You probably already know that keywords are important for SEO, but what do we mean when we talk about SEO keywords? How can you find the right keywords for your website, and, more importantly, how to use those keywords in your content and maximize your SEO?
What Are SEO Keywords?
SEO Keywords are words or phrases (search terms) used when searching for information through a search engine. Adding those keywords to your content increases your chances of appearing in the search results for those terms.
SEO Keywords make it easier for search engines to understand your content and help users find the information they need.
Why Are Keywords Important?
Keywords are very important for SEO. Without using the right keywords in your content, search engines have a hard time understanding the meaning of your content. And this diminishes your chances of getting organic traffic to your website.
The way search engines work is by matching the user search queries with pages available in their index.
During the crawling and indexing phase, search engine crawlers visit a webpage. They extract the information they need and add it to their index. They use this information later during the ‘matching’ process (also referred to as the ranking process).
Part of the information they extract is the keywords a web page is associated with.
If, during this process, your website is associated with the wrong keywords, then you have no chance of appearing high in the results for the keywords that matter for your website.
Let me give you an example to help you understand this better.
Let’s say you want to rank for [electric bicycles]. You create a page and showcase your products (product name, images of the products, etc.).
Unless you mention on the page that they are electric, Google will most probably associate your page with bicycles, and this is not what you want.
What you should do instead is to find out which keywords people use as search terms when they look for electric bicycles and make sure that these keywords are part of your content.
Different Types of SEO Keywords
Keywords are classified into two categories: head keywords and long-tail keywords.
Head keywords (also known as seed keywords) usually consist of one or two words and have a high search volume.
Long-tail keywords consist of more words and have less search volume than head keywords but makeup 70% of all searches.
What is important to understand at this point is that head keywords may have more search volume, but they are also highly competitive.
This means that thousands of websites are competing for one of the top positions in the SERPS and this makes it almost impossible for new websites (or small businesses) to rank for these terms.
The solution is to focus on long-tail keywords.
They have less search volume, but with the right SEO plan, it is possible to rank in the top positions of Google and get targeted organic traffic to your website.
How To Choose Keywords For SEO
Let’s see how to choose the “right” SEO keywords for your content. This process is known in SEO as keyword research.
1. Decide for which ‘search terms’ you want to be known for
Your first step is to spend some time thinking about the following:
- For which search terms do you want to be known online?
- What words or search phrases people might use in the search engines to find you?
- Which words best describe your products or services?
- Which words describe your niche better?
The outcome of the above exercise should be a list of phrases that we’ll use to turn into a keyword list in the next step.
2. Create a Keyword list
To create a keyword list, you need to take the above list and associate it with the actual keywords people type in the search box, i.e., SEO Keywords.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Keyword Planner is part of Google Ads, and Google offers it for free to Google Ads customers.
Nevertheless, it’s a great keyword research tool, and you can use it to find your SEO keywords.
Go to Google Ads and create an account. Follow the steps to create a draft campaign so the system will allow you to access the Keyword Planner.
Once you finish the draft campaign, select TOOLS > KEYWORD PLANNER.
Click on FIND NEW KEYWORDS
For this example, let’s say you are a dog trainer selling an online course teaching people how to train their dogs.
If you enter the relevant keywords in the keyword planner, you will be presented with a list of keyword ideas matching your selected topics.
Notice that besides the keywords, the tool has a few more columns.
The ‘Average Monthly Searches’ shows you how many searches are performed on Google per month for that term, and the ‘Competition’ gives you an idea of how competitive a keyword is.
By ‘competitive’, we mean how many people bid to advertise for that keyword on Google Ads.
Remember that the keyword planner is a tool for Google PPC Ads and not for SEO search results.
Select some of the keywords highly relevant to your website and products, both ‘head’ and ‘long-tail keywords’, add them to a spreadsheet, and move on to the next step.
Semrush is my favorite keyword research tool. Among many other useful features, it has two very powerful tools for keyword research.
The first is the “Keyword Magic Tool,” and the second is the “Topic Research.”
The first step is to create an account (there is a 7 Day Free Trial).
Then select KEYWORD MAGIC TOOL under KEYWORD ANALYTICS.
Type in your head keyword and click SEARCH.
SEMRUSH will group related keywords together.
Sort the keywords by volume and KD (Keyword Difficulty). Unlike the Google Keyword Planner, KD refers to how difficult it is to RANK for a particular keyword in Google.
This metric is very useful since you want to pick the right SEO keywords with higher search volume and lower KD scores.
Remember what I mentioned above: Google now ranks websites based on Topics, not just keywords.
The Topic Research tool will help you find long-tail keywords related to a topic.
Click TOPIC RESEARCH from the left menu and type in our main head keyword.
What you see on the right (under Interesting Questions), are questions related to your niche. It’s similar to “People Also Ask” but more comprehensive since it includes questions from various sources.
How can you take advantage of this?
These questions can help you build TOPIC RELEVANCY, which is what you want if your goal is to rank higher on Google.
How can you do this in practice? Optimize your homepage for your head keywords and then create content (through a blog) targeting each question (which is the long-tail keywords).
Make sure that you link to your main pages within your blogs.
3. Find related keywords
The next step is to find keywords related to your target keywords. These keywords are known as semantic keywords or LSI keywords.
A semantic keyword is a keyword that is strongly related to another keyword.
You want to do this because Google no longer ranks pages that target individual keywords but are more targeted to topics.
So, by finding related keywords for your main keywords and including them in your content, you help Google better understand your content, which translates to higher rankings.
The best way to find related keywords is to use Google Search.
When you search for a keyword in Google, there are 2 ways to find out what Google considers to be the related keywords for a given search term.
The first is to look at the “People also ask” section.
And the second one is the “related searches” section.
How To Use Keywords For SEO
Doing good keyword research and having a keyword list is not enough. To benefit from this process, you must know how to use those keywords in your content.
1. Optimize your Homepage for your main keyword
Homepage SEO is very important. Search engines start the crawling process from the homepage and follow up on any links.
When it comes to keyword optimization, you should optimize your homepage for your main head keywords (even if their keyword difficulty is very high).
The reason is that you want to make your website clear to both crawlers and users what it is all about.
2. Create a separate page for each of your main keywords
Let’s say that your company sells services. You need to create a page for each of your services, and each page needs to be optimized for the main keyword.
Then, create a summary page for all your services and link to the individual pages.
3. Create pieces of content to target long-tail keywords
Once you finish the main keywords, it’s time to utilize the power of blogging and start creating content targeting long-tail keywords.
You can use the results of topic research to decide which keywords to target in your blog posts.
4. Optimize your content with SEO keywords
When writing the content for both your pages and blog posts, you need to make sure that:
- Use keywords in the URL – you include your target keyword in the page URL.
- Use keywords in the page title – you include your target keyword in the page title.
- Use keywords in the H1 Tag – you include your target keyword (or close variations) in the h1 tag.
- Use long-tail keywords as subheadings (h2, h3) – you include related keywords in your subheadings.
- Use LSI keywords in your content – you include LSI keywords within your copy.
The following guides will help you understand this better:
SEO Keywords: Final Advice
Picking up the right keywords for your website is important.
When choosing keywords, try to think outside the box and consider all possible search phrases people might use in search engines to find your products.
Add those keywords to a spreadsheet and use the data from the different keyword tools to expand your keyword list as much as possible.
Group your keywords into two categories. First are the keywords for your homepage and main website pages, and second are the keywords for your blog.
Follow the on-page SEO tips outlined above to include keywords in your copy intelligently, but always make sure that you pay special attention to the quality of the content.
Publish content related to your target topics to create content relevancy and watch your rankings and traffic increase.