Can SEO Keywords Be Phrases?

February 11, 2024

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Ah, yes, a question that many marketers have on their mind: can we use full words or phrases instead of keywords when it comes to SEO?

It’s a natural question, especially since we now understand one key thing about internet users. Whenever people turn to search engines, for whatever reason, they are more likely to type in the full phrase instead of a single word. For instance, if a user wants baby toys in Sydney, they’ll try to be as specific as possible in their search queries. Searching for “baby toys” might be too vague, but add specific keywords like “Sydney” or “buy online,” and you’re more likely to find what you are looking for at the moment.

So, does this affect SEO in any way? Let’s discuss.

Keywords and Phrases: Do They Go Together?

First of all, the concept of “keywords” doesn’t mean anything anymore, because a lot of people use it including when they mean “key phrases” and “keyword phrases.” If you’re only starting to get a grasp on this subject, it’s very likely your head is spinning. But let’s take it one step at a time.

Simply put, a keyword means just one single word, no more. At the dawning age of search marketing, search engines weren’t as intricate as today, and they worked with very simple algorithms. Users generally had to use only one word whenever they wanted to look something up, and then sift through the search results until they found what they needed. Or something that most resembled it.

Today, that’s not the case anymore, and search engines are getting smarter and smarter every day. Google, for instance, claims that its algorithms modify even a few times a day. Search engines nowadays support more than single word keywords. In fact, it’s better for people to be as specific as they can when they type something into Google if they want to get relevant results.

Because of this, keywords now have two extra components you should be able to distinguish: keyword phrases and long-tail keywords.

  1. Keyword Phrases

If it’s more than one word, then it’s officially a keyword phrase. You’d need various different parts of speech in a language for any sentence to be considered a phrase, but SEO isn’t so strict about it.

  1. Long-tail Keywords

These are keyword phrases to which you add extra keywords, to get to a more specific meaning.

Let’s put it into context using the baby toys example:

  • Keyword: “toys” or “baby.” As you can imagine, both these terms are pretty vague by themselves, and the search engine might not bring back what you want.
  • Keyword phrase: “baby toys” or even “buy baby toys.” Both are considered keyword phrases, and, as you can see, they increase the chances of users getting what they want.
  • Long-tail keywords: “buy baby clothes near me” or “buy baby clothes in Sydney,” and you hit the jackpot.

That’s mostly the difference between the three marketing terms. Coming back to the initial question “can SEO keywords be phrases?”, the answer is yes unless you still can’t accept that in SEO terms two words put together constitute a phrase.

But hold on. Now that we understand what each of them is, it would also be pretty useful to understand what you can get out of each of them. That leads us to our next subsection:

What You Get out of Them

So far, it’s pretty clear what users get from these three types of keys: relevant results for their queries. But what about you?

Keywords generally have the highest search volume of the three. And that makes a lot of sense. The more specific a user goes in a query, the less likely many others have used the exact search. However, on the other hand, more specific keys have a better shot of increasing traffic to your web pages because, from the user’s perspective, your site might have what they need.

So it means that the more specific key phrases or long-tail keywords you use, the better the chances of increasing the number of visitors to your site. Long-tail keywords, because they often include your location as well are even better at reaching your target audience than simple keywords. However, you shouldn’t overlook the classic keywords either.

Though they might be more used (and, as such, not as specific in targeting audiences), they can still help improve your SEO.

So, What Should You Do?

Use them in your content, metadata or even links. Keywords, key phrases and, long-tail keywords can be quite beneficial, though you honestly shouldn’t expect any miracles from any of them.

The days where search engines heavily relied on keywords for indexing are long gone, we’re afraid. Though they still have a word to say, elements like intuitive design or page speed are more important for search engines than the keyword except if you go overboard and start keyword stuffing. Search engines still care quite a bit about that.

But, when it comes to your next steps, you should still take the time to include them in your content strategy. And if you need any help with them or other SEO issues, contact us now!

Billy P.

About The Author

William Polson founded Australian Internet Advertising in 2013 and has over 12 years of experience immersed in Digital Marketing.

With an in-depth level of digital marketing knowledge, William has been sort after by and worked for, many large national brands including Subaru, Blooms The Chemist, and Nova 96.9.

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