Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical for businesses and content creators that want to establish themselves online, but many lack the resources to hire a dedicated SEO professional.
Delving into the rules, tools, and metrics involved in optimizing your web presence for search engine algorithms can be overwhelming, but following a few core principles can help even SEO newcomers stay competitive in search results.
In today’s blog, we explore a fundamental principle of good SEO: choosing (and using) the right keywords.
So, let’s start from the beginning:
What is a keyword?
A keyword is a word or phrase you want to show up for in online search results.
A custom trophy shop, for example, will want to target keywords like “custom trophy shop,” “custom awards in [location],” and similar keywords for all relevant products, services, and locations.
Keywords can be separated into two categories, depending on their complexity. Short-tail keywords are basic search terms that contain few words and indicate a general search intent (e.g. “trophies”). Long-tail keywords are longer phrases with more specific search intent (e.g. “custom acrylic awards in springfield mo”).
How do I use keywords?
Keywords signal to search engines that your content is a relevant result for a given search. The trick is to synchronize the keywords you use in your web presence with the keywords that customers use when they search for businesses like yours.
As a general rule, keywords can be used effectively anywhere you are able to create or edit text. This means web page elements like headings, subheadings, page text, link text, and page metadata are all valuable places to use relevant keywords. For example:
Here you can see that the title tag “Digital Marketing | Online Marketing | Springfield MO” contains valuable keywords for searches commonly made by people seeking marketing services in the Springfield area. Google has also displayed in bold the keywords most relevant to the search query (in this case, “digital marketing springfield mo”).
Beyond your web pages, keywords have value for online listings. See here how Google has shown in bold the keyword that matches with our search, emphasizing the relevance of our listing to the search “digital marketing springfield mo.”
How do I choose keywords?
The value of a keyword is determined by several dimensions: its relevance to the search term, the intent of the person searching, and the competition from other businesses and web pages attempting to rank for the keyword.
Google does not publicize how it quantifies the relevance of content, but it is certainly an important factor in determining how to rank pages in search results.
What is relevance? Put simply, it is the relationship of the keywords you target to what users expect to find in your content.
To identify relevant keywords, most professionals use complicated (and expensive) keyword tools, like SEMrush, ahrefs, Google Analytics, and BrightEdge. Free tools that are more user-friendly are also available, such as Google Trends and Google Search Console, but they lack much of the data needed to develop and maintain a keyword strategy.
You know your business as well as anyone. You know what terms are relevant for your industry. You help customers answer questions about your services every day. Use this knowledge to build a useful keyword list for your business.
Search intent refers to the purpose of a given keyword in the context of its use. A simple way to understand search intent is to revisit short- and long-tail keywords.
Type the short-tail keyword “digital marketing” into your search bar, and you’re likely to pull up a mix of results: books on digital marketing, a Wikipedia page, digital marketing classes, and, further down the page, local results of digital marketing agencies in your area.
The long-tail keyword “digital marketing agencies near me,” however, will display the local results much higher on the page. This is because the intent of the search is easier to understand when more context is available — the user wants to find agencies in their area, so the search algorithm can disregard the books, Wikipedia page, and digital marketing classes.
This is how search engines help people find what they’re looking for — and how you can ensure it’s you they find!
Keyword Competition & SERP Analysis
The third dimension of keyword research is perhaps the most important. Understanding the competition for valuable keywords is how new and small businesses can begin to stake their claim in search results, and how established websites can throw their weight around to acquire space on more results pages.
The budget-friendly approach to assessing keyword competition is to simply perform some searches relevant to your business. What kinds of results do you see? Are they blogs, businesses, articles, or maps? If they are blogs or businesses, how thorough is their content? Are pages designed well, and do they load quickly? Do elements like their title tag, meta description, and page headers contain competitive keywords?
This kind of assessment can help you gauge the standard to rank well for particular searches. It can also help you develop ideas to improve your keywording and jump ahead of the pack.
What makes a good keyword?
A good SEO keyword is relevant, accounts for search intent, and is realistic for your business to rank for amid your competition.
With a little know-how and some research, you can identify good keywords and implement them on your website. For best results, don’t limit yourself to a single keyword for a given page. Identify a variety of relevant short- and long-tail keywords and incorporate them anywhere they are relevant and useful.
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