What is a keyword? It’s an important question for anyone looking to do business either as a strictly e-commerce site or as a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
Nowadays, consumers search online using specific keywords to find information on the products and services they are looking for. Nowadays, choosing keywords for SEO is one of the most important functions for any business.
Business owners looking for improved website traffic should have a good understanding of what keywords are, how they work and how best to use them.
If you want to succeed in the digital world, your keyword strategy must be on point.
Keyword research lays the foundation for the success of any search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) digital marketing campaign. Matching site content to the specific words and phrases users search empowers brands to drive qualified visitors instead of hoping people stumble onto their sites.
Yet many businesses big and small fail to dedicate enough attention to researching and prioritizing the terms that matter most to their customers and products. This guide will explore best practices around leveraging keywords to unlock organic and paid search growth.
Readers will learn:
- The differentiation between short-tail and long-tail keywords and when to focus on each
- The proven methodology behind mapping keywords to site content structure
- Tools to analyze keyword search volume and difficulty data to inform priorities
- Key benchmark metrics around rankings, click-through rate, and conversions to optimize
Whether looking to better understand past search query data or find untapped opportunities in future keyword demand, the knowledge in this guide will establish the data foundation to connect with customers.
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Table of Contents
What Is A Keyword?
Keywords are words or phrases that internet searchers enter on search engines like Google to search for information on certain topics. These searches are called search queries.
These can then be used to inform the content that you publish on your site.
Keywords should appear prominently on your website and should also be embedded in the website’s metadata.
When searching for a proper keyword the question should be asked “what search term do you want people to find you for?”
Another good question to ask when looking for a keyword is “which words do you think would be used to search for information on you or on your product?”
Finally, it can be asked, “what do you think your search page will look like and which search results will be listed first?”
How do Keywords Work?
Keywords drive traffic to your website from what are known as Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).
These are the pages that result from a search with a specific keyword.
To rank highly on SERPS, proper keywords need to be selected that reflect an understanding of what the visitors to your site are specifically looking for.
In fact, almost all web sessions begin with a keyword search:
Also important in picking keywords is determining what language your clients are most likely to use and what type of keyword-specific content is most important to them.
In addition, when writing content, it is never a good idea to keyword “stuff.”
Keywords should ideally be distributed throughout your entire post and should only make up 1 to 2% of the posting.
The keywords should also appear in the title and several sub-headings and in the meta description.
What are Meta Keywords?
Meta keywords are a specific type of what are known as “meta tags”.
These “meta tags” appear in the HTML code of web pages. They are keywords separated by commas.
Meta keywords describe the context of the webpage in short one or two word fragments.
These short sentence fragments help to cue search engines to the web page topic.
Although some experts consider meta keywords to be obsolete, other experts insist that meta keywords are still used by search engines and so are important in SEO.
Strategy Behind Keyword Usage
- Matching site content to terms users search helps pages rank higher in search engines
- Optimizing content for searcher intent and meaning drives organic traffic
- Focusing on multiple specific long tail variations improves volume/conversions
- Grouping keywords and mapping them to topics and FAQs guides site structure
Examples – Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords
Short Tail Keywords:
- Higher traffic potential but much more competitive
- Examples: Marketing, software, business consulting
- Broad – Can be difficult to rank for short head keywords
Long Tail Keywords:
- Very specific multi-word phrases with less competition
- Examples: B2B content marketing guide, cloud-based accounting software for startups, business productivity consultants
- Easier to rank for long tail – Converts highly targeted visitors
What are Long Tail Keywords?
Long tail keywords are specific combinations of several terms or keywords that are usually 3 to 4 long.
These keywords can reduce competition from other sources, are more specific to your product and have a more defined intent.
Keyword Mapping to Topics and User Intent
- Analyze search queries to group keywords by common themes and subjects
- These groups reflect topics users show interest in
- Mapping keywords signals site content needs around each topic area
For Examples: “content creation software” “video editing tools” “creative design platforms”
All groups to creative software topic
- Also classify keywords by user intent
- Informational – researching/learning about something
- Transactional – wanting to complete a purchase
- Navigational – looking for a specific site
Matching content to intent drives conversions
Keyword Volume Differences & Impact
- Keyword research tools provide search volume data – number of queries per month
- Can identify and compare traffic potential for any target keywords
“email marketing” – 50,000 searches per month (High volume head term)
“small business email marketing automation tools” – 320 searches per month (Lower volume long-tail)
- Priority terms based on volume and level of focus depends on campaign goals and size of site
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research refers to the process of determining the very best keywords which represent what your clients are looking for and what best describes your product.
This process usually begins with finding very basic or “seed” keywords and then determining your proper niche, or where your business is unique and different from your competitors.
Once you determine your niche, you can then hone down and find longer and more appropriate short strings of keywords.
A good way to begin is to put your seed keyword into a Google search.
Then determine what word ranks on the top of the Google Search Engine Page.
Now take this word and plug it into different available sites such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer to get a list of the best keywords for your niche.
For additional fees, some of these sites will give you a search volume which determines the overall demand for a given keyword.
Real-World Case Studies
Real-world case studies provide concrete examples of how keyword optimization has been successfully implemented in various industries and contexts, demonstrating its effectiveness in achieving specific marketing goals. These case studies serve as valuable learning tools for readers, allowing them to visualize the practical application of keyword strategies and their impact on real-world businesses and organizations.
Showcase Successful Applications
To effectively showcase real-world case studies, consider the following elements:
- Industry Diversity: Select case studies from diverse industries to illustrate the applicability of keyword strategies across a wide range of businesses and organizations.
- Quantifiable Results: Highlight quantifiable results achieved through keyword optimization, such as increased website traffic, improved search rankings, enhanced conversion rates, or boosted sales figures.
- Actionable Insights: Provide insights into the specific keyword strategies employed in each case study, allowing readers to understand the process and replicate successful tactics.
- Visual Storytelling: Utilize visuals, such as charts, graphs, or infographics, to effectively communicate the impact of keyword optimization in each case study.
Keyword Optimization Strategies
Keyword optimization strategies encompass the practical techniques used to incorporate relevant keywords into website content, meta descriptions, title tags, and other elements to enhance search engine visibility and attract targeted traffic.
Keyword Research Step-by-Step Tutorials
Provide step-by-step tutorials for essential keyword optimization strategies, making them accessible and easy to follow for readers of all levels of expertise. These tutorials should include:
- Keyword Research: Explain the process of identifying relevant keywords based on search volume, competition, relevance to target audience, and alignment with business goals.
- Keyword Placement: Demonstrate how to incorporate keywords naturally into website content, including page titles, headings, meta descriptions, and body text.
- Meta Optimization: Guide readers on crafting effective meta descriptions that accurately represent page content and incorporate relevant keywords to enhance search snippets.
- Title Tag Optimization: Explain the importance of title tags and how to optimize them with relevant keywords to accurately represent page content and improve search rankings.
- Keyword Density: Discuss the concept of keyword density and how to maintain a balance between keyword usage and natural language flow.
Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools are essential for identifying relevant keywords, analyzing search volume, assessing competition levels, and making informed decisions regarding keyword optimization strategies.
Introduce Popular Tools
Introduce popular keyword research tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz, and provide an overview of their features and functionalities.
Demonstrate Tool Application
Demonstrate the application of these tools in identifying relevant keywords for a specific topic or industry, analyzing search volume trends, and assessing competition levels for various keywords.
Keyword Research Tools & Best Practices
Top tools include:
- Google Keyword Planner – Free volumes data directly from primary search engine
- Ahrefs – Robust paid tool for volumes, keyword gaps, and competitor tracking
- SemRush – Also paid for ranking tracking and thorough keyword data
- UberSuggest – Free suggestions and volumes based on initial seed keywords
Best practices for leveraging keyword tools:
- Find base level terms in your niche then use tools for suggestions on variations
- Identify low competition long-tail versions of popular head terms
- Use filters like location and language to match target users
- Compare tools for ranges on search volume estimates
- Verify relevance before targeting any suggested keywords
- Audit top pages for terms driving current organic traffic
- Set targets for ranking goals by priority keyword groups
- Track keyword ranks week over week to gauge optimization progress
Keyword clustering is a technique for organizing and grouping related keywords into thematic categories. This approach helps you identify and target specific topics related to your website or product, rather than focusing on individual keywords. By understanding the relationships between keywords, you can create more focused and effective SEO campaigns.
Here are some benefits of using keyword clustering:
- Improved content relevance: By grouping related keywords, you can ensure that your content is targeted to specific topics, making it more relevant to user search queries.
- Reduced keyword fatigue: By focusing on clusters of keywords instead of individual keywords, you can avoid keyword stuffing and create more natural content.
- Enhanced search engine visibility: When your content is more relevant and targeted, it is more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Topic modeling is a statistical technique for identifying hidden patterns and themes within a collection of documents. It can be used to uncover latent topics in keyword sets, which can provide valuable insights into user search behavior and content opportunities.
Here’s how topic modeling works:
- Analyze a corpus of text: The first step is to analyze a large corpus of text, such as a collection of blog posts, product descriptions, or other relevant content.
- Identify topics: Topic modeling algorithms then identify patterns and themes within the text, grouping similar words and phrases into clusters representing different topics.
- Interpret topics: By analyzing the words and phrases in each topic, you can gain insights into the underlying topics that users are interested in. This information can be used to refine your keyword research, create more relevant content, and develop targeted SEO strategies.
Semantic search is a more advanced type of search that goes beyond simple keyword matching. It considers the context and intent of user search queries, providing more relevant and personalized results.
Here’s how semantic search works:
- Understand user intent: Semantic search algorithms analyze a user’s search query to understand their intent, such as the type of information they are seeking, their level of knowledge, and their desired action.
- Consider context: Semantic search also considers the context of the search, such as the user’s location, previous search history, and browsing behavior.
- Provide relevant results: Based on the understanding of user intent and context, semantic search engines can provide results that are more relevant, personalized, and helpful to the user.
Impact of Advanced Keyword Strategies:
By incorporating advanced keyword strategies, you can create more effective and targeted SEO campaigns that are better aligned with user search behavior and intent. This can lead to improved search engine rankings, increased website traffic, and enhanced conversion rates.
Here are some specific examples of how advanced keyword strategies can be applied:
- Create topic-specific landing pages: Use topic modeling to identify relevant topics and create landing pages that are tailored to each topic.
- Optimize blog posts for multiple keywords: Cluster keywords together to target multiple related topics within a single blog post.
- Enrich meta descriptions and title tags: Use topic modeling to create more descriptive and informative meta descriptions and title tags that accurately reflect the content of the page and resonate with user search intent.
- Leverage semantic search features: Utilize semantic search features offered by search engines to identify relevant keywords and create content that is aligned with user intent.
Now, Put Your Keywords to Work
Proper keyword selection is essential when writing content that will attract potential buyers to your website, increase rankings and enhance conversion rates.
This process involves more than just picking random words that are related to your product. It involves selecting keywords that are relevant to your customer base and unique niche and that will separate you from your competitors.
Long Tail keywords string together several words which can enhance your ranking on search engine results pages. Meta data is also important to increase search results and add to resultant traffic to your website.
What Is A Keyword? FAQ
Q: How often should keyword research be conducted?
A: Best practice is to analyze and update keyword targets quarterly to account for new search trends and seasonality shifts.
Q: What makes a good keyword density on a given page?
A: Optimizing to have your target keywords appear 2-5% of the time on a page aids search engines in understanding relevance.
Q: Can I rank a page for both short tail and long tail keyword variations?
A: Yes, optimizing a single page with synonyms and semantic keyword variants focusing on a topic can allow you to rank for both short and long tail queries.
Q: How much do keyword ranking tools cost?
A: There are free keyword tools with limited capabilities, but robust paid tools range from $100 – $200+ per month based on extensive data needs.
What Is A Keyword? Conclusion
Keyword research provides the insights required to reach customers at the exact moments they express intent via search queries. By matching content to user needs, websites can drive qualified visitors instead of waiting for generic traffic.
Monitoring keyword performance leverages the ONLY direct feedback mechanism search engines provide into what content best serves audience interests. Through continual optimization to ranking dynamics, brands can unlock unprecedented organic growth.
While intimidating at first glance, fundamental keyword principles are easy to operationalize. And they form the basis for all successful online acquisition strategies by empowering data-driven understanding of digital consumers.
All set to get started? Specialized websites like Moz’s Keyword Explorer can help you to select the best keywords for your customers and to determine search volumes for each keyword.