Choosing SEO keywords is at the heart of owning a website or writing any type of content.
Unfortunately, for many people, SEO and keywords are mysterious ideas that seem like they can only be accomplished by a degreed tech specialist who is half-machine.
It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. In fact, it’s not at all different from what you learned to do when you were taught to research things.
Let’s say you’re a dentist. Well, everyone who’s a dentist is going to have the word dentist all over their website. You need to add some words to distinguish your practice from other businesses. It’s those words that will often include your location and specialties that will become your keywords.
A couple of definitions:
SEO – Search engine optimization – You need to have Google, Bing, and other search engines find your website. You’re optimizing your website content so the search engines know who you are and they put your business up when someone does a relevant search.
Keywords – This is a bit of a misnomer. They might be a word or an entire phrase. Depending on whether they’re head keywords or long-tail keywords, they can range from one word to five or ten.
Head Keywords – These are the basic keywords or phrases that pertain to your business. In the example above, those keywords will include dentist, filling, etc.
Long-tail keywords – These are phrases that are more conversational. When someone searches for them, they are searching exactly that, not a general phrase. “Root canal with sedation dentistry” would be a long-tail keyword.
Here’s another example:
Head term – “SEO keywords”
Long-tail – “how to pick SEO keywords”; “what are SEO keywords”; SEO keywords website traffic”
How to get started with SEO keywords
The first step to using SEO keywords is to set your goals.
You have two basic goals possible: fast traffic or slow growth.
Fast traffic means that you’ll get few visitors, but that those visitors will be there for exactly what you sell. For example, if you’re a record store, you can use “vintage AC/DC vinyl records” as your main keywords and you’ll get lots of traffic for AC/DC records. You might be missing everyone looking for Led Zeppelin, but you’ll get traffic quickly. In this situation, you’ll use long-tail keywords.
For slower growth, you’d use more head keywords. “Vinyl records”, “AC/DC”, “Led Zeppelin”, and “vintage vinyl” might all be your head keywords. By consistently adding content, you can get traffic over time. Unlike the long-tail example, there will be a lot more competition for these words, but in the long run, you’ll have a broader audience.
Do your research
Researching keywords involves using various tools to figure out what keywords to use.
The easiest place to start is to look at your competition. If you start with Google’s Keyword Planner, you can enter a website address. You’ll need to create a Google Ads account. Alternatively, you can use sites like SEMRush or BuzzSumo. Enter the competitor’s website and the keyword planner will analyze it and give you a list of what your competitors are using.
Often you’ll get words and phrases like, “order now” or “please”. Ignore those and look for the ones with substance.
Start a list
Using this information, start a list of the main keyword that your competitor is using. Remember, they might not be perfect either, so you need to look at this list honestly and make sure it looks like they know what they’re doing. You don’t want to follow them off a cliff.
Now that you have a list, you can go back to the keyword planner and enter those keywords. This will show you how popular that phrase is and other related keywords.
This is the list that you’re going to consider. Make sure that the words are really relevant to what you do. If one popular keyword phrase is “Mozart records”, but you only sell rock and roll, don’t include Mozart on your website. The search engines know when there’s a discrepancy between what you do and what phrases you use.
Narrow down the list
There are several key metrics for narrowing down the list:
- Volume – Look at ‘search volume’ on the reports. The more it’s searched, the more traffic you’re likely to get. The volume might be high today and will change in a month, but it’s a starting point. You’ll want to check again every 3 or 6 months.
- Competition – The higher the volume of a keyword, the more people are using it. That means that it will be harder to rank for that keyword.
- Relevance – This continues with what we mentioned above – If a word has nothing to do with your site, it doesn’t make sense to try to rank for it.
There is a sweet spot between volume and competition. A high volume phrase with high competition is going to be very difficult to rank for. A low volume, low competition phrases is useless. You’re looking for those phrases where the volume is good enough to drive traffic to your site while having low enough competition to make it possible to rank for it.
Making the final choice
This is the part where you’re going to step away from the data a little bit.
Once you’ve narrowed your list using the methods above, you should have a list of finalists. Once you’ve gotten there, this becomes a matter of personal choice.
Look at the keywords you’ve been presented with. The ones that seem most natural to you, the ones that you are most likely to use to describe your business in conversation, those are the ones you should be using.
Google’s goal is to make its search engine more natural, more like human thought. If you use the words that normal people would use to search for your business or to search for your website, with a little data thrown in, you should end up with a great set of keywords to build your site on.