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What Is A Search Term?

What Is A Search Term

Date First Published: 12th February 2023

Topic: Web Design & Development

Subtopic: SEO

Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Easy

Difficulty Level: 3/10

Learn more about what a search term is in this article.

A search term, also known as a search query, is a word or set of words that someone enters into a search engine to generate search results. Search engines display PPC ads and organic results based on the search term someone has entered. Search terms are usually entered using a keyboard on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, but they can also be entered using voice search, such as Google Assistant or Siri. Search terms are an important part of SEO as search engines always base the search results they show on the search terms provided by searchers.

Search Engine Understanding

Over time, search engines have continued to improve their understanding of their search terms, including the search intent, and the meaning behind the search query, which is known as semantic search. Even though everyone entering a search term into a search engine is trying to find something, search intent can definitely vary. For example, someone searching for 'How often does a leap year occur?' is looking for information, whereas someone entering 'buy MacBook Pro' has a transactional intent, knows exactly what they want to buy, and is looking to buy a MacBook Pro. Understanding the search intent will allow search engines to display results relevant to searcher's queries without them strictly relying on keywords themselves in order to interpret the meaning of content.

An example of how Google can understand someone's search term is when misspelling keywords. Google can still display the correct results even if users misspell keywords. Google will recognise the misspelling, convert it to the right word, and display something like 'Showing results for (correct spelling of the keyword)' with another option below to only search for the misspelt keyword.

Targeting Search Terms

One of the most important aspects of SEO is finding the right search terms to target. Keyword research tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, WordStream, and the free Seobility Keyword Research Tool can provide relevant information about keywords, including the keyword difficulty and the search volume. Even though keyword research tools are useful for getting a basic overview of how high the demand for keywords is and how easy it would be to rank for those keywords in the organic search results, most website owners conduct a manual analysis before deciding whether it is worth targeting a specific keyword.

Services, such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools also provide website owners with detailed information about keywords. This includes how often the keywords are searched for, the organic click-through rate, and the total number of impressions in SERPs. These tools are useful for finding out which keywords are already driving organic traffic to a website.

Difference Between Search Terms and Keywords

Some people confuse search terms with keywords, but they are not the same things. Search terms are the queries that people enter into search engines to find what they are looking for. Keywords are words or phrases that describe the content of webpages to search engines. They are sets of terms that website owners and advertisers target with the goal of ranking for user's search terms.


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