The Difference Between Keywords and Search Queries

Keywords and search queries may sound the same, but they are not. They are related and often used interchangeably, but they have significant differences. If you are doing search engine optimisation, the distinctions are essential details you need to be well-versed in.

In search engine optimisation parlance, a keyword is a word or group of words used in indexing or cataloguing information. It is one of the things that represent a page or content. A company that offers managed IT services, for example, will include the phrase “managed IT services” in the text and metadata of a page to make it evident that the information contained therein is about these specialised IT solutions. Search query, on the other hand, is the actual word or phrase used by users of search engines. It is what SEO specialists anticipate when they optimise web pages.


The differences

The differences between keywords and search queries can be summarised as follows: keywords are an abstraction of what internet users are expected to use in their search engine queries. The former is a general idea of the specific words consumers are likely to use when they search for something online. Going back to the example mentioned above, the keyword is a broad idea (managed IT solutions), not something prospective customers will type into their search bars. Customers often employ long-tail keywords when looking for something. They may use “affordable managed IT services in London” or a variation of the keyword to indicate specificity.

It’s the search engine optimisation specialists who are more interested in keywords. They are the ones who study trends in what consumers are searching, so they can target the best possible keywords. When it comes to search engine queries, the users are customers, content consumers, or audiences online. They are the ones who enter the actual words into their search bars.


Keyword targeting and search query relationship

Keywords are generally shorter than the actual search queries, but there are many instances when they are the same. Targeting a keyword that is exactly the same as the query words used by your target audience, however, does not guarantee that you will top the SERPs with it.

Keyword targeting is just one factor in how search engines rank their results. Also, if you are targeting a keyword that is often used by consumers in their queries, you are most likely competing with several others in the optimisation of the same keyword. As such, the chances of topping the results page are even slimmer. You have to work on other SEO factors to improve your results.


The Bottom Line

It’s not unusual for people to refer to search queries as keywords. There’s nothing seriously objectionable about it. However, if you are in the SEO field, you are expected to know how to distinguish the two from each other. Essentially, your focus is on targeting keywords to be optimised for web pages. To do effective targeting, you need to study the patterns and trends in the search queries used by your target audience or customers.