Keywords have always been integral to search engine optimization (SEO). Judiciously chosen words and phrases can signal to the search engine algorithms—and to human readers—what your content is all about, and how it should be properly classified. What’s more, making use of keywords can lend structure and focus to your content—making it more compelling and more actionable.
At the same time, keywords can be stumbling blocks. Many small business owners are overly concerned about the number of keywords they need to use, and still others employ a strategy known as keyword stuffing—using so many keywords, so clumsily, that the content comes across as robotic or unreadable. Even among those who use keywords in a more measured way, there can exist some difficulties in determining which keywords are best.
The Basics of Keyword Use
Before you can properly research the right keywords for your next blog post, it’s first important to understand exactly what keywords are and what purpose they serve. There is no master list of keywords out there; when we talk about keywords, we’re simply talking about the terms people use to seek information from search engines. In fact, most keywords aren’t really words at all, but instead they are phrases—“hair restoration clinic in Charlotte,” “how to do SEO for a small business,” etc.
Search engine users employ certain, common phrases to help them retrieve the information they’re after—and part of what SEO is about is creating content around these common phrases. When we talk about keyword-optimized content, that’s all we’re saying—that the content is to some extent built around relevant keywords.
When choosing a keyword, balance is critical. On the one hand, you want to select a keyword that is fairly popular; it needs to be a keyword that actual people use to find content. At the same time, you don’t want to pick a keyword that is too popular. For example, consider something as general and open-ended as “digital marketing,” or “website design.” There are countless companies competing in that space, so the odds of you ranking well for one of those terms are simply quite low.
The important thing in selecting a good keyword, then, is to seek something that is popular, but also something that’s reasonably specific; something that real people are searching for, but also something for which the competition won’t be too overwhelming.
Longer Keywords Are Usually Better
Consider this illustration. If you do a Google search for the word “hair,” you’re going to be greeted with a wide range of content—scientific articles, product listings, how-tos, fashion write-ups, information about the musical Hair, and on and on. The search term is simply too general. But if you do a Google search for “best hair replacement salon in Charlotte,” that obviously narrows it down quite a lot, and your search results will be much more focused and on-topic. This is a good example of what were talking about: “Hair” may get more search traffic overall, but the more specific keyword does a better job of leading you to targeted, actionable information.
The same basic policy holds true when you’re thinking of keywords for your blog posts. If something is open-ended and vague, like “hair,” it’s usually not an ideal keyword. The odds of your blog post ranking well for “hair,” or of connecting with the specific audience you’re trying to reach, are perilously low. A longer search phrase allows you to be more refined and selective in who you are trying to reach, and it also allows for you to be more competitive as you jostle for a prime ranking.
Looking for the Best Keywords
As you think about specific keywords to use for your blog post, the best place to start is by simply compiling a list of possible keywords. Look at your Google analytics data to see which search terms tend to send traffic to your website; those terms, and any variants, are usually good ones to include on your list. You can also simply ask yourself: How might a potential customer seek information about your business? What are some of the words or phrases that might bring someone to your business?
You can also consult with online tools that provide keyword data. Google Keyword Planner is not only highly effective, but it’s free. Using it, you can obtain data about the search volume of a particular keyword and also the competition surrounding that keyword. Both are critically important, and again, you’re looking for balance—something that’s popular without being too popular.
There are other ways to look for keywords, too. You can simply type in some basic words and phrases, as related to your brand, into the Google search bar, and see what the automatically generated search terms are. This can be a good way to brainstorm and get fresh ideas.
Ultimately, it’s best to settle on two or three keywords for any one piece of content, and then to deploy them strategically. If at all possible, your keywords should appear in content titles, subtitles, meta descriptions, and in the copy itself. You don’t want to overdo it, though, or jam a bunch of keywords into your content in a way that impairs readability. Be natural in your keyword use.
Keywords Should Deliver Value
Remember that, in the end, you’re writing content to provide value to customers—and your keyword use should reflect that. Go back to your buyer personas, as well as the Google Analytics data, to find keyword suggestions that might actually be helpful to your targeted consumers.
Keyword research is very much a discipline in and of itself, and its role in integrated digital marketing is foundational. We’d love to help you master it in any way we can. To chat with the enCOMPASS team, simply reach out to us today!
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