You know, two terms that are used interchangeably are Keywords and Queries.
You may hear SEOs use it all the time and may think they’re the same thing.
They’re actually very different and knowing the difference between the two can draw you closer to understanding the wants and needs of the audience you wish to attain.
So, let’s zero-in on the difference between both terms.
Keywords are the specific terms that one uses to find what they seek.
For example, ‘mobile phone’ is a keyword.
Even though it has two words in it, it’s one keyword.
Similarly, the term ‘phones’ (on its own) is a keyword.
This keyword is even broader than the first one just mentioned.
Conversely, ‘mobile phones for sale’ is another type of keyword.
This one has several words in it.
The words together in this phrase make up the keyword.
But wait, you may say.
These 3 examples, ‘mobile phones’, ‘phones’ and ‘mobile phones for sale’ all have the term ‘phone’ in it.
If someone just typed in ‘phone’ wouldn’t they get the same results as they would do if they typed in one of the other two keywords?
Well, not quite.
You see, these keywords have different intents to them.
In this example, the intents are very slight but are different, nonetheless.
Because they’re different, the results the searcher receives will be different.
Google attempts to interpret what you seek by the keywords you use.
So, for example, out the 3 terms, ‘mobile phones’, ‘phones’ and ‘mobile phones for sale’, which would you say suggests the searcher is seeking to buy a phone?
The ‘mobile phones for sale’ one, right?
It’s the most obvious keyword, out of the three, that indicates what kind of results the searcher wants to see.
They want Google to provide them with vendors who are selling mobile phones.
The ‘mobile phones’ and ‘phones’ keywords have a broader intent to them.
The searcher will get a mixture of results with these two keywords.
The searcher will most likely have to refine their search.
What I mean by this is they will change their search query, which will, presumably, bring them closer to what they seek.
Now, to explain search queries, let me first say that all terms typed into a search engine is technically a query.
This is why you have the term search query.
Where queries differ to keywords really lies in whether or not the query has a demand to it, i.e. does the query have a search volume to it, and/or is the query pertinent to the traffic you wish to acquire.
And here’s why…
You can have a keyword within a query.
For example, a search query could be ‘are mobile phones still the best devices to use for calls’.
This query wouldn’t have a search demand to it. It’s just a query – something I just made up.
However, within the query is the prominent keyword ‘mobile phones’, which does have a search demand.
As a marketer seeking to acquire people who want to purchase mobile phones you would be interested in people who search with the keyword and not someone who searches with the query.
Even though the query contains the keyword, the intent behind the use of the query, and the use of the keyword (on its own) are very different things.
How do we know the intent is different?
The demand behind the two terms will show this.
This is why search volume and the spend on terms (CPC) matters.
You see, people type (or query) all sorts of things.
In fact, you’ll find with SEMRush, or even GSC, that your site has visibility for all sorts of queries.
All sorts of queries that do indeed provide insight into how you site performs in search, but are not an indication of keywords.
Keywords which you target.
Keywords which you have visibility for
Keywords which you want to rank highly for.
Because they’re used by people you want to attract to your site when they query with the keywords.
You wouldn’t want someone visiting your site when they query something that’s not relevant to your business.
That wouldn’t be appropriate.
That wouldn’t be targeting.
That wouldn’t be marketing.
A query is just a query.
When there is a demand for it, it becomes a keyword.
If the keyword is relevant to your business – for the purpose of acquiring a site visit by the person who uses it, when they use it – it becomes a targeted keyword.
So, let me ask you this…
When you’re pitched by agencies who show you the traffic you could receive based on terms you have visibility for, are those terms keywords which you would target?
Or, are they queries, which you just happen to have visibility for…?