A Business Leader’s Glossary for Keyword Research

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A Business Leader’s Glossary for Keyword Research

Keyword research is among the most complex components of SEO — and it is also among the most important. Businesses that target the wrong keywords will waste months and a devastating amount of their digital marketing budget on SEO efforts that will not generate the effects they need and expect. Thus, the best advice for business leaders eager to leverage the power of SEO is to outsource keyword research and related SEO services to a digital marketing firm.

Still, business leaders benefit from a foundation in knowledge regarding keyword research. Whether you are taking advantage of high-value white label SEO services or trying to DIY your business’s SEO strategy, here is a glossary of terms related to keyword research that you definitely need to know.


Keywords are individual words or more commonly phrases that web users input as queries into search engines. Google’s algorithm searches for keywords in content, meta tags, links and more to establish relevance and rank results.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty ratings measure the number of backlinks of currently ranking websites in certain search results. The higher the difficulty rating, the more difficult it will be to oust top-ranking sites. Smaller businesses might intentionally choose keywords with lower difficulty to reduce their SEO costs and increase their success.

Common Keyword

When many different domains rank among the top search results, the keywords used in that query are considered common. Common keywords tend to have higher difficulty because multiple websites are vying for top positions in related searches.

Ad Keyword

Ad keywords pertain specifically to sponsored websites within Google’s search results. Unlike other keywords, ad keywords are purchased through Google Ads, with more common keywords demanding higher cost.

Negative Keyword

Negative keywords are words and phrases that are explicitly not targeted by a business. Most often, this concept is employed in search advertisements to prevent advertisers from paying for ads on searches that are unlikely to result in a return.

Longtail Keyword

Keyword phrases that are more than three or four words constitute longtail keywords. As more web users use natural speech in their search queries, longtail keywords have become more valuable and therefore more commonplace. Still, longtail keywords tend to be highly specific in intent, which can reduce their volume but increase their conversion.


Keyword density is the number of times a keyword appears on a single webpage. Early versions of Google’s algorithm rewarded keyword stuffing, or including a keyword as many times as possible — which did not make for an agreeable user experience. Today, keyword stuffing is harshly penalized, so websites need to be careful to maintain a keyword density around 1 or 2 percent — which is to say one use of the keyword per every 100 words.

Semantic Core

These days, Google is laser-focused on intent, which means its algorithm scans content to find its semantic core, or a group of keywords that provide context for specific content. Using the semantic core, Google can populate search results with the webpages that are most relevant to a user’s intent.

Declined Keywords

Declined keywords are keywords in which a domain has seen its ranking within search results fall. Some websites see declined keywords as a sign to invest in greater SEO efforts.

Improved Keyword

Improved keywords are keywords in which a domain has seen its ranking within search results rise. This is an indication that SEO efforts are having a positive effect.

Historical Data

Historical data allows SEO experts and businesses to research the performance of keywords and domains in previous months. This can be essential in the development of a keyword strategy.

Keyword Cannibalization

Sometimes, websites optimize multiple pages for the same keywords, which can result in a single domain competing with itself for search rankings. This makes it difficult for users to determine which page to visit, and it can negatively impact how Google determines relevancy. To prevent cannibalism, websites should consider consolidating similar pages into more comprehensive content, which will increase that page’s ranking power.

Keyword research is merely one step in the complex process of search engine optimization — but it is an incredibly important step, nonetheless. Whether you outsource your keyword research to a qualified SEO provider or try to manage keyword research on your own, you benefit from knowing the vocabulary of the field.

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