Whether you’re online looking for a surfboard, a lawyer, a holiday or an elephant, the first thing you do is type a few words into the search engine that best describe what you’re searching for, right? These words are known as keywords. Keywords can be a single-word term such as ‘holiday’ or they can be phrases with multiple words such as ‘cheap holiday paris’. Based on the keywords you type in, the clever search engine then spends a few milliseconds compiling a list of pages that have content relating to the word or phrase you searched for. The content on the first page of this list is what Google deems to be the most relevant to the keywords that you searched.
Now, before I get into the nitty gritty of this keyword phenomenon, a few things should be clarified to avoid confusion. A number of blogs out there insist on pinpointing the distinction between ‘keywords’ and ‘search terms’. Search terms, they say, are the words that people (the consumers) type into search engines when they’re trying to find information. Keywords on the other hand are the words that you (the business) place in the content, in the title tags, in the URLs or anywhere else on your website to match these ‘search terms’. Trying to get your head around the two is needlessly baffling because in the real world, they are just two sides of the same coin. Keywords are search terms and search terms are keywords. Simple.
So Why Do I Need Keywords?
Keywords are the foundation of search engine success. Without keywords Google won’t be able to rank your website for the products or services you offer, so your target audience won’t be able to find you online. Imagine being a business that provides say, wedding photography. If you don’t feature keywords like ‘wedding photography’, ‘Sydney wedding photographer’ or ‘professional wedding photographer’ throughout your website, how will Google know what your website is about? Unless you have an abnormally powerful link building campaign going on to make up for the lack of keywords on your site, you’ll be in trouble.
Aside from helping you rank in Google (or any other search engine for that matter), keywords are also extremely important in helping you target specific customers. This is where the short-tail vs. long-tail dichotomy comes into play.
Short-tail keywords are one or two word terms such as:
- Digital camera
These keywords typically have high search volumes but less qualified traffic.
Long-tail keywords on the other hand include at least three words in the phrase such as:
- Canon EOS 60D Digital Camera
- Samsung High Definition LCD TV
- Western Sydney catering company
Although long-tail keywords have less search volume than their short-tail counterparts, they do drive more qualified traffic because the searcher clearly knows exactly what they’re looking for and are more likely to convert because often, they’ve already done their browsing and are now ready to buy something. There is also less competition for these keywords which makes it easier to rank for them. If you’re interested in learning more about short-tail vs. long-tail keywords, have a read of another E-Web blog post, Keywords that Convert.
How Do I Choose the Right Keywords?
Ok so now that we know what a keyword is, why it’s important and what it can actually do for your business, it’s time to figure out exactly how to choose the right keywords for your website. There are countless free tools out there that will help you do keyword research. I suggest starting off with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.
This is a great, straightforward way to start your keyword research. The tool will help you figure out how many searches certain keywords receive, how much competition there is for those particular keywords and will even suggest other variations of that keyword that you may not have considered. You can also filter results based on things like ‘exact’, ‘phrase’ or ‘broad’ match terms, location or by language. While the results aren’t ever 100% accurate, the tool is nonetheless a useful springboard for beginning your keyword research.
As you can tell, keywords are extremely important. They set the foundation of any SEO campaign, they help customers find your website and they facilitate search engines in ranking your website. Although this post only covered the basics, there’s a lot more to keywords such as where to place them on your website, how often to mention them on a page, how to do in depth keyword research plus much, much more – but I think I’ll save that for another post, so stay tuned!