What are keywords in SEO?

In this day and age, answering a query is as simple as grabbing your phone and typing a few words into Google. Understanding how keywords work in conjunction with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) has never been more important for your business and its website. But what exactly are keywords, why are they so important, and how do you use them to your advantage?

What are keywords?

In a nutshell, keywords define what the content of your website is about. When we’re talking about SEO, keywords are the words and phrases entered into a search engine to answer a specific need or query. Every time you think, ‘I’ll Google that’ and type in your search query, you’re using keywords.

The primary keywords your website ranks for will depend on which words and phrases feature the most across your website page content. From blog content and page headings, to images and videos – these are the terms that your website will appear for.

Why are keywords important for SEO?

When it comes to good SEO, keywords are vital – they are key (the clue is in the name) to your website ranking for the terms that you want it to.

The ultimate goal of your website is that it ranks highly in search engines for the terms appropriate to your business, driving organic traffic to your website. By ranking highly, you will in turn drive other search results further down the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) – hopefully enabling you to gain more new business enquiries than your competitors.

There was a time when repeating the same keywords over and over again was a strategy to drive traffic to your website via organic search – but those days are long gone. Search engines are now far more sophisticated and they’re getting smarter all the time. Continually repeating the same keywords can in fact put your website in breach of Google’s quality guidelines, which won’t help you win new business.

Search engines are now smart enough that people often won’t search for things using simplistic, broad terms. They might use words synonymous with what they want, or search for related products and concepts.

To rank well on Google, it’s crucial that your website is chock full of relevant content that shows your website has depth and an understanding of what its audience wants. This can be achieved through a carefully created SEO strategy and the use of keywords in content.

What are ‘head’ keywords, ‘body’ phrases and ‘long-tail’ keywords?

SEO and PPC professionals classify keywords in three main sections, based on popularity and specificity; the ‘head,’ the ‘body,’ and the ‘long-tail’ as visualised in the graph below.

Head terms, also referred to as ‘short tail’, are often one or two word search phrases that do not have one clear intent. 

Body phrases are slightly more specific and usually contain more words. With more words in the search query, you start to get a clearer idea of the searcher’s intent.

Long-tail keywords generally contain three or more words, have less search volume, less competition and illustrate a specific situation or intention from the searcher, ie a question.

What are keywords in SEO

Long-tail keywords typically have lower search volume, lower competition and cheaper CPCs (Cost Per Click) compared to head terms, so they’re more likely to convert.

The higher conversion probability is because a long-tail keyword is generally more specific and easier to understand exactly why someone is searching it, as opposed to trying to guess the many reasons behind a head term search query.

For example, if you ran a business that sold potatoes (because why not?) the search term ‘potato plant’ would be your head term as it has an incredibly high search volume of 5400 SPM and 68% KD.

Your body terms would be ‘planting potatoes’ (4400 SPM, 62% KD), and ‘When to plant potatoes?’ (4400 SPM, 59% KD). Then your long-tail keyword would be ‘Can you plant potatoes that have sprouted?’ (140 SPM, 34% KD).

But what does this technical lingo mean?

  • ‘SPM’ means Searches Per Month (i.e. the average number of monthly searches for a given keyword over a 12-month period)
  • ‘KD’ stands for Keyword Difficulty this metric tells you how hard it would be for a website to rank organically in the Google top 10 search results for said keyword. The higher the percentage, the harder it will be to achieve high ranking positions.

With the implementation of a refined SEO strategy, you can then put tailor-made content on your website – from product pages to blog posts – that includes these long-tail keywords and raises your search rankings even more.

What keywords should my website have?

The crucial thing to getting keywords right is having a thorough understanding of your audience and precisely what they’re visiting your website for. It might seem tempting to aim for singular, high volume ‘head’ keywords, however, the problem with this is that these words will have an extremely high level of competition. There will be a far smaller volume of people searching for long-tail keywords, but there’s also less competition. By targeting phrases more closely aligned to your business, you’re helping people find exactly what they’re looking for.

Take us for example: Cognique aren’t just a ‘digital marketing agency’ – we’re a ‘digital marketing agency based in Somerset’. By incorporating this information in our SEO strategy and the content we produce for our website, we can increase our ranking for local search results and improve the quality of enquiries coming our way via Google search – and we can do the same for you.

What is keyword research?

Whatever you do and whatever you offer, there’s a possibility that people searching for your products and services might ask for it in a slightly unusual way. So, in order to pick the keywords that are going to get your website ranking well for your audience, you need to understand your audience’s needs and the words they’ll use to search for the content they want. Finding these golden search terms that you want to rank for is ‘keyword research’.

There’s a variety of tools that can be used for keyword research. At Cognique we use a platform called Semrush, which looks through Google and tells us which keywords have high search volume and which ones don’t. We then recommend these terms to our clients and create content that appears for these preferred keywords, so anyone searching these terms will (hopefully) be led to their website.

As well as keyword research, the use of forums, surveys, questionnaires and digital marketing can give you the information you need to know about your customers. Start creating content that’s peppered with all the keywords your audience is searching for and, before you know it, your website will be rocketing to the top of Google.

How to start keyword research

To begin with, you’ll want to make a note of the broad search terms you want your website to rank for. Then it’s a matter of finding out just how popular these words are, and how tricky it would be to get your website to the top of the search results pages.

From your initial research into top tier ‘head’ keywords, you should find some inspiration for more unusual, niche search terms – the long-tail keywords that are vital to getting the right visitors to your website.

Inspiration for long-tail keywords can come from many places, but a few good places to start are:

  • Type one of your head keywords into the Google search box and see what autocomplete terms come up after it.
  • Google one of your head keywords and look at the ‘People also ask’ section to see what related questions people are searching for.
  • Also check the ‘Related searches’ section at the bottom of the first search results page for some potential long-tail keywords relating to what you searched for.

It’s also good to define what is unique about your business and what it offers – whether that’s products, services, customer support or something else entirely. By identifying what makes you stand out from your competitors, you can streamline your marketing strategy and start ranking for the keywords that really matter.

Your collection of core keywords will also create a direction for the content on your site. With your targeted keywords in mind, you can create blog titles and identify areas that your content might be lacking in.

How should you use keywords on your website?

Once you’ve got your keywords sorted, it would be easy to think that all you have to do is stick them somewhere on your website – but this won’t actually get you very far. Keywords need to be spread throughout your site in a clever way, supported by a well-thought out marketing strategy.

Keywords should definitely be used in the meta titles and meta descriptions of your website. Meta titles are the titles that appear on search engine pages, and meta descriptions are the piece of text that appear beneath them. Space is limited, but it’s vital that both these pieces of text contain keywords to entice searchers to click on your website.

Using keywords effectively is no longer a case of including the exact phrase you’re targeting a certain number of times. Search engines now understand synonyms and promote articles that may not have an exact keyword match, but contain lots of information relevant to the term searched for.

Keywords are just one of the ways you can make your content SEO friendly – but they are a crucial part of implementing a successful marketing strategy.

If you’d like your website to rank higher on Google, we’re here to help

From keywords to content creation (and everything else in-between), at Cognique we know it inside and out. Working with your business goals in mind, we can create a clear marketing strategy that implements SEO and keyword research to help your website rank for the search terms you want it to.

Increase rankings, traffic, and sales with SEO, and leave your competition behind.

Let’s get started

Our industry expert

Amy Scriven

Senior SEO Executive

From writing meta data to conducting SEO keyword research, Amy knows all when it comes to SEO. Her work is crucial to steering our clients’ digital marketing strategy in the right direction, and increasing website traffic and content engagement.

Is now the time to start dominating online?

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