A story about the meaning and importance of keywords in search engine optimization (aka SEO) and how small businesses can effectively search for keywords that ensure visibility.
In Search engine optimization for small business, we looked at how small businesses can use SEO to improve organic search engine results and increase the quantity and quality of website traffic. We covered some SEO basics – including keywords.
With so much power vested in keywords, and the mystery surrounding their origins, we decided to delve deeper. Here we define keywords and their importance, discover the long-tail keyword, and explore the art of the keyword search.
What are keywords?
Keywords are words and phrases that describe your content. They are the words that people use when searching online. If you include relevant keywords to your website and content, there's an increased chance the right people will find it.
Why are keywords important for SEO?
Keywords optimize your content and connect you with your target audience by helping them find what they're looking for on your website. They ensure that you rank high on search engines and help drive organic traffic to your site via Search engine result pages (more fondly known as SERPs).
Keywords are more about your audience and less about you. You must understand your target audience to identify the words and phrases they might search to find your product or service.
SEO keywords can inform:
Your site architecture – i.e., how web pages are structured and how they link
Your product and category pages
Your content plan and content (from blogs to videos)
How you optimize landing pages.
The long-tail keyword
Keywords have evolved; one step in that evolution is the introduction of the long-tail keyword. While the name denotes a longer and more descriptive keyword – usually, it's three words-plus – it's a little more complicated than that.
What is a long-tail keyword?
Long-tail keywords are phrases that are very specific to what you are selling. They work on the assumption that when a customer uses a particular search phrase, they are looking for something specific and are therefore more likely to buy it. A long-tail search term might be 'buy black high-waisted sports leggings for running', while 'sports leggings' is an example of a short-tail keyword.
Marketers are increasingly focused on the long-tail keyword because — while they generate less search traffic — they have a higher conversion rate because they’re more specific.
Here are a few more reasons:
More personal searches
People are increasingly using search engines like advisors. As consumers, we want answers that meet our individual needs; how we search reflects this, and we've made it more personal.
Better click-through rate
Using more specific and precise keywords in your content and metadata means that you can target more precisely, attract the right searchers, and get them to click through to your site.
While most keyword research looks to secure quantity of searches – to boost impressions from search results – long-tail keywords go for quality. Quality search leads are especially useful for small businesses because the more niche the search, the lower the competition.
Voice search capability
From Siri and Alexa to Cortana and Google Assistant, voice-activated devices have changed how people search. When verbally asking the internet, 'When did the movie Cool Runnings release?', we pose a proper question. That's rather than typing 'Cool Runnings' and letting the internet do the rest. (The answer is 1993).
Finding the right keywords
Keyword research means finding and analyzing search terms that people use. What you learn through this process can inform your content strategy – and even your broader marketing strategy. To help you on your way, here are some useful tips:
Kick-off with a brainstorm
Take an introspective look at your business and target audience and create a list of topics you want to rank for on search engine results pages (SERPs). These topics will be relevant to your business and should resonate with your audience.
Reinforce your starting point
Do an audit. Identify which keywords you already rank highly. Google Search Console can help you to do this. Check out the performance section to see which keywords you rank for in organic search results.
Use a keyword research tool
Consider research tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer or SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool. They help you find keyword ideas, analyze their ranking, and calculate their potential traffic. When on the hunt for the right keyword tool for your business, keep an eye out for the following functions:
search volume trend
Google's Keyword Planner
An essential resource for any keyword research, Google Keyword Planner draws data from Google itself – the keeper of all knowledge. The tool requires you to have a Google Ads account – but you don't need to run ads. Use Google Keyword Planner to get a search volume range, see how many impressions a keyword might get, and much more.
Tier your keyword strategy
Start with seed keywords. These are primary keywords that are usually one or two words and have not been qualified by a modifier. For example, sports leggings.
With your seed keywords in the bag, you can graduate to long-tail keywords to catch those searchers later in the conversion cycle. These are the people who know what they want and are closer to conversion – your 'buy black high-waisted sports leggings for running' searchers.
Don't forget head terms – a popular keyword that drives high search volume. These are competitive when it comes to ranking but can help to boost your SERPs status.
Harness the power of suggestion
With your topics and keywords sorted, it's time to get creative and source some related search terms. Google search is one way to do this; open your browser, type in your keyword, and see what related searches it suggests. You're essentially tapping into Google intelligence, leveraging its data.
If you run an eCommerce store, consider jumping on Amazon and using the platform's search function. It's easy and effective.
Google knows best
Google does know best, so follow Google Trends. This is a site filled with beautiful data applicable to so many areas of your business. For keyword searches, it goes beyond providing a keyword ranking – it shows you how that keyword has ranked over time.
Some healthy competition
Keywords aren't beyond some healthy competitor analysis. SEO tools such as Moz Pro allow you to reverse engineer your competitor's keywords so you know what works for them.
BuzzSumo can also help you find effective keywords. This tool evaluates a competitor's site and finds the content that performs best –from which you might spot some active keywords.
Good luck in your SEO journey. Armed with these guidelines, you’ll be a keyword wizard in no time.