What are Keywords?
Ah, keywords. So simple, yet so complex, and so important to SEO!
When providing results in a search, search engines try to match pages, or posts, or category pages, with keywords. They also factor in word order, spelling and punctuation. Where are these keywords on your site? As I discussed in my first SEO post:
When we optimize our sites and blogs, we use keywords in a number of ways. We use them in the content we write and in the images we use. We use them in meta descriptions, and in our site, page, and post titles.
Types of Keywords and Keyphrases
There are two types of keywords: short-tail keywords, and long-tail keyphrases. Short-tail keywords are very broad keywords, for example, “web design.” These make up only approximately a quarter of all keyword searches. Long-tail key phrases, on the other hand, make up almost three quarters of all searches. A long-tail search might be “custom WordPress web design.” Long-tail searches are generally used by individuals who have done a certain amount of research about their topic. They want to find the best site possible, and this is your opportunity for conversion. If you are a blogger, this means they might be more likely to visit your blog, read through, and subscribe. If you are a business, this means they might be ready to visit your site and purchase your product or service.
Therefore, your keywords should be rather specific. For example, instead of shoes, you would specify “running shoes,” or, “Nike running shoes.”
Now is where things get tricky and confusing. How do you choose the right keywords? Very simply, your keywords should be relevant to your site’s content and what you hope or expect your visitors to find.
Some questions to ask are:
- What is my market? Or, who am I trying to reach?
- What is the keyword demand for that market? Will I be fighting to get to the top of a search querry?
- How much work will it take to rank with this word or phrase?
These questions should not scare you or dissuade you from venturing out online. Remember, keywords are one piece of a much larger pie. These questions, should, however, make you think about your audience, your content, and your overall online marketing plan, and prepare you for how much work you will have to do.
Honestly, some of choosing keywords and phrases is a guessing game, which can make it frustrating and confusing for some people. Think about it this way. It’s kind of like natural selection. If we were all able to magically make our keywords and phrases work, we would all be at the top, and that is just not possible!
Keyword Research: What Tools are Available?
Luckily there are keyword research tools available, and analytics tools to monitor your keywords.
I will name two free tools here to get you started. There are paid services, which you might want to look into at some point, depending on your level of satisfaction with your results, or commitment to improving your keywords.
- Google Adwords: Here you can search for keywords based on a word or phrase, a website, or a category. You are then presented with keyword ideas, level of competition for the ideas, along with number of global and monthly searchs.
- Wordtracker: I suggest signing up for the free full trial, and then cancelling if you aren’t happy with it, because it has many more features. For example, you can create a keyword campaign, and they will look at your site, make sure it’s being crawled, what your page rank is, what your Alexa ranking is, and more. Very cool!
Your keywords, along with your general site health, should be monitored and tested constantly. Probably the best tool to use is Google Analytics. Some people find Google Analytics confusing, so know that if you do get confused, you are not alone. In the future I may write a guide to the tool.
There is also a Google Analytics for WordPress plugin.
Don’t stress too much about keyword rankings. Focus on what keywords bring people to your site, and build from there. Perform keyword searches in your niche, and see what other keywords people are using. And most importantly, remember that this takes time. Just because you are monitoring does NOT mean you should be constantly changing. Let it ride for a while to see what is working and what is not!
Keywords are mystifying, and are a small part of a larger puzzle. Although a lot of it is a shot in the dark, there are tools that can help you get on your way. When you are writing, keep your keywords in mind. Make them work organically in your content, but don’t let them write your content. Monitor your analytics, and remember to give it time!!