Keyphrase or Keyword: Is There a Difference?

Connor Lahey

Jan 29, 20213 min read
keyphrase or keyword

When you're trying to find a product or service search engine, you describe it in words and type them into the search field. The search engine matches those words with the words on various websites that are included in its index.

Then it gives you the most relevant results (websites that best match the words you typed). In search marketing, these words are called keywords, and they are the most important ingredient of the successful promotion of any project.

Adding relevant keywords to your website content will help search engines associate your project with search queries and improve your rankings. Therefore, it is crucial to do  keyword research to find the right keywords for your project.

Keywords, keyphrases, keyword phrases. You can find these terms in almost every SEO article, and often they are used as synonyms. So what do they mean, and what is the difference between them?

What Are Keywords?

Strictly speaking, a keyword means one single word. When the first search engines were launched, they had relatively simple algorithms, and many users used single words for their searches.

But search engines support large key phrases with two or more keywords. It is also much more convenient for users because now they can express their needs more precisely, and search engines provide them with more relevant results.

What Are Keyphrases?

A keyphrase means a set of separate words that build a phrase (so it’s a multi-word search term).

If it is essential to distinguish between a single word and a phrase, these terms are used in their initial strict meaning.

Otherwise, many search marketers often use both terms as synonyms and prefer the term “keywords” since it is shorter. For successful on-site optimization, you should carefully choose your relevant keywords to build keyphrases and incorporate them into your website content.

How Long Should a Keyphrase Be? 

Typically a keyphrase is four words, but it depends. Beyond four words, and you're getting too complex.

For example, if you're a recipe website and looking to rank for a buffalo chicken recipe. A good keyphrase may be "easy buffalo chicken recipes." Something like "easy buffalo chicken recipes in under 20 minutes" would be too long or complex of a keyphrase to target. 

However, as we said before, it depends. Some businesses or verticals may find that longer-tail keywords are garnering more amounts of traffic. That's why it's important to do your keyword research to determine if longer keyphrases may be necessary for your business or niche. 

What Are the Key Differences?

Keywords usually have considerably higher search volumes compared to key phrases. But on the other side of the equation, key phrases often drive more targeted and specific traffic to the website. The more keywords your keyphrase has, the more chances you have to receive exactly what you’ve been looking for and get it quickly.

For instance, it is tough for any search engine to understand what you mean by typing the keyword “digital,” and the chances are high that you’ll get irrelevant results.

At the same time, if you type “digital marketing companies,” the system will recognize you are looking for information about companies dealing with digital marketing and will provide you with relevant results containing additional information on this topic.

So, should you focus more on keywords or keyphrases or both when optimizing your project? Actually, it depends. Mainly it depends upon your business niche.

Let’s say you sell amber or provide information resources about amber. In this case, you would likely be most interested in getting good rankings for the keyword “amber.” And in this case, it makes sense. But what if you are a digital marketing agency? What is the point of trying to get higher rankings for the keywords “digital” or “marketing” separately? So it’s all about common sense.

When you're determining your keywords and keyphrases, you must be doing the right research to determine your needs. Keywords are important, but keyphrases could deliver you more converting traffic and capture the audience you need to be successful. A good SEO strategy ties in both keywords and keyphrases!

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Content strategist, SEO and writer. Enjoys monitoring SERP volatility. You can find me reading Tolkien in the far north of Norway.