It’s a question that was born with the advent of the internet – how do people find my website? – but the detail of the answer changes as algorithms do. Part of the answer lies in keywords. The cornerstone of web content, knowing your keywords is essential for improving website visibility. But how do you know what they are?
Identifying high volume appropriate keywords should be a step you take before you start writing webpage content for your website. Keywords shouldn’t dictate your content but inform it.
It’s easy to get caught up in page content being keyword-rich but if it looks and feels too contrived, it’ll put off people – and search engines.
Keywords are the pointers in content that show search engines how well your website matches the queries of users.
Relevant and easily searchable, search engines like Google use keywords as initial signposts about your website, what it’s about, what you do and so forth. Understanding what your keywords are will, in part, improve visibility but that means finding out what they are and understanding how to use them to optimal effect.
What is keyword research?
SEO agencies perform keyword research as part of their services to clients, but it is possible to take a cursory look for yourself. With a keyword research tool, like ahrefs or moz you’ll get a lot more additional information such as the average trend of the keyword in question (are people using it more or less in recent months?) as well as how competitive it is to rank for that word or phrase.
Keywords are also part and parcel of paid ads on the web too, and so if you want to rank for a popular keyword, this kind of tool will also give you the average cost per click too.
Short tail keywords vs. long-tail keywords
The importance of getting the right keywords can’t be emphasised enough. Your content needs to be ‘in tune’ with what your customers are looking for. Even the slightest mismatch means your website isn’t performing as well as it could.
There is a lot more to keywords than a jumble of letters, however. You’ll need to understand short tail keywords and long tail keywords.
Short tail keywords tend to be the very simplest of phrases that someone would use to find information or products on the web. Searching for ‘black shoes’, for example, yields 5,680,000,000 results.
Clearly a competitive keyword, those that rank on page one is high-end, well-known brands. For smaller shoe sellers to get in on the act, using variations of ‘black shoes’ could improve their ranking.
In other words, converting ‘black shoes’ into a long tail keyword could mean a better ranking result, such as ‘women’s black shoes’, ‘black shoes for work’, ‘lace-up black shoes for women’ or ‘steel toe-capped black shoes’.
Long tail keywords are ideal for ranking for words and phrases that in their short version, are very competitive. For example, ranking for ‘black shoes’ would be nigh on impossible. Using alternative, longer phrases such as ‘the best women’s black shoes’ will pay off in the long run. And there is notable success in relying on long tail keywords. For example, 57% of sales at Amazon are directly attributed to longer keyword phrases.
The good news is, that keyword research is not difficult to understand with the lightest of touches improving your website visibility.
Deciding on your keywords
Finding the keywords that you want to rank for is a straightforward process:
Step 1 – Study your niche
As part of your business set-up, you may have taken a deep dive into who your customers are, their behaviours, what they want and so on. In effect, this is a similar process but from your customers’ point of view, when they search for products or services like yours, what questions will they ask and what phrases or words will they use?
Step 2 – Defining your brand’s mission
Who are you? What is your brand all about? What is your website about – is it e-commerce for example, or a mix between this and giving the information people need to make a decision?
Knowing the function of your website will help define thinking when it comes to keyword research, marrying what your customers want with what you offer. With a clear vision, you have a better understanding of the keywords you need to be using.
Step 3 – List the topics
Your website may be in the field of men’s toiletries, a large industry that has many facets to it, and so you need to list out the ‘topic buckets’ to your business. You may sell a range of organic, hypoallergenic men’s shower gel, for example, but not stock deodorant.
Make a list of your topics or products, and then break these down further so you have the detail of what you offer customers.
Step 4 – Define your ‘seed’ words
These are the words that are used naturally to describe or highlight what you do. These are the words that your customers are highly likely to use when searching for your products or services online.
Staying with the example of men’s toiletries, for example, customers might look for ‘men’s shower gel for sensitive skin’ or ‘fragrance-free men’s shower gel’ etc.
Step 5 – Use a keyword research tool or service
There are two camps when it comes to using keyword research tools – some say you don’t need to and others highlight how much easier and simpler they make the process.
One key benefit using such a tool is that it stops you getting bogged down in a mire of keyword research that isn’t really telling you anything. You’ll also get a lot more information when you use a keyword research tool:
- Related keywords – as well as giving you information on specific keywords, you’ll also have suggestions for similar, relatable phrases. These are great for varying copy.
- Questions – some tools will also list the most commonly asked questions that relate to the keyword being researched.
- Prepositions – a preposition is used to connect words such as ‘café with cats’, the word ‘with’ is a preposition. They are part of long tail keywords and although your website won’t rank for the word ‘with’, search engines will recognise it as being part of a phrase that is valuable.
Step 6 – Understanding search intent
At one time, in the early days of the web, pumping in high value keywords into website content was enough to capture traffic to your site. Today, there is a little more sophistication to it.
Understanding search intent is also a key component of keyword research. Why are people searching the web using a specific term? Are they seeking information or a product to solve a problem? Are they searching for a specific website or are they intent on buying something?
Step 7 – Check out your competitors
Now you’ve done all the hard work for your website, taking a peek at what your biggest competitors are ranking for is certainly a job worth doing. This isn’t about copying what they are doing, but understanding the strategy they are taking and how well it is working for them. Again, you can use a keyword research tool that gives you this information.
What do you do with all this information?
With keyword analysis at your fingertips, you are in a position to craft better content, but it needs to serve two masters – your users or customers and search engine algorithms.
Keywords are just one aspect of SEO. Like other strands of optimising your site, they never stand still either. The words and phrases people were using a few years ago to search for products and services like yours will be different today.
It is possible to make gains in ranking quickly when you use high value keywords, especially when you link them to paid ads. But identifying keywords and using them throughout your website is part of a long term SEO strategy too, so that when combined with backlinks and other optimising tools, your actions will make a real difference to your website ranking.
As society changes, our needs change and that means that products we would never have bought five years ago now top the list.
Keeping up with the fluidity is key to optimising your site, keywords included. But some ‘do’s and don’ts’ of keywords stay the same.
Overstuffing content with one particular keyword is never a good thing. It looks and feels lumpy and awkward thus search engines will mark it down as not being trustworthy or authoritative. But you can overstuff a piece of content without realising it, which is why long tail keywords and alternative phrases are important too.
Perhaps the most important lesson that remains true to this day is to always craft content for people, for your audience and customers.
Consider what problems you can solve with a blog post or within the paragraphs of your web page, craft them with those all-important keywords in mind, and you should see a difference in your rankings.
Author Bio: Joe Dawson, Director of Creative.onl
Joe has a passion for creating meaningful experiences. Through design he creates authentic and innovative digital products.
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