The various types of SEO keywords and their roles

Searching for the right keywords is an essential step in the natural search engine
optimization process. Most people with any degree of involvement in SEO know that the words they use will dictate their website’s rank in Google search results.

But before you choose your keywords, it may help to go back to basics. So, what is a
keyword, exactly? This is the first question this article will answer.

Then, we’ll examine the differences between main keywords, secondary keywords and semantic keywords and their respective roles.


What is a keyword? How do you choose it?


In addition to providing information to search engines on how to interpret your site’s
content, keywords define the topic of your website or webpage. They should ideally
closely match the search queries of your potential prospects.

These three intertwined aspects give keywords an essential role in determining your Google positioning.

As you can imagine, choosing the right keywords for your site is a balancing act that
needs a lot of work to ensure they meet those three requirements.

If you want to learn more on the entire keyword selection process, keep an eye on our
blog—we’ll be publishing an article on the subject soon.

Many SEO experts are saying that the “1 keyword = 1 page” rule is outdated. This is not entirely accurate; let’s qualify it by instead applying the rule of “1 main keyword = 1 page.”

With this in mind, we can start looking at the principles behind main keywords, secondary keywords and semantic keywords.



What’s a main keyword?


As the name suggests, this is your main “topic.” The main keyword is a kind of
direction you set for your page or site.

Usually, it’s the word that best describes your service or product and has an attractive
search volume / competition ratio.

Making strategic use of your main keyword within your content will be essential to shoot for good positioning on Google and other search engines.


What’s a secondary keyword?


Secondary keywords tend to be close variants of the main keyword. They’re
often—but not always—less popular in searches and less competitive than the main

You can use secondary keywords in sub-headers and body text to avoid repetitions, for example.
Since they’re relatively close to the main keyword, they strengthen the
signals being sent to search engines to help them understand the “topic” of your page.

Say we’ve identified “buy furniture” as your page’s main keyword.

Our secondary keywords could be “shop for furniture” or “purchase furniture.”

Note that same-family synonyms can be included in this category (such as “purchase” in our example).


What’s a semantic keyword?


And now, the last link in this chain: the semantic keywords. These are terms more or less closely associated with the main and secondary keywords.

Semantic keywords can be distant synonyms of the main and secondary keywords. They could also just be words related to your chosen topic or terms that often crop up when the topic is discussed.

Keywords of this type are aptly named—they are defined by the fact that there is a
semantic correlation (a link in meaning) between them and the main and secondary keywords.

For our more academically inclined readers, this is also referred to as the lexical field.

Let’s go back to our “buy furniture” example.

We’ve already identified relevant secondary keywords such as “buy furniture” and “shop for furniture.”

Semantic keywords will be terms that revolve around the purchase of furniture, like “buy chairs” or “shop for a table.”


What are semantic keywords used for?


The role of semantic keywords is a pivotal one in a qualitative content situation. It’s in this type of SEO strategy that semantic keywords really come into their own..

At a time when search engines are moving towards understanding users’ search intent, semantic keywords can help algorithms better understand the content of your site.
A rich and varied vocabulary of semantic keywords will lead to your site being better
contextualized by search engine bots.

In practice, this means that if your content is relevant to a user’s search intent, Google is likely to deem your site relevant and give it a good rank in its results.

Another benefit of diversifying your terms is that it multiplies your chances of matching a long-tail keyword.


How should you pick semantic keywords?


There are many free and paid SEO writing tools that can provide you with semantic
keyword suggestions.

SEMRush, Google’s own Keyword Planner, the website, or even just a simple
thesaurus… listing all the available tools would be an entire article in itself.

The one thing you should keep in mind is to test out your chosen tool to see if it matches your expectations.



The final (key)word

To sum up, keywords are an essential part of your SEO strategy.

Primary and secondary keywords are crucial for identifying your topic and sending strong signals to help Google understand your content.

Adding semantic keywords as part of a qualitative content production process will
enhance your page’s subject matter and improve your ranking in search engines

And so, your main takeaway from this article should be the same thing we’ve said so
many times already: quality beats keyword stuffing.

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