What’s the difference between keywords and queries?

Keywords and queries are often used interchangeably

But should they be?

In short, no, they should not be used interchangeably.  For those of you who are not digital marketers, it might not be that much of a difference.  But for those that are, the differences between the two enormous and definitely should not be ignored.  Let’s start by defining each one:

Keywords are the central word(s) for an individual web page.  For SEO’s sake, it’s a best practice to limit the number of keywords per page to one.  This ensures the most SEO value for your buck.  How to accomplish this is by creating keyword-rich content on the page, as well as using proper meta titles/descriptions, image file names, URL structure, and more.  If your business sells backpacks, then your keyword is “backpacks,” not synonyms such as bookbags, knapsacks, or satchels.  If you use the synonyms, then you’re only going to confuse search engines which leads to lower rankings.

Search Queries are the actual phrase that a user searches.  These are much more broad and include many unpredictable words for which a user might search such as “Best Nike Backpacks.”  Queries are an important research tool to get a feel for what exactly your audience is searching for.  With the information gathered through that research it’s best to adjust your keywords and all of the content that goes with it in order to get those higher ranks.  


How does this affect me as a digital marketer?

If you are a running an SEO or marketing campaign for a client, odds are one of your first steps in the process was to gather a list of keywords that for which the client wishes to rank.  From that, you did some keyword analysis and determined which of those you’d like to proceed with, along with a few that you discovered during analysis.  With that list in hand, start crafting pages for each of the keywords.  

From the previous example, if you run a backpack store, one of your biggest sellers is probably Jansport backpacks, so dedicating an entire landing page for Jansport backpacks is the way to go.  “But wait, in the picture above you said that ‘jansport backpack’ is a query, not a keyword!”  I did, you’re right.  However, in this instance it is a keyword because that’s the one phrase you are targeting for that specific page; this is what’s called a Long-Tail Keyword!


Keywords – precise word(s) that you’re targeting 

Query – exact phrase that users are searching

Have any questions, concerns, or disagreements? I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below and let’s talk!