What is the difference between a keyword and a keyphrase?

You’ve probably heard that doing keyword research is an essential, first step in optimizing your website properly. But how about these keywords: can they only be single words or can they also be longer multi-word keyphrases? And what exactly is the difference between the two? In this SEO basics post, we’ll explain the difference between a keyword and a keyphrase.

What is a keyword?

Keyphrase versus long tail keyword
You’ve probably also heard of long tail keywords and that these are more specific than focus keywords. Most of the time – but not necessarily – they consist of more words. You might wonder what the difference is between long tail keywords and keyphrases? Keyphrases by definition exist of more than one word and they can be either general or specific. Long tail keywords may consist of more words, but they do not always. The main difference between the two is that keyphrases can be general or specific, e.g. [puppy training] or [puppy training for deaf dogs] whilst long tail keywords are always more specific [puppy training location in LA].

A (focus) keyword is a word that describes the content of your page or post best. It’s the search term that you want to rank for with a certain page. So when people search for that keyword in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.

E.g. Your website is about dogs, and you’ve just written a blog post all about puppies. The keyword that describes the content of that post best is probably: “puppy”.

What is a keyphrase?

A (focus) keyphrase is the search term that you most want your post or page to rank for, so when people search for that keyphrase, they should find you.

E.g. Your website is all about dogs, and you’ve just written a blog post all about how puppies can become obedient. The keyphrase that describes the content of the post best is something along the lines of: “puppy obedience training”

What are the differences?

Keywords or keyphrases should both describe the essence of what the post is about. The difference between the two is that keywords are single words, while keyphrases are made up of a few words.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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7 Responses to What is the difference between a keyword and a keyphrase?

  1. Gnanadev
    Gnanadev  • 1 month ago

    a very good article. But I have one doubt. I hope someone will comment and clear my doubts. When we use a long tail keyword in the description or page title or anywhere, and someone is searching related to that particular keyword, per example my keyword is best holiday tour packages and a user is searching for holiday tour packages, then will my keyword get traction? I mean will it visible in SERP?

  2. sowmyasri129
    sowmyasri129  • 2 months ago

    It’s a very clear explanation about keyword and Keyphrase, thanks for the helpful content…

  3. Mark
    Mark  • 2 months ago

    Aren’t Long Tailed Keywords the same thing and the more accepted term?

    • Hanneke
      Hanneke  • 2 months ago

      Not necessarily, in the sidenote of the article, you can find information on the difference between long tail keywords and a keyprhase.

      Hanneke – Yoast

  4. Cj Austintown
    Cj Austintown  • 2 months ago

    I love this post. it is very helpful.

  5. Paty
    Paty  • 2 months ago

    How to define key woi or key phrase from a DJ post that includes various and diverse music genres?

  6. sumit
    sumit  • 2 months ago

    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.
    So a key phrase means a set of separate words that build a phrase (so it’s a multi-word search term). If it is really necessary to distinguish between a single word and a phrase, these terms are used in their initial strict meaning.