One of the biggest challenges in digital marketing is learning the nuances of the industry, including the large set of terminology. A common problem, even among experienced advertisers, is using the terms “keyword” and “search query” interchangeably. Both are critical components of communication, and are closely related, but have different meanings.
In marketing and public relations, both concepts are used interchangeably, without malicious intent, but it is necessary to clarify how they differ. Because not understanding the distance between a query and a keyword can lead to underperforming strategies.
Let’s start with the definition: Search queries are what people do on their own initiative. When you ask Siri something (a query) or type a text into Google and press “search”, that is known as a search query.
The term search query only refers to the literal text used to initiate a query. While the information that a user seeks to retrieve is known as search intent. Intents can be broken down into how specific the seeker is and how comprehensive it is.
For their part, keywords or keywords are the basis of search campaigns. They are those words or phrases on which you build a search, whether paid or an organic campaign; are the exact term or phrases you want your website to appear on Google.
The difference between keywords and search queries has to do with whether or not you’re talking about user action or seller action. Users don’t know the keywords and they don’t care. They just want an answer to their query. While we marketers care a lot about search queries.
Understanding what our audience is typing into a search engine and how it relates to content and messaging is essential to creating marketing campaigns that deliver results. This is where understanding user intent comes into play.
Users search for the same content in multiple ways. The exact word order may differ, or the user may add a modifier to their query, but in general, Google will understand the intended meaning of the keyword to be the same.
Now, search queries and keywords can be used interchangeably. But keep in mind that the difference between search and keywords have the power to change the way you think about a marketing strategy.
Ranking at the top of Google for the right keyword can mean a lot of money. Keywords are what marketers and advertisers identify as critical to your business, and therefore use them to define your overall strategy.
Users often don’t know what keywords are or what specific keywords brands are targeting. They simply type words into the search box hoping to find information about a product or service of interest.
Rather, marketers use search terms and queries to help integrate their keywords. It would be impossible to target all the queries that users type into search engines. Therefore, marketers try to make sense of them and strategize on them to define the keywords that best fit what potential customers are asking for.
Knowing the difference and relationship between Google Ads keywords and search terms, there are multiple ways the information can be used to improve a campaign. Google itself offers tools, free and paid, for analysis and efficiencies.
The difference between keywords and search terms is subtle but essential. Knowing how to distinguish between the two, and how to use each other, will increase your chances of effectively connecting with the most relevant target audience.