of the research (aka, the words you’re inputting into your keyword research tool).

  1. Broad Match 

Broad match refers to using all words in the seed, in any form or order. For example:

Seed: “keyword research tools”.


  • best keyword research tools”
  • “keyword researching tools”
  • “tools that do keyword research”
  1. Phrase Match

Phrase match accounts for the seed words being used as a phrase, in various orders. Using the previous example, “tools that do keyword research” would not be part of a phrase match output, because the phrase is broken up by the interjected “that do”.

  1. Exact Match

Exact match accounts only for keywords that contain the exact words in your seed list, in the exact order in which you wrote them. In the same example, “best keyword research tools” would be an exact match output for “keyword research tools”, but “keyword researching tools” would not, as the form of one of the seed words was changed (research → researching).

  1. Related Queries

Related queries are often synonymous with synonyms (no pun intended). These are other ways users are phrasing the keyword you inputted into the tool. For example, the queries most related to “keyword research tool” are “seo word search tool” and “keyword analysis tool”:

SEMrush keyword data: "seo word search tool" and "keyword analysis tool" marked both as commercial keywords, and as 90% and 85% related to "keyword research tool", respectively.

Keywords by Difficulty

This distinction can be hard to measure objectively, as every keyword tool (SEMrush, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, Keywords Everywhere…) has different algorithms for how they measure difficulty. Difficulty refers to how hard it would be for a new site to rank for a keyword, and it’s often calculated as a combination of how established current sites ranking in the top 10 results are, and the quality of their backlinks.

All tools will have, at the very least, three main difficulty categories:

  1. Easy
  2. Medium
  3. Hard

Some tools, like SEMrush, will have five categories, introducing very easy and very hard as extremes on the far ends of each spectrum.

Keywords by Volume

Keywords are usually classified into 3 categories by volume, depending on the number of monthly searches users make using that keyword:

  1. Low
  2. Medium
  3. High

Exact numbers of what that means can vary. For example, in eCommerce, a keyword would be considered high volume if it has tens of thousands of searches. In the cybersecurity space, however, 50+ monthly searches are considered high volume, because there are fewer internet users looking for cybersecurity services than consumer goods like sneakers or face masks.

Keywords by Seasonality

A categorization by seasonality refers to keyword trends throughout the calendar year.

  1. Seasonal Keywords

Seasonal keywords refer to keywords that users look for only (or mostly) during a particular time of the year. For example, according to Google Trends, searches for “christmas decorations” peak at the beginning of December. On the other hand, there are almost no searches between mid-January and mid-June.

Google Trends graph for "christmas decorations" showing search interest peaking in December, and being almost non-existing for the rest of the year (2022 data)
  1. Evergreen Keywords

These are keywords that gain traction multiple times of the year, or consistently throughout the whole year. Here is a trend report for the keyword “white shirts”:

Google Trends graph showing continuous interest for the keyword "white shirts" across the entire calendar year (2022 data)

Keywords by Focus

This is a categorization often used for copy & content writing. There are two main categories:

  1. Primary Keywords

These are keywords that should have the most ‘density’ (mentions), and should be used in the most important places in the article (metadata, subheadings, introduction…)

  1. Secondary Keywords

These are complimentary keywords that should be incorporated into the text, but only briefly – for example, in a dedicated paragraph.

Keywords by Brand Relation

These refer to how related keywords are to a business.

  1. Branded Keywords

Branded keywords are anything that can be associated only with one specific business or brand. Users looking up these keywords are specifically looking for that brand, and not just browsing in general. These include brand names, product mentions, and slogans.

For example, “nike”, “air force max” and “just do it” are all branded terms of Nike. Most results on search engine results pages are Nike products, or resources talking about Nike.

  1. Non-Branded Keywords

Non-branded keywords are keywords that users are looking for when they don’t have a particular brand in mind.

For example, “white sneakers” is a keyword that Nike ranks for, but users looking it up aren’t necessarily looking for Nike, they could be looking for other brands also ranking on the first page: Vans, Converse, Adidas. They could also be looking for retailers and platforms that carry white sneakers from multiple brands, like Walmart or Amazon.

Defining Keywords

These keywords contain modifiers that are used to put specific keywords in specific contexts, and Google uses these modifiers to then personalize the search results.

  1. Market segment

The keywords contain mention of a specific industry/niche in a query. For example, “keyword research for eCommerce”.

  1. Consumer

These keywords contain mention of the target audience. For example, “white sneakers for teens”.

  1. Location

These keywords specify where the user is based or the location they’re researching – “marketing agency in london”, “marketing agency near me”.

  1. Product

The definition of product-defining keywords is split between keywords defined by a particular brand name (“nike white sneakers”) and keywords defining the use case of a product (“white sneakers for running”).

Question Keywords

These are keywords that often contain a question word. In English, that’s “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” “which,” “whose,” and “how”. Question keywords are often made using voice search. Users looking them up are also often looking for quick and digestible answers, which is why these results often yield featured snippets:

screenshot of featured snippet for the question "Will AI replace SEO?" The answer is: "There is nothing to suggest thus far that AI will replace SEO or SEO specialists. While AI has become a powerful resource to supplement SEO and get redundant tasks out of the way faster, humans are still very much needed for strategy & editorial work."

Seed Keywords

The term ‘seed keyword’ is sometimes being used synonymously with “root keyword”, although that’s not quite right. The term “seed keyword” is not a category, but rather – a label assigned to whatever keyword(s) you’re starting your research with.

You’ll also sometimes hear the term “seed list” in the context of keyword research. This is the list of keywords pulled from your competitors or other sources that are then manually prioritized and filtered.

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Why is Knowing Keyword Types Important?

Knowing all of these keyword types can help businesses identify gaps in their strategy. Ideally, a business would target all kinds of keywords in all categories. But, the main focus should be on keywords that help customers learn about & find your products and services.

If you don’t know where your gap is, let us do a free opportunity analysis for you.

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