October 31, 2019 By Darling Jimenez

What's the Difference Between a Keyword and a Key Phrase?


At Leading Results, we will get asked why we nearly always use the term 'key phrase' instead of keyword.

At one point in time, keywords were good enough to get the rankings on Google you were looking for, assuming you were willing to pay someone enough to create the right number and types of links.

Today, almost all of the easy-to-rank-for keywords are taken - That's the bad news.

Most people are learning how to use Google better - That's the great news!

As more people are 'trained' to use Google with more depth, using more key phrases, we can optimize for billions of new combinations of words - which are better described as key phrases.

The following Venn Diagram is designed to illustrate the difference between keywords and key phrases.

Key Phrases and Key-words Venn Diagram
Key phrases and keywords Venn diagram

Notes and explanations:

This concept originally came up with a discussion of how each blog should be tagged. There are many key phrases that aren't worth any investment to optimize for but that you still might want to track in case opportunities emerge later.


There are things that you will want to tag that aren't phrases you want to specifically optimize for - these tags are mostly for curation, so that people can find specific posts later.


These are single word key phrases that matter. Sometimes single words are worth tracking and optimizing for. (Sometimes, but not so much anymore.)

What you should be optimizing for: 

(Usually) key phrases that have a relatively low difficulty (as determined by HubSpot or Moz) and at least a measurable amount of search volume. These posts are based on and around key phrases that you have a reasonable chance of ranking for. 

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Read our related post - The Problem with Keywords is They Often Reveal a Problem

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About Author

Darling Jimenez

Darling Jimenez is a passionate graphic and web designer committed to delivering on time products that can generate leads and provide a friendly user experience. With more than 5 years of experience, she loves to stay on top of the latest design and marketing trends.

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