Leading Agency
in South East Asia












What is Keyword? How to Find and Choose Quality and Effective SEO Keywords




What is Keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase that users enter into a search engine. When a website achieves higher ranking, it is due to the keywords that you have built before. Therefore, you must not overlook what users are searching for or interested in to find quality keywords.

Let’s say you want to search for travel information in the Netherlands. You can enter keywords like “Netherlands travel destinations,” “travel to Netherlands,” etc. into search engines. They will search and provide you with the most relevant results.

what is keyword

What are Keywords?

Also, there are many keyword-related terms that you should understand in order to utilize them better for your SEO projects:

  • Focus keywords: These are the primary keywords of a webpage, or the main focus of the optimization process. Accompanying these main keywords are secondary keywords, which are related to the main topic or share its semantic meanings.
  • Meta keywords: This is an HTML tag attached to each page of a website to provide data about the page. It belongs in the HTML view, so users will not automatically see these tags unless they use the View Page Source function. On the flip side, it has an influential role of informing search engines about which keyword you have on the webpage, allowing your pages to rank appropriately.
  • Phantom keyword: This is a keyword that users search for on Google or YouTube but there is very little information online. Phantom keywords bring in a lot of traffic and have a high conversion rate, but are not easy to find and optimize. If you manage to incorporate them into your projects, you can expect incredible results traffic-wise.
  • SEO keyword: This is the general term for any keyword usable to earn a website advantageous positions in the search results as well as increasing organic traffic. These words act as the backbone of any SEO campaign, since you need to work around them to increase rankings of webpages
  • Long-tail keywords: These are keywords with three or more words. Although their search volume is not high, they bring good conversion rates.
  • LSI keywords: These are keywords that have the same meaning as the main keyword. They are usually used as supplemental keywords to the main ones, ensuring that the desired search results appear for the right keywords.

Why are keywords important?

Keywords are an important factor in marketing in general and SEO in particular. Once you have quality and high-value keywords, you can bring in good traffic to your website without having to pay. Additionally, keywords help websites appear at the top of search results.

Specifically, users will enter queries into search engines that address their problems, requests, issues, etc. By identifying these specific words and phrases, you are one step closer to understanding your target user base and offering them exactly what they are looking for from these searches.

Furthermore, search engines determine rankings for web pages based on multiple factors, one of which being keyword optimization. Overall, SEO is a long-running game where webmasters and marketers try to crack the code called search engine algorithm to win a better position for their websites.

The role of keywords in SEO

The role of keywords in SEO

Moreover, you can expand your site’s coverage by using paid advertising (PPC) to push your page’s keyword to the top. Search advertisements are placed above the organic results, which are incredibly beneficial for websites. In turn, that immediate result requires considerable monetary investment. Nonetheless, keywords remain the driving force of everything search engine-related.

The crucial role of keywords is what incentivizes businesses to invest in keyword research. All SEO or PPC campaigns require marketers to compile a comprehensive and suitable keyword list based on their budget, website authority, and brand reputation. This phase will help them target the most appropriate keywords and optimize them for the most effective results possible.

How keywords appear on Google

There are two ways for keywords to appear at the top of Google search results:

  • PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertising
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Implementation

PPC and SEO support keywords appearing on the top of search results

PPC and SEO support keywords appearing on the top of search results

PPC Advertising (Pay Per Click)

Pay Per Click advertising is the fastest way to display your website at the top of search results since you do not need to wait long. The main issue here is to create the perfect campaign with the right list of keywords. Once you have prepared your keyword list, it is time to create the perfect campaign by choosing the campaign type, goals, setting up ad groups, and creating the ads.

Ultimately, your success rate depends on how competitive your keywords are, your allocated budget, and your content. PPC is easy in theory but quite tricky in practice, but its benefits are well worth your investment.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This is a way to attract natural traffic without advertising, but you need to invest time and effort to research and optimize the keywords that users often search for. The SEO implementation process for a website takes time to achieve the desired ranking.

SEO keywords help the website reach the target customers well

SEO keywords help the website reach the target customers well

As mentioned above, Google will review and evaluate a website as “good” if it meets the requirements for content, keywords, etc. Through this, the website will receive natural traffic from users.

How to find keywords effectively

There are many ways to find keywords. The simplest method is to use keyword research tools such as Google Search Console, Semrush, Rank Checker, etc. These tools are relatively easy to use and operate in a similar way.

Keyword research tools can help you find effective keywords

Keyword research tools can help you find effective keywords

You need to enter broad keywords related to the topic you are building, and the tools will suggest related keywords. For example, Ahrefs will provide related keywords, as well as traffic volume and many other SEO indicators.

9 criteria to choose quality keywords

The issue is how to use tools to choose high-quality keywords from thousands of them. Here are 9 ways to help you identify the most suitable keywords for your website’s goals.

Search Volume

Search volume helps you understand the popularity of keywords. In addition, the data also provides the popularity of a specific query, especially the potential traffic you can target for your website. Furthermore, keyword research tools will also show you information on the “difficulty” and “competitiveness” of keywords.

Information about Search Volume on Semrush

Information about Search Volume on Semrush

Search Intent

Search Intent allows you to learn the intention and purpose behind users’ searches. In SEO, it plays an important role in directing readers to the most relevant search results. Search Intent is divided into 4 main types:

  • Informational indicates queries that are looking for information such as knowledge, maps, etc.
  • Navigational: Google will try to provide the page that the user wants to reach.
  • Transactional: Queries that Google thinks are related to transactions such as product pages, ads, etc.
  • Commercial: This format includes paid results and featured snippets. However, instead of explaining the entities in the query, it aims to compare and rank brands.

Search Intent includes 4 basic types

Search Intent includes 4 basic types


The equivalent value compared to PPC ads is also an effective factor to choose keywords. Data can show how much advertisers pay per click on average in their marketing campaigns.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is usually evaluated on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the difficulty score, the more competitive the keyword is, and it requires more resources to rank. Therefore, when choosing a keyword, you may want to consider easier keywords to help you rank faster.

Keyword Difficulty score on a scale of 0-100

Keyword Difficulty score on a scale of 0-100

Word count of a keyword

The number of words or length of a keyword is a factor to consider when choosing it. Typically, short keywords such as “marketing field” will target a broader search intent. Since its meaning is so general, this keyword also includes smaller topics like the development of the marketing field, what is included in marketing field, etc. Hence, short keywords involve way more competition than long ones.

Long-tail keywords, therefore, are less competitive and more specific, perfect for small businesses and new websites to generate organic traffic. For example, “tips for working in the marketing field” targets a very clear-cut search intent and is capable of drawing attention from users.

There is no superior choice between these two keyword types as it mostly depends on your goal, budget, and target audience. Your best bet is putting together a mix of both types in order to generate trust from the audience with meaningful content while generate traffic quickly with low-hanging fruits in your field.

Branded keywords

Branded keywords are a way to advertise effectively and build trust with readers. These are queries with brand names embedded, such as “On Digitals marketing.” Keywords that include domain names can also be considered branded keywords.

This one is as straightforward as they can be, as they generate considerable traffic to the home page of websites. These keywords can also serve many functions, including all four of informational, commercial, navigational, and transactional. It is important to have a firm understanding of your target audience and how they use branded keywords to perfect your strategy with this keyword variation.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords, despite not having high search volume like short keywords, have very specific purposes. If a website has articles containing long-tail keywords, it will have more chances of boosting both traffic and conversion rates.

Organic Traffic boosted by long-tail keywords

Organic Traffic boosted by long-tail keywords

In addition, targeting long-tail keywords helps users easily search and get significant traffic. When readers enter the keyword on the search engine, Google will screen and provide the most detailed and specific results. This method alone also shows that your website is more unique and attractive than your competitors.

Targeting keywords by geographic location

Targeting by geographic location is a way to determine your target audience based on where they are. This method allows local businesses to better understand the target audience through SEO and advertising. For websites that mainly operate in a physical location, implementing Local SEO is essential. You can see the role of Local SEO when searching for keywords such as, for instance:

  • seo service in Ho Chi Minh City
  • marketing service in Ho Chi Minh City

Geo-targeting keywords

Geo-targeting keywords

Negative keywords

Negative keywords help prevent a certain word or phrase from triggering your ad. This means that ad will not be displayed to anyone searching for that phrase. For example, a business is running ads in their “Women’s Fashion” campaign. However, when readers type in the search bar, they may get results for children’s fashion as well.

Therefore, it is necessary to add the keyword “children” as a negative keyword. This helps customers who want to search for women’s fashion avoid seeing ads for children’s fashion from the business.

Guide to SEO Keyword Research

There are typically three steps to conduct keyword research for an SEO campaign:

  • Determine the main objective or goal
  • Create an initial keyword list
  • Use tools to support research

Keyword research steps

Keyword research steps

Determine the main objective or goal

Firstly, to understand and grasp customers’ behaviors, it is necessary to research and identify the more engaging topics compared to other websites.

When the website determines its target to deploy, it not only provides valuable and high-quality content for readers but also demonstrates its unique and attractive features. This helps the website have a higher chance of receiving more traffic than its competitors. Determining the objective and target of the website is necessary to move on to the next steps in keyword research.

Create an initial keyword list

After determining the main objective, the next step is to create a list of keywords related to the topic being developed. This is a very rough guide because “related” 

To create that list, you can use keyword research tools. Once you have the list of keywords, filter out the truly relevant ones for the website to receive good traffic and rankings.

Note: If you choose wrong or irrelevant keywords, readers can easily leave the website because they cannot find what they are looking for. This can reduce the credibility, traffic, and ranking of the website.

Use tools to support research

Tools help businesses reduce the difficulty of keyword research. After creating the initial keyword list, leverage these tools to get your official keyword list. Use the aforementioned 9 ways to choose keywords to get the best quality keyword list.

Learn more: What is keyword cannibalization and how to spot this problem?

Final thoughts

With this article, On Digitals have explained what is keyword, its roles, and effective ways to choose keywords for your next SEO projects. Keep your eyes peeled for the latest insights from On Digitals, a professional SEO company in Vietnam, about all things digital marketing. Contact us if you need consultation or a quote for our SEO audit services.

Back to list

Read more

    NEED HELP with digital growth?
    Tell us about your business challenge and let's discuss together