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The Back to Basics Guide to Understanding Keywords

As an inbound marketing agency, we are more than happy to talk about anything and everything to do with digital marketing, but it is also important for us to realise that not everybody is, or should be, up to date on the latest industry trends. As a business owner, your interests lie in, well, your business, not the ins and outs of online marketing. So sometimes we need to take stock, turn back the dial, and take a fresh look at the basics, and we start here with a look at keywords.


Let’s start at the start: What is a keyword? Well, to put it simply, it’s a word, set of words or phrase people use to search online for information and solutions to their problems or challenges. Businesses publish content online that includes these keywords so that it is their content a person finds when they type their search into, for example, Google.

A business selling shoes, for instance, wants to direct people to its website to buy their products, but simply posting out messages saying ‘Buy our shoes!’ no longer works. For one, that type of content will not appear anywhere near the first page of results in a Google search. Secondly, people don’t want to be sold to anymore, particularly online. What they search for when they go online, more often than not, is information that helps them, so providing content that will attract an audience involves having the keywords a person is likely to type into that search bar.

These fall into two categories: Broad keywords and Long-tail keywords, which are as their names suggest, and which we can see an example of courtesy of HubSpot below:

Examples for a shoe shop would be:

  • ‘Best shoes for summer’
  • ‘Shoes with great ankle support’
  • ‘Women’s shoes and accessories’
  • ‘Shoes for weddings’
  • ‘Comfort shoes’

Your keywords not only help visitors find your content and discover its relevance to their search, but also help search engines understand the purpose of your page, which is where a page ranking comes in, and why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is so important to all online content you publish.

Long-tail keywords are more specific, and therefore easier to rank high in search because they have less competition than a very broad and general word such as ‘shoe’, and will bring in the most qualified traffic as a result. For example, if a person is looking for a pair of black shoes with a buckle on them, and you sell them, you should have ‘black shoes with buckle’ as a keyword, rather than just plumping for ‘shoes’, because this person is in the market for something specific, and if your content appears in their search, they are likely to look further into your website and potentially become a customer.

In order to create an effective keyword strategy, it is important to know who you are trying to attract with your online content – after all, if you are going to assume the types of words and phrases they will enter into a search bar, it is useful to have in mind an ideal customer, and this is where creating a Buyer Persona comes in. No pun intended, but put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

How does the whole keyword ranking thing work?

Travolta_Unsure_What_Keywords_Are.gifWell, the truth is, we don’t know. Nobody knows, apart from a handful of people who design the extremely complicated algorithms that dictate what ranks highest in a search. What we do know is that stuffing keywords into your content used to be the answer, but it most certainly isn’t now, as search engines have become far more complex, and smart, and can detect such shenanigans a mile away.

Another tactic used to try to increase SEO rankings is paid for advertising, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC), in which your content is displayed prominently on a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) in exchange for a fee to be paid every time that result is clicked on. Google’s search result displays are ever-changing, but basically place paid for content at the top of the page, with organic search results under it (I use Google as my main example because they are by far the dominant search engine, but Bing and Yahoo! also have measures to ensure paid for and organic content are not confused).

The problem is, these top listings are obviously paid for, and as a result are not always considered to be of the greatest quality, and so are seldom successful. For me, PPC is not advisable. Creating great content that includes your keywords, and variations of them, is the better option, because it not only attracts visitors to your website, but it also provides the valuable information they are looking for and which you say you have. If you can offer what the visitor wants, they are on their way to becoming a potential customer, and you have generated a valuable lead.

Want to know more about creating great content for lead generation and how to attract more business? Download our Lead Generation Survival Kit:

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Keyword best practices

So what should you do to create an effective keyword strategy? Here’s some things to remember:

Content is king – Creating good, helpful, informative content on a regular basis ensures consistent levels of traffic to your website. Whether it’s a blog, a video, an eBook or an infographic, valuable content that is relevant to your keywords will ensure your search engine ranking increases.

Variety is the spice of life – Remember I said search engines were clever? Well this extends to their being able to differentiate between homonyms such as foot, and based on the other words being used, figure out if you mean the appendage at the end of your leg, or the unit of measurement.

So, you might say, all of this is very helpful, but how do I actually put together a set of keywords to include in my content that will help attract visitors to my website? You could hire an SEO specialist or inbound digital marketing agency, and they can offer their expertise to develop a detailed and well-researched list that will undoubtedly help, but if the purse strings are tight, you can always get the ball rolling yourself.

Here’s the four steps you need to take:

brainstorm_to_find_keywords.jpg1. Brainstorm – what are the obvious keywords related to your business, your products and services, the types of word or phrases your market would use to search for these, the issues, problems and solutions your target market has? What are all of the possible variations of these, such as plurals, synonyms, etc?

2. Use Research tools – there are many very useful keyword research tools available that will suggest the best keywords for your industry and show you their importance, strength and relevance. One such tool is Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which can show you great metrics such as the average monthly search and the level of competition for a keyword, so you can pick out those with a high search volume, but low competition levels. Ubersuggest offers up long-tail phrases that may not have come to mind in your brainstorming session.

3. Check out and analyse the competition – what keywords do the top websites in your industry use? What puts them at the top? Assess whether you can compete and improve upon those keywords.

4. Structure your Website content based on your chosen keywords – by adopting an integrated digital marketing strategy that ties all elements of your online campaign together, identify where you can use high-competition, intrinsic keywords on your home and category pages, and longer, more specific keywords in blogs and more specific pages.

Optimising your content will involve using keywords not only in the body of web pages or blogs, but in headings, titles, meta descriptions, alt text – anywhere you can. If you use the most effective keywords within great content, it should boost your SEO ranking, and help your business increase its online presence and traffic, and help generate leads by turning visitors into potential customers.

The concept is not difficult, but putting it all in place can be, so don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts. An SEO agency or a specialist inbound marketing agency can not only do the keyword work for you, but can monitor and assess its effectiveness over time, then fine tune your content to help your business stand above the competition.

Want to find out more about developing a keyword strategy that generates leads for your business, and how we can help you make that happen Just go to the phone booth and book a call with us.



Adam Hyland - Chief Editor

Adam Hyland - Chief Editor

Adam is the most vital link between your message and your audience, ensuring your tone is on brand and optimised for engagement.

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