What is a search term?
The definition of a search term (or search query) is straightforward. A search term is a single word or multiple words (search phrase), a user types into the search box of a search engine. Search engines such as Google, interpret the search terms to understand the intent of the user and return the most relevant results.
Examples of Search Terms
Here are some examples of search terms:
A single word search term: [reliablesoft] – The intent of the user is to find more information about ‘reliablesoft’.
Search phrase (multiple words): [How to tie a tie] – User is looking for instructions on how to tie a tie!
Here is another example of a search query: [buy white running shoes men] – The user intent is very specific. He is looking to buy white shoes for running.
What is the difference between a search term and a keyword?
If you are familiar with the SEO basics, you might start thinking “Are search terms the same as keywords?”. Some people will say it’s the same thing but in reality, there is a small difference.
A search term is anything that users type in the search box while keywords is what search engines have in their index.
During the crawling and indexing phase, search engines crawl a page and extract the keywords it is associated with and this is how it is stored in their index.
During the ranking process, they take the search query and break it down into a number of keywords and then look into their index to find matching pages.
In many cases these two (search terms and keywords) are a perfect match while in some cases, search engine algorithms using the help of machine learning, will try and figure out what the user is actually looking for.
In both cases, Google will answer the search query using the best possible results because they have sophisticated ranking algorithms that can extract the user intent from whatever the user types in the search box.
Related reading: How search engines work
Why are search terms important for search engine marketing?
All search engine marketing campaigns are based around search terms or keywords.
Knowing what users type in a search engine’s search box, will help you adjust your campaigns to satisfy their intent.
Let’s see what happens when someone enters a search query on Google, the most popular search engine.
As soon as you type a query and click search, Google will show you a set of results that are more likely to satisfy your intent.
The results can be classified into two main categories, paid results (Google Ads) and Organic results (also known as SEO results).
The paid Ads are shown on top and below the results, and in-between Google shows the organic results.
In the majority of cases there are many ads that compete for one of top positions and hundreds of webpages competing for a position on the first page of the results.
Search Engine Advertising
The ads that are shown on Google are relevant to the search term entered in the search box.
As an advertiser, if you want people to click on your ads, you first need to find out what search terms are used related to your products and services. This process is called keyword research.
Once you do your research and create ads that include your target search terms, you can use Google Ads to ‘bid’ for which terms you want your ads to be shown.
Google Ads is the advertising platform of Google that is responsible for the ads you see on Google search.
It uses a sophisticated algorithm to decide which ads to show for each search term based on a number of factors including the location of the user, device, bid and many other factors.
Search Engine Optimization
With Search engine optimization (or SEO), you can optimize your website and content for specific search terms so that it will appear on the first page of the organic results when a related search query is typed in Google.
During the ranking process, Google will take the search query and break it up into a number of keywords. Then it will look into their index to find which pages can best satisfy the user intent.
One of the most important search engine ranking factors, is the relevancy of the content with the search terms.
This means that your content needs to include those search terms in several places including the page title, heading and body of your page. This is known as on-page SEO.
Related Reading: The different types of SEO
How do I find Search Terms?
It is estimated that more than 6 Billion searches are conducted every single day on Google!
What is more interesting is that 15% of those searches are new. This means that 15% of the search terms typed per day on Google, have never used before.
There are several tools you can use to find out what these search terms are, so as to optimize your paid and organic campaigns.
When you start typing a search term on Google it gives you instant suggestions on what other people have searched related to that term.
Within the Google search results, you can also see the ‘People Also Ask’ section and ‘Related Searches’.
This is the easiest and fastest way to find out keywords related to your search terms.
Google trends is a free tool by Google which allows you to enter a search term and see what people are searching related to that term.
You also get information on trending searches and popular searches grouped by year, country and topics.
The Google keyword tool is another free tool by Google that allows you to enter a search term and see the related keywords.
For each keyword you can see the search volume per month, keyword competition and other useful information.
A search term or search query is anything that people type in a search engine’s search box.
Search engines take the search terms and associate them with keywords available in their index.
During the ranking process, their algorithms use a number of factors to decide which pages are more relevant to those keywords and can satisfy the user intent.
Having the search terms in your content is important but it’s not the only factor. Google is using more than 200 factors to decide which results to show for any given search term.