Anyone familiar with search engine optimization has likely heard of keywords. Though keywords on their own are no longer the sole factor for determining a website’s ranking in Google search results, they still play a crucial role in your online visibility. Keyword research for SEO serves as an important first step to developing an online marketing strategy.
A strategic use of relevant keywords and phrases will increase your website’s visibility to Google and ensure more people take notice of your content. To reach your target audience, the first step in the SEO process is keyword research. Take advantage of the myriad of tools at your disposal to identify a list of keywords optimized for your website.
What are Keywords in SEO?
Keywords and phrases are simply the search terms that people use online to find the information they need. Keywords are generally sorted and ranked by topic, meaning that you’ll be competing against similar websites to rank for the same terms.
In modern SEO, the individual keywords on your website matter less than their context and the quality of the content they appear in. For instance, copying and pasting a long list of keywords at the end of your article won’t appeal to Google. Your chosen keywords should be integrated naturally into the text, prominent enough to catch Google’s attention but not enough to turn off potential customers.
Pro Tip: Google looks at your entire website for context on a keyword. If you only have a single post ranking for a particular keyword, Google is not likely to consider you an authority on that topic.
What Types of Keywords are There?
Keywords can fall into a couple of categories:
- Long tail keywords: a long tail keyword contains more words than a typical Google search, consequently leading to more specific content. Keywords are generally considered to be longtail if they exceed 3-4 words in length.
- Seed keywords: a seed keyword is the original search query a user types into Google. For instance, in the long tail keyword “Mexican restaurant near me”, the seed keyword is “Mexican restaurant”.
Ideally, your website should strive to rank for multiple keywords from each category relevant to your specialty.
What is Keyword Competition?
Simply put, keyword competition or keyword difficulty refers to how many people in your industry are attempting to rank for the same keywords. The higher the search volume of a keyword, the more difficult it will be to rank for that keyword yourself. For instance, you’d be hard-pressed to rank highly for the word “insurance”, which has over half a million searches every month.
On the other hand, if you can easily rank for a particular keyword, make sure it’s worth the effort. Some keywords are easy to rank for because they’re barely ever typed into Google. If you rank highly for a keyword that only gets a couple of searches per year, you’ve gained nothing.
How Do I Find Good Keywords?
There are four steps to effective keyword research:
- Define your focus and investigate your competition. How many other places on the internet offer the same information?
- Define your target audience. Which demographic is most likely to be interested in your topic? How often will they search for that information?
- Keep track of your highest-ranking keywords through a tool such as Google Console. If a keyword brings in plenty of traffic, keep using it! Keep track of your keyword success and plan your future content accordingly.
- Rinse and repeat! Keyword research and effective SEO is an ongoing process. Continue monitoring your keyword success, website traffic, audience demographics, and any other information that will help you promote your site.
Keyword Research for SEO
A well-planned SEO strategy will help more people find your website and return for more information in the future. While true SEO involves several different strategies and countless hours of work, one of the first steps is basic keyword research. Keywords are the foundation upon which your high search rankings will depend.
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