What is the Definition of a Keyword?

Content might be King according to Bill Gates, but if that is the case then Keywords have a significant role to play in creating that content.

image keywords

“Keywords Key On Computer Shows Online Optimization” by Stuart Miles

So what exactly is the role that keywords play, in getting a post or page recognised and ranked by the search engine?

In this article we look at;

  • the definition of keywords
  • how to choose keywords
  • where to use keywords
  • further reading

What is the Definition of a Keyword?

According to the online dictionary reference, a keyword in digital technology,

"is a term used to describe or classify digital content"

In other words keywords work a bit like an indexing system, which is exactly how Google and other search engines use them.

Keywords then are the means by which the search engine classifies the page or article. It then stores this information ready to be produced in the search engine results, if anyone should be looking for that particular topic.

Choosing Keywords

The following video is by Google and it is aimed at people making a marketing campaign and using keywords in the adverts.

It is the same principle for getting an advert ranked highly, as it is for trying to get a post on a blog site to be ranked. I think this video explains really clearly how keywords should be chosen, and what a difference the right keyword can make.


There is no doubt that most content marketeers view keywords as the most vital part of ensuring that a post or article gets ranked. However it is only one aspect of the overall Google algorithm.

image keywords

There are constant debates about when and where to place keywords, and I have seen discussions on SEO noticeboards arguing about;

  • the best places to put keywords,
  • whether the text should be in bold
  • which level of heading should contain the keyword…….. and so on.

Despite changes to Google’s algorithm for page ranking, and all the recent updates that encourage writing for a reader and not a search engine, there are always going to be people insisting that they have the perfect method to guarantee getting your page ranked.

So what are the rules for using keywords and where should you place them in your content?

What are the Rules for Using Keywords in Posts?

The easiest way to remember the rules for keywords is to think like a librarian.

If I wanted to file this article - what topic (s) 
would it be listed under?

If you were a librarian what would you look for to give you information about the article?

  1. The title is always a clue about what the article is about (so put a keyword here)
  2. Headings break the topic down into smaller pieces of information, but they should all link to the main keyword, otherwise they won’t be relevant (so put secondary keywords and words that are linked to the keyword here)
  3. Meta tags are the descriptor text that appear in searches after the title, they don’t assist page ranking but they are important to tell a reader what the article is actually about (place a description of the keyword content here)
  4. Alt tags are used with images and tell the search engine and people that cannot see images what they are (so place keyword related text here)
  5. In the content they keyword should appear as you naturally write, otherwise there is the strong possibility that your content doesn’t match the title keyword.

If the right keyword has been chosen for the content, then everything should just happen naturally. It can be tempting to think of keywords as some kind of magic or rules that need to be followed exactly, but this isn’t really the case.

Keywords are there to inform Google or other search engines what you content is about. However, there are also lots of other factors that will affect where a page gets ranked regardless of the keyword chosen.

How Do I Choose My Keyword?

If you watched the video you will see that keywords need to reflect the questions and search terms that your target audience make.

In order to achieve this –

  • You need to use the same language as your potential clients are using, this includes jargon, phrases and terminology where appropriate.
  • The keywords chosen should be specific, so that the right searchers will visit your site – you don’t want visitors arriving at your site to buy products or seek information that you don’t sell or provide.
  • Use long tail keywords – these are keyword phrases that attract more specific searches for example;
    • general keyword – feeding dogs
    • long tail keyword – food bowls for older dogs

Specific keyword tools such as Jaaxy can help in the research process. A keyword tool will look through all the search engines and find out what the competition is, how often the term has been searched per month and the SEO score or likelihood of being ranked for this term.

screenshot Jaaxy

Sample screenshot taken from Jaaxy for the keyword phrase ‘eco pet products’

The average number of search terms in Jaaxy is a useful indicator for knowing whether the keyword choice matches the language that your audience is using.

The QSR number is the competition, in other words how many other sites can provide matches for this chosen keyword?

Secondary Keywords

A keyword tool can also give you insights into suitable secondary keywords. These are words that support your main keyword, but could also get ranked by Google in their own right.

In this article ‘a definition of a keywords’ is the main long tail keyword, but some of the sub headings could also rank separately such as;

  • What are the rules for using keywords in posts?
  • How do I choose my keyword?
  • Bounce Rate
  • Google Trends

Secondary keywords are recognised by Google because they link to the main title. They could rank in a separate search because Google recognises that they are coming from an article that is dealing with a number of topics associated with this subject matter, and therefore is likely to be of interest to the searcher.

Bounce Rate

The aim for content marketing is to keep readers on your site and one of the ways to achieve this is to make sure that only relevant visitors arrive at your site from the search engine. If readers arrive at the site and don’t stay, then this can affect the site’s bounce rate.

One of the enemies of content marketeers and which some SEO experts claim negatively affects page ranking, is to have a high bounce rate. Although bounce rate may not be all that important, as SEO expert Brian Dean has stated, this is still a measurement that shows how long someone stayed on the page after they clicked through to read.

It is suspected to be one of the factors that Google uses to test whether the search is relevant, and so it does hold some importance.

Google Trends

Another way to choose keywords is to study emerging trends and topics relevant to your niche area.

As a way of checking what search patterns were emerging in the search engines for this post, I used Google Trends to look at some of the main keywords that were linked to this topic.

I looked at the following terms to see which were trending topics in SEO.

  • keywords
  • seo (I also checked the full term search engine optimisation but there was very little difference)
  • page ranking
  • affiliate marketing
  • digital marketing

screenshot google trends for keyword search

screenshot data for google trends content marketing keywords

The same trends 10 years ago in Oct 2006

What does all this mean? – As you can see interest in the term ‘keywords’ has actually reduced since Oct 2006, whereas search terms using the phrase ‘SEO’ has increased.

These results simply show trends in search behaviour, however they are useful for deciding what words might potentially rank better.

Is the Era of Keyword Use Gone?

In some SEO discussions there has been a trend of downplaying the importance of keywords. We have now gone from a time when it was felt that it was vital to be stuffing keywords into content as much as possible, but as Google changed its algorithms to deal with this technique other factors have come into play.

What does this mean for the future of keywords, or is too early to predict?

Well basically keywords still have a very practical purpose and they are certainly one of the requirements in determining page ranking. But they should flow naturally, remember;

  • a keyword should naturally be the main focus of your article
  • headings and content should support the keyword and be linked to the subject of your main title
  • google can understand related keywords so you don’t have to keep using the same word or phrase over and over again, so use alternative phrases and focus on making it interesting to the reader.

Search engines are trying to make their search results as relevant as they can for the reader. Their algorithms use complicated formula to try and replicate how humans think so that they can predict what they might be looking for.

Therefore there is little point trying to push a particular word or phrase since the search engine is far more sophisticated than this nowadays. Instead focus on making the content relevant and authoritative so that it gets ranked because of the quality of the content.

Further Reading

There are a  number of other articles available on this site, that also discuss keywords and the tools that you can use. I have listed them below.

Finally I hope you enjoyed the article and remember to share it on your favourite social media channel, and add any comments on the subject in the section below, thanks.

10 thoughts on “What is the Definition of a Keyword?

  1. Owain

    I am just starting out creating a website and filling it with interesting posts. I want to make sure that not only am I writing quality posts but that they are being searched for by people online.

    I believe I am going on the right path with regard to creating keyword titles for my post. But I hadn’t thought the same with my headings within the post. I will have to go back and see if I am doing this right and editing if I need to.

    Thank you for a practical and useful post.

    1. Marie

      Hi Owain I know it’s all a learning curve, headings within the post will naturally contain LSI keywords if they are related to your title, sometimes its simply a matter of spelling them out clearly. Each heading within a post could potentially rank especially in a longer article.

  2. Toni

    Thanks for your great article on keywords. For someone just starting out in the competitive world of blogging/content websites, this has really helped me. I had no idea about secondary keywords! You’ve really covered everything. I will be bookmarking this page for sure and look forward to more of your articles.

    Thanks again.

  3. Riaz Shah

    Hey Marie,
    Excellent article on keywords, I find it very informative. I know they are very important but I have no idea what they really do or how to utilize them.

    I’ve been using Jaaxy as you said to research my keywords and its really cool! All I know is that I can avoid high competition and utilise that keyword but that’s all about it. Is there anything else I should know of?

    1. Marie

      Hi thanks for your comment and yes I really enjoy Jaaxy as well.

      Other ways to use keywords include planning your social media campaigns and linking blogs together in a theme to reinforce the SEO value of each one. In business I have another article How to Use Keywords in Business Blogs which explains some more uses, I hope that helps and I will continue to write more on this topic, as even this reply has given me more ideas.

  4. Ian

    Thanks for letting us know about the decline of the keyword technique with the newer Google algorithms. It helps me to focus more on the quality of the content and enables me to have the time to do that effectively.

    Thanks for a very interesting and informative post. I think I will bookmark it for future reference!

    1. Marie

      Hi Ian, thanks for the comment, I think the trend is moving a lot more towards quality content and readability rather than trying to use keywords to second guess Google.

      That doesn’t mean that keywords aren’t important, they still are especially when researching a topic and working out a topic theme to write about.

      Thanks again and good luck in your own writing.

  5. James

    What a great article on what I feel is the most important part in writing content for your website – keywords.

    How is the Jaaxy keyword tool?

    The QSR number sounds like a good tool to have for an online business.

    Do you have a review for Jaaxy that I could read?

    1. Marie

      Hi James thanks for questions and comments. You can read this review of Jaaxy which is also on the site and I do think it’s a great tool especially for online businesses. There is another article on Keyword Tools that explains other options in addition to Jaaxy as well, that you might also find interesting.

      Once again thanks for commenting and best of luck.

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