If you’ve spent more than five minutes learning search engine optimization, you’ve probably seen some mention of keywords.
On the surface, the concept is simple.
Keywords are the words you add to your website that match up to the words a user types into the search bar.
Sounds easy enough, right?
The truth is that you might not know all the little nuances and tricks that make using keywords a good idea for an overall digital marketing strategy.
Or the reason choosing specific ones can make such a big difference in organic traffic.
To help you get to the bottom of the concept (and top of the SERPs), we’ve created this guide on keywords and why you need them as part of your SEO strategy.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
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What Are Keywords?
Simply put, keywords are the individual words and phrases typed into the search bar when someone uses a tool like Google or Bing.
Likewise, they’re also the words you add to your website to ensure search engines know what a specific page is about.
Some digital marketers actually describe it as the summary of your overall page or the words and phrases you might use if you had to boil down the entire topic into just a few basic terms.
Why is this done?
Choosing the right keywords to describe your page makes it easier for someone to find your website and gain the information they’re looking for.
However, it is important to remember that a keyword isn’t necessarily just one word. In fact, it can be a string of words or an entire phrase.
In some instances, a keyword is even a full question. This can be a handy focus strategy, as it usually matches what people are typing into the search bar directly.
While keywords are certainly a crucial aspect of SEO, it is also important to remember that they directly relate to your audience and the information they’re searching for.
Why Do Keywords Matter?
Keywords matter for numerous reasons, but the biggest is that they help match specific websites up with people looking for information.
From an SEO perspective, keywords are what tell Google and Bing to add your page to a list of sites about a certain topic.
But, looking at the process from an audience standpoint, using appropriate keywords is a surefire way to drill down and help individuals find exactly what they are looking for.
After all, choosing narrow keywords for your page instead of broad topics can often provide answers that they might not be able to find anywhere else.
Using Keywords to Differentiate Between Two Topics
In addition to helping someone understand what a web page is about, keywords also act as a method for differentiating content when two topics sound the same.
For example, let’s say the primary keyword you’re targeting is the term clubs.
Using additional keywords about golf and putting would give users a different result than if you were talking about dancing and nightlife.
This is a prime example of why the keywords you choose to add to your content really do matter.
How Do Keywords Help You Get to the Best Positions on SERPs?
When it comes to getting the best positions on SERPs, keywords play an incredibly important part.
Remember, a keyword is the words or phrases someone types into the search bar when they’re looking for information about a particular topic.
To get a search engine to add you to the results, you have to use keywords to show you’re offering information on a particular subject.
Otherwise, you won’t get listed for that topic.
Without keywords, it’s kind of like throwing a party at your home and not sending out any invitations or telling anyone what’s going on.
They can’t find you if they don’t know about it, right?
By doing effective keyword research ahead of time, you’re telling the world to check out your content about a specific topic.
Then, you simply start adding the keywords to content pages where they make the most sense.
Try not to overdo it, though. Most search engines frown upon those that stuff content full of unnecessary keywords.
Instead, keep your sentence structure conversational while still working in those pertinent phrases in a natural way.
Types of Keywords
While the process of using keywords is actually pretty simple, there are ways digital marketers narrow them down into specific groups to differentiate types of content.
The reason this is done is to help complement the type of content you’re adding to a specific webpage.
By choosing the right type of keywords, you can ensure the ideal audience is viewing the page and that you’re showing up in the right SERPs.
Typically, short keywords are about very broad terms. By broad, we mean something like tacos or dogs.
If you were to use either of those terms to try to rank your content, it would likely be very difficult as the search results are just too numerous to compete.
However, if you have a very specific niche without a lot of competition, you can often find ways to use short keywords to your advantage.
In contrast, long-tail keywords are much more specific in their nature, which makes it easier to match the topic up to user intent.
They’re also — as the name implies — longer than just one or two words.
As an example, something like green chili chicken tacos recipe or red running shoes would all be considered long-tail keywords.
See how it works?
More adjectives and descriptive phrases narrow down the search process and make it easier for your audience to find exactly what they are looking for.
Another type of keyword that digital marketers use is questions.
Often, this is a great strategy if the product or service you offer solves a problem or relates to educating others in some way.
Let’s look at how this would work.
Pretend for a moment that you own a company that sells a special type of ghost pepper chili sauce.
If you were trying to get the recipe section of your website to rank better organically, then you might use a keyword question like how do you make spicy cocktails using hot sauce?
The good part about targeting keywords in the form of a question is that you’re also getting additional short and long-tail keywords in the actual question itself.
For this example, that would be spicy cocktails and cocktails using hot sauce.
Educational content is always an excellent strategy to improve SERP position, especially if you’re including questions that people are searching for.
Depending on your niche, you might consider creating a content marketing strategy that includes seasonal keywords.
These are phrases that aren’t always popular for traffic throughout the whole year, but they can give you a boost of visitors during certain holidays or months.
Things like Christmas decorating ideas and Halloween costumes for dogs would be prime examples.
Strategies utilizing seasonal keywords are a good idea, as they do give you a solid ranking around the same time each year.
Unlike seasonal keywords, evergreen ones are those that never really change in terms of search traffic patterns.
They might be specific to your niche, such as a discussion about how to use a particular item or the best way to accomplish a task.
A good rule of thumb is to always add some sort of evergreen topic to your website, then updating it as new information comes out.
By using these keywords in your overall strategy, you can help ensure a solid position in the SERPs throughout the whole year.
Another option when it comes to using keywords in your marketing strategies is branded keywords.
These use your company name or the brand of the product you’re selling.
Adidas shoes, John Deere tractors, and Ford trucks are all examples of branded keywords.
In some cases, it can actually be easier for your pages to rank if this is a brand that is super specific to your niche and there isn’t a lot of competition for that particular phrase.
For B2B content marketing, branded keywords are also an excellent idea if your product or service relates to a specific type of industry.
When thinking about your overall content marketing strategy, it is important to remember that your audience is constantly working to narrow down what they’re looking for.
Customer-defining keywords make this happen.
As an example, something like pink shoes for children or workout wear for women would be considered as customer-defining keywords.
The long-tail phrases themselves include terms that relate to actual audience segmentation.
If you’re in eCommerce or your content relates to a specific buyer persona, using these keywords is important to ensure you’re getting the right traffic.
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Similar to customer-defining keywords, geo-targeted keywords relate to a specific location.
Pizza in Chicago or landscape companies near me all point to businesses within a defined geographical area.
For brick-and-mortar companies, using these keywords is an important way to ensure customers in your local community are able to find your website.
Many times, digital agencies refer to the use of geo-targeted keywords as local search marketing.
Finally, there are negative keywords.
These only really apply if you’re using Google AdWords for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, as the platform allows you to select specific terms to avoid showing paid ads for.
Negative keywords are essentially the phrases you don’t want to show up relating to your website.
They aren’t ones you would include on your website or in your content. Rather, they’re just good to be aware of so that you can keep from wasting ad spend on your PPC ads showing up for unrelated topics.
Need an example?
Let’s say you sell furniture pieces. You wouldn’t want people looking for video game consoles to land on your website when all you’re offering is console tables, right?
This would be an example of a negative keyword situation.
How to Find Keywords (and How to Choose the Best Ones)
Finding the right keywords for your content marketing isn’t as difficult as you might expect.
In fact, the process is usually very simple.
Step One: Think About Your Audience
Before you can start finding keywords, you need to think about the people who are eventually going to see your content.
- How do they normally look for information?
- What topics are they most interested in?
- How does your product or service make their daily lives easier or fulfill a need?
Once you have a good idea, you can jot down a few topics to start researching.
Step Two: Use Google Keyword Planner
The next part of the process involves using Google Keyword Planner.
While there are tons of great tools out there for doing keyword research, this is usually the first place most people start when looking for information about the viability of using a specific keyword.
Type in a few topics or keywords to come up with ideas for your own lists. Look for ones that have a low or moderate competition level and a fairly high amount of search volume.
If your topic is ultra-specific or niche, you might also consider those with a lower volume. This really depends on the topic and your industry.
Once you’ve compiled a few dozen to a few hundred keywords, you can move on to the next step.
Step Three: Create Topic Clusters & Write Content
Finally, you’ll want to take your keywords and create topic clusters surrounding the ideas that make the most sense paired together.
Usually, you want one to two focus keywords per page and five to seven other keywords.
However, the more words you’re adding to a piece of content, the more keywords you can select.
Once this is done, you’re ready to write and publish your content.
Wrap Up: Using Keywords in Your Digital Marketing Strategy
If you’re wondering what are keywords, we hope this guide has made it easier to understand.
Now that you know the importance of using them in your digital marketing strategies, we would love to help you learn about other ways to improve your SEO ranking.
Our guide on search engine optimization offers plenty of tips, tricks, and more.