Keywords: The Foundation of SEO
I've used the term 'keywords' a fair amount in this post, and with good reason. Keywords are the backbone of SEO. They make up a user's query and are what search engines use to index the vast and ever-growing content on the internet.
There are five critical aspects of keywords to grasp that build off each other:
1. The intent of the keywords for the user
2. How search engines understand those keywords
3. How common is that keyword – is it used frequently
4. Are the keywords relevant to your business's products and services
5. How competitive are they
These aspects are the foundation of your formal keyword research. This research will guide you as to which keywords will significantly impact reaching your business goals. Understanding what you are looking for and collecting data to be analyzed will help you achieve the most out of this step.
The first thing to do is to put yourself in the shoes of your client. It's great to know what you see as benefits to your product or service, but it's even better to understand what your consumer sees as most important. A simple process for doing this is:
1. Brainstorm and answer key questions
a. What products and services do you offer? - Understanding your client's intent
2. Use Google Search Console to seed your keyword list
a. This tool provides valuable insight into how people are currently finding your site
3. Use Google Trends or AnswerThePublc to expand on your list
4. Use Moz Keywords Explorer for search volume metrics for the demand for the keywords
a. Keep in mind that longtail keywords (many keywords strung together like white counter height bar stools) are more relevant for users and produce higher-quality traffic
5. Organize your keyword list by theme or topic
a. You can use excel for this
Helpful tools for analyzing keywords
There were a few tools mentioned above that are essential to the research phase. I think two are worth talking about in a little more detail; Moz Keyword Explorer and Google Trends.
Moz Keyword Explorer is a great tool that provides a measure of search volume and suggests related keywords to consider, and gives insight into what types of sites and content are currently in top positions (Booth, 2020).
Google offers a multitude of tools that are helpful to business owners and marketers alike. Google Trends is one such tool that has great value in your keyword research. You can type in keywords from your list, and Google Trends will provide you information on how that keyword has been and is being used in Google searches.
Google Search Console is a way to get performance reports on your site's pages and the queries used to display your page on a SERP. These reports provide insight into what queries lead to impressions and click-throughs to your site and how often they are clicked (Booth, 2020).
These tools can be used in conjunction to strengthen your Keyword list. The potential monthly search volume provided by sites like Moz Keyword Explorer can be input into Google Trends to see a breakdown of the volume by specific time ranges. This is particularly useful if you run a seasonal business like lawn care.
Keyword Attributes are a set of values assigned to a specific keyword or string of keywords. These values are relevance, search volume, and competition.
How accurately the keywords reflect the nature of the products and services you offer and the value derived from that product or service.
The number of times users use a particular keyword in their searches.
Chances are a multitude of businesses offers similar products and services in your area. This means that the content produced by these businesses and the keywords they use will be similar. Unless you've invented something new, chances are you will have direct competitors.
It's vital to consider how your keywords are distributed when creating content for specific pages on your site. Reference the keyword list created during the research phase and, make sure you are placing keywords on the most appropriate pages. Aim for one keyword per page and be careful not to keyword load the page – remember you are still writing for a human audience. Besides, algorithms are smart enough to pick up on this tactic, and it won't help your SEO. Focus on unique and relevant content. If a keyword on your list doesn't fit on any page of your site, ditch it.
Consider using a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Sheets to create a master distribution list of your target keywords. This will help you structure your site and keeps a record of which pages are targeting which keywords (Booth, 2020). If you use a spreadsheet, make sure you show the pages' hierarchy and the sections that live on those pages. This will make it easier to find information when you go to update it down the road.
Below is an example of a format from the SEO Foundations course on Learning LinkedIn:
As you'll notice, David Booth has chosen to use the spreadsheet's left-hand side to show the hierarchy, and separate columns for the keywords on each page, the URL of the page, and the meta-headers / meta-descriptions.
A guide to keep in mind when writing meta-data is 65 or fewer characters for titles or headers and under 156 for descriptions. This will maximize the content search engines include when you appear on a SERP.
Remember that this is a never-ending process. Adaptation is mandatory. Over time, you'll discover that some keywords do not produce results and should be replaced with new keywords. Additionally, some keywords that were performing well in the past may not be now. Revisit your research phase on a regular cadence and look for new opportunities that may have come up.
With organic results, keep in mind that it can take months to see accurate data on keywords' performance.
If you're willing to spend a little cash, you can get faster results as to which keywords drive traffic to your site by running paid search advertising on either Google Ads or Bing Ads. Paid search is done by buying the keywords you would like to test for a set timeframe and reviewing the data at the end of the timeframe to see those keywords' performance.
Booth, D. (2020, 11 16). SEO Foundations. Retrieved February 2021, from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/seo-foundations/leveraging-the-power-of-search-to-accomplish-your-business-goals?u=2109516
Patel, N. (n.d.). How to Boost Domain Authority: Checking and Improving This Key Site Metric. Retrieved February 2021, from Neil Patel: https://neilpatel.com/blog/boost-your-domain-authority/