17 types of keywords you need to know to boost your SEO

Written by Fraser McCulloch.

Home : Keywords: The Definitive Guide : Types of keywords

Targeting the keywords your audience is searching and clicking on is the foundation of a strong organic traffic strategy.

Types of Keywords Infographic

Here’s a keyword map of the types of keywords you can use as the foundation of your keyword research, SEO and content creation strategy.

types of keywords infographic

Use the buyers funnel to choose keywords for seo and your content strategy

The buying process or purchase journey is a marketing framework created over 100 years ago applicable to brick-and-mortar and online businesses.

It is still the foundation of all marketing.

4 different types of buyer keywords generally describe the intention of a prospective customer when they are using keywords to search in Google.

Problem recognition

This type of keyword is used when the user or prospect recognises that they have a problem.

They may search “learn how to play guitar” or “how to grow my website traffic”, or “how to get stains out of a wedding dress”.

These question keywords place the user at the very start or top of the buying process.

Informational search

The following types of keywords are classified as informational search keywords.

The user or prospect has identified a problem to solve and begins to search for brands, products, services or solutions to solve their problem.

They might search for the “best mobile phone” or “black jeans for men” or “best email marketing software.”

Or their search may include keywords including brand name, e.g., “Callaway golf irons” or “Tesla self-driving cars.”

Evaluation of alternatives

These keywords are searched when the user has drilled down a range of options that could solve their problem.

The keyword intent is to compare, review or look at alternatives that could solve their problems.

The prospect is either unsure or uncertain about making the right purchase decision and is looking for help to make the correct choice.

Purchase Decision

These types of keywords have the strongest commercial intent that the user has the propensity to buy.

Potential customers have discovered a problem to solve and research products, brands, or services that could help and compare and review alternatives.

They may search, for example, for the “nearest laundrette” or “buy iPhone 12” or “hire a tax accountant”.

Problem Recognition keywords

Let’s start with problem recognition keywords.

Problem recognition keywords are considered top of the funnel keywords

Problem recognition keywords are most likely top of the funnel keywords.

They are made by people who are just in the first stage of the buying process.

Many of those searching may even have their problem solved at the top of the funnel and will never make it down to purchase.

And you have to be OK with that outcome.

It’s a funnel after all; some prospects you win, some leave at this stage.

Here are some examples of problem recognition keywords.

How keywords

Use a keyword research tool such as Ahrefs or Keyword Surfer and enter a target keyword to identify an extensive list of keywords.

Now filter by “how”.

You’ll find thousands of “how” keywords.

Throughout this page, I’ll use “website” to show you examples of these keywords.

Issue keywords

Searching for an “issue” would suggest a problem.

In this example, there are 1389 keywords, certainly less than “how” keywords.

For Keywords

Using “for”, you can filter your seed keyword as a good tactic for finding out what your target audience is searching for.

A woman may search “jeans for ladies” or “jeans for ladies size 10”.

These keywords could also be considered “customer defining” keywords; see the next stage for more details.

Likewise, in this example, you can see people searching for specific types of websites just for them.

With Keywords

“With” keywords are being searched by people looking for combinations of products, services or ideas.

Good examples are recipes, clothing combinations and even cars.

In the example below, with good keyword search volume, some people are particular about their website and keyword queries.

Fix keywords

As you can see, a “fix” keyword suggests the searcher has a problem.

Improve keywords

An “improve” keyword would suggest the searcher has a problem with their current situation.

Perhaps they are more positive in outlook than those searching for fixing a problem.

In the screenshot below, look at the different aspects of a website they’d like to improve.

Increase Keywords

An “increase” keyword is made by someone looking for a better result than they currently have.

In other words, they have a problem.

Reduce keywords

A ‘reduce” keyword is another problem search query made by someone with a problem looking for a better future result.

Whilst there’s not many reduce keywords in this example, consider how many people will search to reduce their weight, waist, credit card balance, and so on.

Remove Keywords

A remove keyword is a more dramatic keyword than reduce.

Someone wants something gone forever, which is a problem query.

Just look at the examples below.

Removing a website or page from Google may not seem a big issue to you, but something terrible mentioned about you could cost you millions in revenue each year.

Lower keywords

There are few relevant lower keywords regarding websites but think of the people searching to lower their weight, golf handicap, expenses, mortgage, credit card bills, etc.

Grow keywords

A grow keyword implies the searcher wants to improve their current situation, increase website traffic, grow business, etc.

Informational Search Keywords

The next stage is the buying process.

Informational keywords are made when people have previously recognised that they have a problem to solve.

So they begin their journey in finding out possible solutions, brands, products or services.

These possible solutions may come from products, brands, people or other resources they’ve been made aware of.

Informational Keywords are Middle of the funnel.

I tend to categorise informational keywords and search queries being in the middle of the funnel.

They are still gathering information about possible solutions.

Service keywords

Say you’re looking for a tax accountant in Glasgow; that’s a service and location keyword search.

People find my website by searching “keyword research services”.

They do not know any brand specialising or providing this service; they know they need this service and probably can’t or won’t do this work themselves.

Best keywords

When searching for the “best”, they are looking for recommended products, services or solutions that other people have experienced or used.

In other words, they are looking to shorten the decision making cycle and let someone else make up their mind.

For example, look at these best Shopify keywords.

The prospect wants someone else’s recommendations about the best themes used to build their online store.

The prospect does not want to go and trial or demo every single theme before choosing which one to buy or use.

Top keywords

“Top” included in a keyword suggests the user wants to find the leading or most popular products or services used.

A “top” keyword search is very similar to a “best” keyword, not always in most cases.

Example keywords

Let’s say you’re thinking of starting an online business. 

You might search “example shop” or “Shopify example” if you know a brand name associated with the business you’re starting.

Or, if you’re looking to do some financial or accounting work, you might search “example profit and loss statement” or “example tax return”.

Example keywords are made when people search to see how a particular product, service or task could be started or undertaken.

Learn keywords

It’s not difficult to figure out what “learn” keywords are.

The searcher knows about a product, service or brand and is investigating what they need to learn before investing additional time or money.

Tutorial keywords

Tutorial keywords are similar to learning ones, although these searches could be done by prospective and existing users of the product, service or brand.

Video keywords

Learn, tutorial, and video are all closely related informational searches, as shown below with the Shopify example.


Product keywords are the words or phrases that relate to a brand or company’s services or products.

  • Levi jeans
  • Tesco milk
  • Ford Focus
  • Apple iPad etc

As a company, you should have a strategy for the category of products or services you offer and each product or service so prospects can find your solutions via search engines.


Google is a brand name and is very well searched.

Branded keywords are searches that include the brand’s name.

Sometimes the brand name becomes synonymous with the product or service.

A Dyson is both a brand name and a product category.

I’m not very well known; thus, my brand is not very well searched.

Therefore, to get traffic from Google, I have to target the other types of keyword searches prospects make.

Wix, which provide website software, run a lot of television advertising; thus, their brand is well searched.

This means that people looking for a website may skip earlier parts of the buying funnel, e.g., best website designer or how to build a website and just search “Wix”.


When prospects search for a competitor’s keywords, it means they are more familiar with this brand than yours.

More about competitor keywords in the next stage; evaluation of alternatives.

Customer Defining

Customer defining keywords are the search terms prospects use to describe or identify themselves.

For example, Crunch has a page called “accounting for freelancers”.

Customer defining keywords can help you better connect with those who want your services or products.

Shoes for men and shoes for women are product information keywords, but the audience has defined who they are and what they are looking for.

Market Defining or category keywords

Market-defining keywords are queries that your audience searches for specific to your industry and tend to be non-branded keywords.

In my industry, “best conversion rates” or “web analytics” are precise queries.

Golf industry queries such as slice, shank, hook or GIR (greens in regulation).

When it comes to generating traffic, knowledge of these keywords can help you attract the right audience.

Industry or related vertical

Related vertical keywords are broad industry terms used by your audience.

So, for example, within the photography market, you will have keywords such as :

  • product photography
  • fashion photography
  • drone photography

By targeting these related keywords, you can reach a particular audience with a defined problem, service or product they need.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The 3rd stage is the buying process.

If a person follows the buying process sequentially, they will have recognised they have a problem and then discover information about brands, products or services that may offer a solution.

After these stages, they may have gathered a few choices and now begin comparing and evaluating which product, service or brand is the best choice to solve their problem.

The buying process can be fast or very slow; it depends on the circumstances, person or product.

When prospects are comparing alternatives they are using middle of the funnel keywords

I tend to categorise keywords and search queries at this stage, being in the middle of the funnel.

On the one hand, prospects know the problem and possible solutions, and on the other hand, they have not decided to buy yet.

Review keywords

There are over 1500 Shopify “review” keywords.

The prospect could be separately reviewing 2 different products with 2 different keyword searches.

So they’ll search “Shopify review” and then do another search “, WooCommerce review”.

So I’d still classify a “review” keyword as someone evaluating alternatives.

Versus keywords

With a “versus” keyword, prospects compare the features and benefits of 2 or more products, services or brands.

And as you can see below, these are high volume searches comparing not one but many alternatives.

Comparison keywords

As you can see, “compare” or “comparison” keyword searches are more geared towards prospects comparing prices of alternatives.

Alternative keywords

An “alternative” keyword is made by a prospect seeking an alternative brand, product or service.

More than likely, it’s made by someone with existing knowledge of or even a customer of a particular product or service.

The “alternative” keyword search could be someone dissatisfied with this particular product.

Purchase Decision

The purchase decision stage is the last stage of the buying process, made just before prospects are almost ready to purchase.

They know what they want to buy to solve their problem and use very specific queries to help them finalise their purchase.

Bottom of the funnel

These transactional keywords are those considered to be at the bottom of the funnel.

For example:

  • buy apple ipad
  • nearest electrical store
  • mobile phone deal

However, some types of keywords fall outside the traditional buying funnel or could be considered a part of the 4 stages of the funnel.

Keywords that can apply to any stage of the funnel or buying process

(Seed) Primary Keywords

The seed or primary keyword is the main query that you target on a web page.

Every web page should target a primary keyword as this helps to signal to Google and readers what the page is about.

Short-Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords are typically popular keywords with one, two or three-word search queries having the highest search volume in a topic.

They are also known as the seed or head keyword.

Typically short tail keywords have high search volume, but the downside is that they are competitive and difficult to rank for.

A short tail keyword can be categorised into either stage of the buying funnel.

For example:

  • best iPhone – is  short tail keyword and this would be an informational keywords
  • buy iPhone – is short tail keyword but a purchase decision keywords

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords typically include more than 3 words in their search question and are much more specific than short-tail keywords.

Usually, the search volume for a long tail keyword is low, but they tend to be less competition and easier to rank for.

I provide a great example of this long-tail keyword; “how to find low competition keywords with high traffic”.

I’ve written a guide to short tail vs long-tail keywords here.

And in my experience, long-tail keywords have better conversion rates than short-tail keywords.

Evergreen Keywords

An evergreen keyword is a search query that is relevant all year long and for years to come.

Search volume may vary from time to time, but if you generate traffic from evergreen keywords, you can earn organic clicks from many years.

For example, I have a page targeting people who are seeking business ideas.

I’ve had steady traffic to that page for nearly 5 years.

Typically evergreen keywords are located near the top of the middle of the funnel, and the more content you can create, the more prospects you can persuade to join your mailing list for future targeting and marketing.


Seasonal keywords are those searched before and in the build-up to Christmas, Easter, Black Friday, Mothers Day and other occasions.

Typically, brands selling products online do well targeting these searches from buyers looking to solve their gift-giving problems.

Geo Targeted or local

Geographical keywords are those queries with a specific county, state, city or town.

“what’s on in Perth” might be considered a geo-targeted keyword, but I believe that’s an information search query.

Likewise, a keyword such as “dentist Glasgow” is more product category than a local search.

Navigational keywords

Navigational keywords are not keywords that are part of the buying funnel.

“Directions to Big Ben London” is a navigational keyword, but I don’t consider such a keyword having any buying intent.

However, someone searching “Glasgow to London” might be considering travel plans and purchasing train or plane tickets.

Low Keyword Difficulty

And finally, low keyword difficulty or low competition keywords.

These are keywords that new or low authoritative websites should target as they are typically the easiest to rank for, providing you deliver relevant answers in your content.

I wrote an extensive guide to low competition keywords here.


A solid keyword strategy uses the buyers funnel to identify the greatest keyword opportunities as a framework for your SEO and then create helpful content on your pages and earn more organic traffic & conversions.