Search Terms – Definition

Cite this article as:"Search Terms – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated April 25, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,


Search Terms Definition

Oftentimes, web users launch queries on search engines, they seek relevant information, website contents, news articles, images, maps and other snippets relevant to their topic of search. A search query can only be initiated using a search term. A search term refers to a word or a strong of words that a web user types in a search engine to get appropriate results. A search term is also called a keyword. While people use search terms to get relevant information displayed on search engine result pages, marketers also use keywords to make their website visible and have a top rank on search engines.

A Little More on What is Search Terms

Basically, the results you will get on a search engine depends on the search terms or keywords you use. This means using inappropriate words that are unrelated to your topic of search can result in getting irrelevant results. A keyword is crucial as this helps search engines to use algorithms to filter pages and websites to get the relevant information a user needs.

Also, search terms can generate both organic results and sponsored results. At times, when you enter a search term and advertisements are displayed on your SERP, these are called sponsored results or pay-per-click system in which search engines get paid by advertisers.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Every website’s aim is to enhance their visibility and have a wider reach on the digital phase. One of the strategies that websites and businesses use to boost their performance and visibility is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  This is a technique used by businesses to increase their number of visitors and maximise their ranking on search engines.

SEO is an unpaid search marketing through which businesses and websites have a high-ranking through the use of unique search terms and keywords. Websites are arranged on search engines in accordance to their levels of quality, their reputation and informative contents. SEO is a vital tool that marketers use to enhance their reputation and visibility through the use of unique search terms.

References for Search Terms

Academic Research on Search Terms

Refining search terms for nanotechnology, Porter, A. L., Youtie, J., Shapira, P., & Schoeneck, D. J. (2008). Journal of nanoparticle research, 10(5), 715-728.

The selection of good search terms, Van Rijsbergen, C. J., Harper, D. J., & Porter, M. F. (1981). Information Processing & Management, 17(2), 77-91.

Experiments in relevance weighting of search terms, Jones, K. S. (1979). Information Processing & Management, 15(3), 133-144.

Interaction in information retrieval: selection and effectiveness of search terms, Spink, A., & Saracevic, T. (1997). Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(8), 741-761.

Consistency in the selection of search concepts and search terms, Iivonen, M. (1995). Information Processing & Management, 31(2), 173-190.

System meets user: Problems in matching subject search terms, Bates, M. J. (1977).Information Processing & Management, 13(6), 367-375.

Categorical and Specificity Differences between User-Supplied Tags and Search Query Terms for Images. An Analysis of, Chung, E., & Yoon, J. (2009). An Analysis of. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal, 14(3), n3.

Do search terms matter for online consumers? The interplay between search engine query specification and topical organization, Kumar, N., & Lang, K. R. (2007). Decision Support Systems, 44(1), 159-174.

Selection of search terms based on user profile, Bhatia, S. K. (1992, April). In Proceedings of the 1992 ACM/SIGAPP Symposium on Applied computing: technological challenges of the 1990’s (pp. 224-233). ACM.

A general classification of (search) queries and terms, Schmidt-Maenz, N., & Koch, M. (2006, April). In null (pp. 375-381). IEEE.

Sources and Use of Search Terms in Online Searching., Spink, A., & Saracevic, T. (1992). In Proceedings of the ASIS Annual Meeting (Vol. 29, pp. 249-55).

A model search engine based on cluster analysis of user search terms, Nowick, E. M., Eskridge, K. M., Travnicek, D. A., Chen, X., & Li, J. (2005).

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