Although we tend to think of them as phrases or words that simply get plugged into our search engine of choice without too much thought, keywords are playing an increasingly important role in our daily lives. This is particularly true given how ubiquitous search engines have become. From looking up where to eat for lunch, to figuring out who you are going to vote for in an upcoming election, search engines have become a medium that we use to interact with the world around us, and keywords are a tool that we use to navigate them. For this reason, search engines are a powerful force in modern life.
This is particularly true for businesses with an online presence. If you want to ensure that you do not remain hidden underneath hundreds of pages of search results, you will inevitably have to grapple with keywords.
What are keywords?
Before we consider how you can use keywords to your advantage, we should first set out what they actually are.
Interestingly, the dictionary definition of ‘keyword’ captures the dual purpose of how keywords are used in search engine optimisation (SEO). It firstly refers to a word or concept of great significance and importance. Secondly, it refers to a word that acts as the key to a cipher or code.
In the context of SEO, a keyword fulfils both of these functions. A keyword acts not only as a way of signifying the importance of whatever your business, product or service is, but it also acts as a way of navigating the online space. It is a word that, almost literally, unlocks content online for you. If we think of the internet as one great open database that is hosted in the cloud and distributed across a network of servers, a search engine acts as a portal that allows you to find specific pages or content on this network of servers. Keywords, then, act as a way of opening up this portal – i.e. the search engine – which allows you to access this content.
With this description in mind, we can think of keywords as a tool that users – or potential customers – can use to find you online.
How do keywords work in SEO?
When a search engine conducts a search, it will try to match the search terms that have been entered with content published or hosted online. To do this, it uses the search terms as ‘keywords’ to ensure that the search results it produces are accurate and as close to what the user wants as possible.
With this in mind, the process of undertaking SEO is essentially a way of ensuring that your content is more likely to be matched with something that a user has searched for. Using keywords on your website and in any content you publish is a way of making this match more likely to happen. It does this as having more relevant keywords that match with what the user has searched for will see you ranked higher in the search results.
Search engines such as Google give priority to content that is more relevant to what the user has searched for, and having keywords that match the search terms is a way of proving this.
Are there different types of keywords?
In the world of SEO, we tend to make a basic distinction between ‘short-tail’ and ‘long-tail’ keywords. Short-tail keywords are usually single words that a user will search for. This might be things such as ‘restaurants’, ‘movies’ or ‘shoes’. These are more difficult to rank highly with as short-tail keywords are usually less specific and therefore the competition within search results is much higher.
For this reason, long-tail keywords are where SEO professionals put most of their emphasis. Long-tail keywords are usually three to four-word phrases or search terms that are more specific in terms of what they could refer to.
For example, a short-tail keyword might be ‘jeans’, while a long-tail keyword could be ‘American mens blue jeans’. You can see here how the short-tail keyword will inevitably bring up considerably more search results than the long-tail keyword, which is more specific.
How to choose what keywords to use
Although they might seem like they would be more difficult to generate, you will usually start with a short-tail keyword and use this to think of different long-tail keywords that you can use. This is one of the easiest ways of doing keyword research.
With this in mind, if you are in the middle of writing an article and want to think of some good keywords to include, try to think of a few words that sum up the main topic of the article. Use these single words or terms to generate long-tail keywords. It might help you to draw a diagram as a form of brainstorming. This is a great way to get the creative juices flowing!
Another efficient way of generating appropriate keywords is to use the autofill feature on the Google search engine. Simply enter in a single term and take note of what autofill search results appear. You can then use these as a way of generating some long-tail keyword phrases to use in your work.
There are also a number of paid tools you can use to generate keywords. These will essentially scan the piece of content you want to direct search engines towards and will suggest some appropriate keywords to use.
Another important consideration to bear in mind throughout this process is to put yourself in your users’ shoes and to think about what they might be searching for.
How do I incorporate keywords?
Once you have figured out what keywords you want to include, you will then have to find a way of integrating these into your website and any content you are looking to publish online.
Before doing this, however, you need to bear in mind that keywords should be worked into your content naturally. If you are having to force them into a piece in a way that does not read naturally, this might end up putting off the person who eventually reads it – which is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve! Always focus on quality over quantity, with readability being the main metric you should work off.
With that said, here are some ways that you can incorporate keywords into your website:
- Page titles: The page title is more than likely the first thing that a user will see when search results get displayed. To make sure that it stands out, have relevant keywords in the title of the page. These will also be considered by Google for SEO purposes!
- Meta descriptions: Although they aren’t necessarily considered for SEO purposes, the meta description will play an important role in enticing a user to click on your website link. Ensure that the meta description has keywords naturally incorporated.
- Keywords in URLs: Do not overlook the URL! Having relevant keywords included in website URLs is a good way of telling Google that your content is relevant. Try to keep URLs short, snappy, and packed with keywords!
With that said, if you want to increase engagement with your content online, why not reach out to one of our content specialists? By booking a one-on-one consultation today, you will be able to harness the power of search engines such as Google to transform your digital presence.