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Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved well beyond the days of placing as many keywords as you could fit on a page and hoping for the best. Although the strategies and best practices have changed over the years, the importance of keyword research even today is hard to overstate.
Our SEO company in The Woodlands, TX, proudly brings years of digital marketing experience to the table. Below, we explain why keywords are so important in SEO and how you should approach them.
What Are Keywords and Why Do They Matter?
Broadly speaking, a keyword is anything your target audiences are searching for. To determine relevant keywords for your company’s needs, you need to understand your audience’s search intent and the language they are using to run those searches.
Keyword research isn’t only about choosing the right words and phrases to use; it’s about using them strategically. Keyword stuffing, where you add a single phrase to a website as often as it will fit, is bad practice and may even remove your site from search results. It is far more effective to find the specific keywords that will give you a high conversion rate and use them a few times per page.
Three Types of Keywords to Research
You can generally split search keywords into three types: long-tail, middle-tail, and short-tail. Each type of keyword is ideal for different situations and uses, and you should expect to use all three of them in your web copy. Once you have an idea of what broad keywords you want to use, a keyword research tool can help you narrow them down to middle-tail and long-tail keywords.
You probably think of short-tail keywords when you hear the phrase “search engine optimization.” They are one or two words that describe broad topics and ideas. However, most short-tail keywords have a lot of competition, and using them is unlikely to lead to a high conversion rate. You shouldn’t focus too much on these.
For example, if Walter’s Widget Warehouse wants to be known for selling the best widgets in Weehawken, “widgets” would likely be Walter’s short-tail keyword of choice.
At three to four words long, middle-tail keywords are more specific than short-tail ones. Using them wisely can help make your website stand out from big-box competitors in searches. They have an improved conversion rate over their shorter counterparts and are easier to use naturally than long-tail keywords.
Using the same previous example, Walter’s medium-tail keywords would be along the lines of “great widgets Weehawken” and “where to get widgets.”
Long-tail keywords are at least five words long and tightly focused on specifics. Using them dramatically increases your chances of turning a clickthrough into a conversion.
When selecting long-tail keywords, look for ones with a high monthly search volume. Focusing your energy on extremely specific keywords that only a few people search for isn’t a good use of your time.
For our friend Walter, these long-tail keywords may include “highest quality widgets in Weehawken” and “where to get a new widget fast.” If he has a blog, he may consider options like “what can I do if I break my widget?”
What Do Search Engines Prioritize?
Modern search engines have come a long way from their ancestors. Most of them at least attempt to guess what searchers are actually looking for rather than spitting out phrases that match the search term word-for-word.
It isn’t enough anymore to simply include the right words. You also need to have them in a context that both humans and search engines can clearly understand.
Know Your Target Audience — And Your Competitors
Part of the importance of keyword research is knowing where your competitors are falling short. Every failure on their part is an opportunity for you to drive traffic to your website. Look for “low-hanging fruit” with low competition and decent search volume.
Keep in mind the monthly search volume for your chosen keywords as well. This is the number of times people have entered a specific phrase into that search engine every month. High monthly search volume means more traffic but also more competition for clicks.
Why Search Intent Matters
Don’t just think about what your target audience is searching for. You should also consider why people are searching. Try running a search for the keywords you want to use and see what other content the search engine gives you.
Do you get answer boxes? This usually means that your target audience has informational or navigational intent.
Do you get product listings? That’s a solid indicator of transactional or commercial intent.
Thinking about why your users are visiting your site can significantly impact your total conversion rate. Try to format at least some of your content the way search engines show it. This maximizes your chances of showing up in these specialized parts of the results page.
When, Why, and How to Use a Keyword Research Tool
Developing your marketing objective is first, but finding keywords comes shortly afterward. These tools automate a lot of the process of finding keywords and let you know the monthly search volume and other information about each of their suggestions.
Once you have your keywords in mind, the next stage is to develop your strategy for using them. This strategy will vary based on your goals and the type of content you are creating. A company optimizing product listings will need a vastly different strategy than a person optimizing a blog post, for instance.
Add Digital Marketing Experts to Your Company’s SEO Strategy
No matter how large or small your company is, you need help creating an effective SEO strategy. Our team at Results Digital proudly helps business owners in and around The Woodlands with their search engine optimization, from teaching the importance of keyword research to managing your company’s ads on Google and Facebook. Schedule your exploratory call today to learn more.