The most fundamental part of a neat and well-designed search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is thorough keyword research. However, precise keyword analysis and evaluation can be quite vexing, especially if your background knowledge of keywords is a little rusty.
Not to worry, we can help you polish those rough edges. This guide will introduce you to the keyword concept and how it applies to SEO.
Back to Basics
First, let’s talk about what keywords are. In simple terms, they are nothing but the words and phrases that make up a search query on a search engine. Keywords form the basic components for how internet searching, in general, works.
As such, they play a central role in SEO. The goal of any SEO strategy is to optimize for keywords that people use when they search for products or solutions related to our niche. If we create content around those keywords, we will increase our page rank in the SERPs and gain more potential buyers for whatever we are selling.
Before we can do anything, however, we must find out what people are searching for. In other words, we must do a little research.
The Initial Steps for Keyword Research
Before proceeding, we should define another term: search intent. It describes the reason or rationale behind a search query. It attempts to define why a person searched for a particular term. It outlines the logic behind a given search query.
Search intent is used in SEO to target a specific crowd. Every business or enterprise has a target audience. Engaging with this target audience is the focus of an enterprise and defines our first step.
Picking Our Target Audience
You can easily separate your target audience from the rest of humanity by defining the group that would benefit the most by what you have to offer. This can include demographic data such as age, gender, race, and family income as well as location.
Understanding the Trend
Now that you know your target audience, the next step is to figure out what they like and how their preferences trend over time. This might seem like a complicated process, but there are a few tools we can use to make it a bit easier:
Google Keyword Planner: With this tool, we can research keywords using the data provided by the search engine that holds the largest share when it comes to online traffic.
Google Trends: Another tool from Google, Trends allows you to cover a large spectrum when it comes to keyword research. It includes data such as trending keywords, when the search for a keyword is cold and when it spikes up, the geographical factors affecting keywords, etc.
Ahref’s Keyword Explorer: While not free, Keyword Explorer is handy when it comes to keyword research because it displays a detailed model of data regarding a specific keyword and highlights its overall usability.
These tools can curtail the long, tedious task of analyzing and evaluating keywords from scratch. You could follow the traditional method of scrutinizing keywords through online forums, Google searches, etc. but it makes this task a bit monotonous.
The Short-tail and the Long-tail
We can separate keywords into two categories: short-tail and long-tail. The former are broad search terms that imply a search for general information while the latter are terms with a narrow focus and often imply the intent to act or buy on the part of the searcher.
Short-tail keywords are composed of a single word. Shoes, gym, and school are all are examples of short-tail keywords. Because these terms are so broad, they have a high search frequency, which translates into a lot of competition for page rank.
You should avoid optimizing around short-tail keywords unless you have a specific reason to do so. As we discussed above, short-tail keywords imply a search for information rather than the intent to buy something. This means they don’t convert as well as their long-tail counterparts.
Long-tail keywords consist of at least two words and are often a phrase such as best school in zzz district or latest red boat shoes from xyz. Since they have a narrower focus than short-tail keywords, their search volume is lower, and they are less competitive. Not only are they less competitive than short-tail keywords, but they also imply an intent to engage or buy on the part of the searcher.
Think about it: if a person types in the word, jacket in a Google search, they are in the information- gathering stage of their search. They are looking at what’s available. On the other hand, if the person types in red leather bomber jacket, they’re not looking for just any jacket, they’re looking for a very specific one. And if they find it, they’re probably going to buy it.
So, especially when you are a beginner, long-tail keywords are where you want to focus your SEO efforts. Doing so will pay off in more traffic and sales.
Putting The Theory Into Practice
Finally, we made it here. We’ve done our research, and we know the keywords we want to optimize our site for. It’s time to put our research into practice. But to make the most of our keywords, we must learn to employ them accurately.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the practice of dumping a lot of keywords on a webpage to game Google’s algorithm. According to Google, “Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose).”
Not only does keyword stuffing not work well for SEO (because of changes to Google’s algorithm and because keyword-stuffed pages often drive readers away), but it is also against Google’s guidelines. Webmasters accused of keyword stuffing will find their sites penalized and de-indexed — booted far from the sight of most internet users.
Instead of keyword stuffing, rely on the smart placement of relevant keywords throughout your content in a way that makes sense. SEO experts differ on what constitutes smart keyword placement, but it seems like a good idea to use your main keyword in your post or page title, once in the first paragraph, and perhaps once or twice more elsewhere in your content.
The thing to remember is that reader experience comes first. Your website and content must be designed with the user in mind. Anything that detracts from the user experience should be avoided, even if it seems like it would be good for SEO.
To summarize, stuffing your content and website with keywords can incur the wrath of visitors and ultimately, the search engine itself. In short, no one likes a website with diluted and non-informative content.
Instead of falling prey to unethical practices, employ smart and sensible keyword placement wherever applicable.
We hope that this guide on keywords has been helpful to you. Should you need professional assistance with your website’s SEO, please contact us to get in touch with one of our SEO experts.
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