What Are Keywords?

by Giles ThomasLast updated on January 12, 2024

Shopify SEO Course ↗️ > Unit 2 > Lesson 1 > What Are Keywords?

So what are keywords? Keywords are typically one or more specific terms that people will search for when looking for products or services. For example, someone who wants to buy toys for their pets may search for pet toysdog toyscat toystoys for petstoys for dogstoys for cats, etc.

Keywords can be defined in a multitude of ways, including the following.

  • Broad keywords are keywords that are less specific and cover a wider topic area. In the previous example, pet toys would be a broad keyword as it doesn’t specify the kind of pet or kind of toy. Broad keywords are generally harder to rank for in search engines based on competition. In the case of pet toys, you would be competing against well-known brands in the pet industry as well as almost every other pet supplies retailer.
  • Long tail keywords, on the other hand, are keywords that are more specific and cover a narrower topic area. Most of the keywords in the previous example are too broad to be considered long tail keywords, whereas a phrase like organic toys for large dogs would be a good example of a long tail keyword. At that stage, there is no doubt about the type of toy or type of dog you are targeting. An even better example would be chew toys for German Shepherds.

Keywords should also be chosen with regards to intent. People who search for specific keyword phrases typically have one of two intentions.

  • People with commercial intent search for keywords in order to make a purchase. For example, someone searching for best toys for Dachshunds is likely looking to buy the best toys for a Dachshund.
  • People with informational intent search for keywords to learn more about a topic, but not necessarily make a purchase. For example, someone searching for homemade toy ideas for small dogs is likely looking for information on how to make toys for a small dog at home. If you are a seller of pet toys, you wouldn’t want to optimize your online store’s product pages using informational intent keywords. That said, you could optimize content on your website (such as blog content) for informational intent keywords, assuming that you could use your informational content to lead readers to your store.

Another important thing to consider when doing keyword research is the competition for the keywords you are interested in targeting. While some keyword research tools will give you a rating (low – medium – high) or score to help you determine the competition level for particular keywords, the easiest way to see who you would be up against in search results is to simply search for those keywords in search engines and see who ranks on the first page for them.




Above, you can see that the competition for pet toys is strong. First, you are competing against Google Shopping Ad Campaigns, which allows advertisers to put their products right on the first page of search results. Next, you are competing against big brands like PetSmart. Chewy, Petco, and Amazon. While not necessarily impossible (depending on the time and money you have to devote to your search engine optimization strategy), outranking established brands like these using broad keywords will be extremely difficult. Thus, pet toys would be considered keywords with a medium to high level of competition.




Alternatively, if you look at the above example for organic dog toys, you can see that the major brands are no longer at the top of search results. And neither are the Google Shopping Ads, which in this example, are to the right of the search results. Less people may search for organic dog toys when compared to the search volume for pet toys. But thanks to the more specific keywords, you can almost guarantee the people who do search for organic dog toys have strong commercial intent for a specific type of product.

And while the websites that appear first in the above search results are still strong domains in terms of search authority, they do not have the high caliber authority that established brands would have. Hence, it would be easier to rank well on the first page of search results against these domains versus PetSmart. Chewy, Petco, and Amazon. Hence, organic dog toys would have a lower level of competition compared to pet toys.

The best part about more specific, long tail keyword phrases is that you can optimize specific and broad keywords simultaneously. For example, if you choose organic dog toys, you are optimizing for both the entire phrase, which is more specific, as well as dog toys, which is more broad. Ultimately, as you boost your rankings for specific keywords, you will be boosting your rankings for broad keywords. Hence, you would be working towards optimizing for both a lower level and higher level set of keywords.

Now that you have a little more insight into the specifics of keywords, let’s look at the process of keyword research using a few freely available tools. Be sure to have a blank document or (better) spreadsheet ready to record the keyword ideas you come across.

Your Keyword Research Spreadsheet

The first thing you will want to do before diving into keyword research is create a keyword research spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will ultimately house the best keyword ideas for your website and more, if you choose. You can create your keyword research spreadsheet using Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or similar tools.

You will start off your spreadsheet with a few simple columns. Each will be filled in through the use of the keyword research tactics that follow this section.


This spreadsheet will allow you to eventually sort your keywords in a variety of ways based on how you discovered them, popularity, ability to rank for them, and more. Once you have this setup, you can embark upon the following keyword research tactics.

Here is a link to a Google Sheet template we made, you can simply click ‘File’ and ‘Make a Copy’ and the template will be copied to your Google Drive root folder where you can edit it and save it for later.