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The most important words on the web page which are relevant to the context and are repeated a few times are called as keywords in terms of search engine optimization or with reference to search engines.
What are keywords according to the search engines or Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Say for example, there is a web page like this. A web page is comprised of hundreds or thousands of words generally. The words are anything like 'web', 'page', 'words', 'is', 'of', 'thousands' and so on.
Now what the search engines generally do is first remove all the common words like 'is', 'of', 'are' and so on. These are words used to complete a sentence so are not keywords. Then considering the rest, the words which are repeated more number of times on the web page are considered as keywords. They could be single words or even a group of words.
Example on this web page, the word 'keywords' has been used many number of times, hence it is relatively more obvious to be a keyword. Plus there are also a combination of words like 'search engines' and 'Search Engine Optimization' which are used many times bound to be a keyword in terms reference to search engines and SEO.
In addition to this, the search engines also consider the other aspects of a webpage while making it a keyword and the most important amongst those are the meta tags of the web page. The title tag and description meta tag are one of the most important amongst them.
Also there is a special meta tag which itself is dedicated to specify the keywords of the page manually by the web page designer.