What are Keywords?

Heard a lot about keywords but don’t know what they are? Then go through our comprehensive guide on keywords, research and how to improve your traffic using them.

Photo of Kristi Ray
Kristi Ray

Anyone who has ever done a modicum of research into digital marketing has undoubtedly heard of “Keywords.”

After all, without keywords, the entire digital marketing industry, especially SEO (Search Engine Optimisation and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), would be at a loss. Keywords are the pillars on which digital marketing turns and helps searchers and brands meet each other.

What Are Keywords

But what exactly are these keywords? Why are they so essential, and how do you know which ones to use? These are only some of the questions we’re going to answer in today’s discussion. So, make sure you stick around till the end.

Let’s get the ball rolling!

What Are Keywords?

Put in plain terms, keywords are any search terms that users put into the search engine query box. For instance, if you’re looking for the best movie to watch this weekend, you’d type in a search for ’best sci-fi movies’ or something similar.

Now, which is the keyword here? As far as digital marketing and keyword research are concerned, the entire phrase that the searchers type into the search engine qualifies as the keyword. This can be a single word, multiple words, or even fully formed questions.

It’s based on these keywords that search engines return results to the searchers. So, if your website contains the right keywords, then it’s bound to show up on the SERPs. This means if you can target the right keywords, it will increase traffic to your site.

However, the task of getting your website to show up on the top spot in Google isn’t that straightforward. That’s because nobody knows the entire way in which search engine algorithms work (don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise). Digital marketing experts can only make educated guesses based on observations and experimental metrics.

Even that’s enough to tell you that keyword research is vital in all aspects of digital marketing.

Why Are Keywords Important For Digital Marketing?

Let’s face facts: the purpose of any marketing campaign is to acquaint customers with brands and services they’d like to engage with. Digital marketing is no different; only, it operates in the domain of search engines and websites instead of billboards and adverts.

It’s evident that to align your business with customer needs, you need to know what they’re looking for in the first place. Keyword research is the key (pun intended) to finding out consumers’ interests and requirements.

Based on the number of searches for a particular keyword (called search volume in SEO terminology), you can get a good idea of the demand for products or services related to that keyword. Search volume is an excellent indicator of which keywords you need to target.

If you can include the right keywords in your SEO or SEM campaigns, then you stand a good chance of appearing against the search results for those keywords. This is the number one reason that makes keywords so important.

However, there’s a catch. You’re not the only one in your industry, and you’re certainly not the only business using keyword research tools to target essential words and phrases. In fact, the higher the search volume for a particular keyword, the greater the competition for ranking for it.

That’s why it’s vital to perform keyword research diligently and target keywords that you have a good chance of ranking for. You can do this using multiple ways, of which the most prominent are SEO, Content Marketing and PPC.

Where Is Google Making Money In Keywords

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How To Use Keywords For Ranking On Google SERPs

As you no doubt already understand, just targeting and including the right keywords in your website content and blog posts isn’t enough to drive traffic. You need to use them appropriately to improve your ranking on Google. According to the latest estimates, nearly 75% of all search traffic gets lapped up by the top three links on the SERPs. So, that’s where you’d ideally want to be.

That’s where SEO, Content Marketing, and PPC (or SEM, as it’s also called) come into play. In the following sections, we will take a brief look at each method and understand how they use keywords for improving your business presence on the SERPs.

Search Engine Optimisation And Content Marketing

SEO and Content Marketing are considered by many to be the best methods of ranking on Google (and other search engines). In these techniques, you include the keywords and phrases you want to target in your website content. Keywords can be included in any piece of content, such as a blog post, web pages, meta titles, and descriptions, or any other web content.

Content Marketing For Small Businesses

For example, if you’re selling sports shoes, you can put out a piece of content that lists the “10 Best Sports Shoes Under $300” containing essential keywords searchers would use. Then, when a searcher searches for that topic, your article could come up on the SERPs.

How can you ensure that you get a good rank on Google? The truth is, there’s no fixed way to ensure that. The best you can do is put out quality content on your website, make honest efforts to answer customers’ queries, and stick to white-hat SEO and an effective content strategy.

Here, it’s important to mention that search engines today have advanced a lot from the days of old when you could just stuff keywords into your web pages, and they’d rank automatically. Now, AI in search engines has advanced to the level where black-hat techniques such as keyword stuffing can invite penalties. So, make sure you choose keywords wisely and stick to legitimate ranking methods.

Search Engine Marketing

The next method for using keywords is Search Engine Marketing, also known as pay-per-click advertising. In this form of digital marketing, you first use a keyword research tool to choose keywords relevant to your business. Then, the target keywords are fed into a PPC ad system, such as Google Ads.

Once you’ve set up your PPC campaign with the list of keywords you’re targeting, the Google Ads system will show your website (or landing page) link when users search for the targeted keywords. Whenever a user clicks on your link, you need to pay for that click.

Pay Per Click Advertising Explained

How do search engines determine which ads to show in which position? This is calculated in the form of a relevancy score (also called the quality score). It’s a complex metric that considers multiple factors such as ad quality, relevance, and maximum bid amount to calculate the ad position.

Google Quality Scores In Google Ads

Which Is Better?

Now that you know about SEO, content marketing, and PPC, which one is better for your business? As you might have already guessed, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. SEO and content marketing are long-term efforts that help build a solid organic ranking, but they take time and effort.

In contrast, PPC helps when you want to rank for SEO keywords very fast and improve traffic in the short term. So, it’s best to use a combination of all three methods to get ideal results.

Where To Look For Keywords?

As a business owner, you surely have a good idea of the terms that your target audience uses to search for products/services in your niche. However, it’s not possible to guess all the SEO keywords that are relevant to your business. That’s where keyword research comes into play.

Keyword research is the process of deciding which keywords are best suited for drawing more visitors to your website. And the best way to perform this research is to use a keyword research tool, such as Ahrefs keyword explorer, Google Keyword Planner, and Answer The Public.

Most of these tools work similarly: you need to enter a few broad search terms related to your search, and the tool returns keyword suggestions that searchers are using. This way, you can select keywords for SEO, PPC, and content marketing.

But, as always, there’s a catch.

What To Look Out For When Choosing Keywords

Whichever tool you use to find keywords for SEO, you can be sure that it will spit out hundreds, if not thousands, of results. So, how do you select the best, most important keywords? That’s what we’re going to discuss in this section. The following is a list of factors that you need to look out for when selecting words and phrases as keywords.

Best Research Tools For Keywords

1. Keyword Search Volume

Search volume estimates the number of searches that a particular keyword attracts in a specific period of time. Most keyword research tools measure this metric monthly. The greater the search volume for a specific keyword, the more visitors it will likely draw to your site.

However, it’s important to mention that high search volume alone is not sufficient for choosing keywords/phrases. It would be best to keep in mind the relevance, competition, and intent behind the keyword. Let’s take a look at what these are in the next section.

2. Keyword Difficulty

So, you’ve found the keyword tools you’d like to use and used them to find keywords with a high volume of traffic. That’s all good, but it doesn’t mean you should begin to optimise your website for those keywords right away. If ranking on Google search were that easy, everyone would occupy the top spot (which, as you understand, isn’t possible).

The truth is, usually high-volume keywords are more challenging to rank for. That’s because there’s probably a large number of sites on the web that already rank for these specific terms. So, it’ll be tough for anyone new to SEO to rank faster for these keywords.

That’s why, when selecting the best keywords, you need to reach a trade-off between search volume and keyword difficulty. In this situation, long-tail keywords can help (more on that later) you target search queries with more specific intent.

3. Keyword Value/Price

This metric is most important in the context of PPC, where you have to evaluate the cost of keywords on a per click basis. Usually, the greater the competition for a keyword, the more you have to pay for it. That’s why you must consider this metric before you optimise a strategy or use keyword tools.

How Quality Scores Impact Cpc Costs

However, price and value aren’t always synonymous, as a high-priced keyword might not be relevant for your PPC strategy. So, always make sure you’re targeting related keywords and not blindly going for the high volume and high price keywords. The value of a keyword varies from business to business, so what’s gold for you might be garbage for another.

4. Keyword Intent

As we’ve already mentioned, keyword use is no longer as simple as stuffing them in the content. Search engines today are great at gauging keyword intent, so as someone using keywords, you have to do the same.

Keyword intent refers to the specific intention behind a searcher’s query. When looking at keywords for SEO, there can be three search intents behind SEO keywords:

  • Transactional - When the searcher wants to buy something
  • Informational - When the searcher wants to know something
  • Navigational - When the searcher wants to get somewhere

3 Main Types Of Search Queries

Once you’ve understood the intent behind a keyword, then it becomes easier to optimise SEO/PPC strategies to support the same.

Special Mention: What Are Long Tail Keywords?

Throughout our discussion, we’ve mentioned long tail keywords several times, so now it’s time to look at what they are. Long tail keywords are SEO keywords that have low search volumes but high intent. Usually, targeting long tail keywords results in greater conversion rates.

Targeting long tail keywords can help your business stand tall among the competition and provide specific, targeted and relevant results to customers’ queries. Long tail keywords can also include geographically specific keywords (called geo-targeted SEO keywords).

How Long Tail Keywords Work

Now You Understand Keywords!

Whether it’s SEO or PPC, Google Search Console or Google Analytics, if you’re dabbling in these technologies, then you’re sure to come across the importance of keywords. These phrases form the basis of most SEO tools, and including these words relevantly in a webpage can work wonders for SERP rankings.

Especially when it comes to SEO, keywords play a vital role. Once you choose the right words to include in your content, you can be sure to drive more significant traffic to your website. Long tail keywords are particularly great for driving high intent traffic.

Just one word of warning before we say goodbye; when including keywords in content, make sure that the text is easy to read and flows naturally. Forcing keywords into places where they read odd can make it hard for readers to read and understand the text. So, choose your queries wisely, and make sure you insert them as naturally as possible. This will give your website and content a better chance of ranking.

Photo of Kristi Ray

Kristi Ray

Kristi is head of content production and editing at sitecentre and joined the team in early 2021 based out of our Sunshine Coast office to deliver higher-quality content to our partners. Kristi has a vast knowledge of copywriting styles and experience to accelerate the production of SEO friendly content at the highest levels.

Find them on their website: sitecentre and LinkedIn.

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