By Hannah Bryan
Have questions about keywords? You aren’t the only one. The search landscape changes daily and the way that keywords are used in search algorithms and across different platforms can vary greatly, so not having a grasp on what a keyword is and how it’s used is understandable.
I’ve answered a few of the most common questions I get from clients about keywords to help explain the mysteries surrounding those ever-mentioned, never-explained keywords all SEOs love to talk about.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is a word or phrases that are entered into search engines like Google, Bing, etc. by a user. They are also commonly called “search queries.” Think about any word or combination of words you type into Google. “Best temp to grill salmon.” “What time is Mission Impossible playing near me.” “Blue shoes for wedding.” Each time you hit <search> you’ve entered a keyword, or a search query.
As you create new content for your website or organization, consider what words your customers are and what questions they are asking. These keywords should inform the content you create to provide relevant answers, so users find your content in the SERPs (search engine results page).
How are keywords made and found?
Users are in the driver’s seat. Keywords are created and searched for by users. The way we talk and discuss trends impacts what keywords are popular. Keywords that are popular now may not have even existed a decade ago.
Google reaffirms that the organic search space is always changing. According to Internet Live Stats, Google processes over 3.5 billion queries every day and 15% of those search terms have never been seen by Google before.
This is why when you are considering how to earn more high-quality traffic, the first step is to conduct keyword research to identify what terms & trends you can discuss within your niche and industry. In fact, it changes so frequently that high-level keyword research should be completed every quarter.
What’s the difference between long-tail and short-tail keywords?
Short tail keywords, also known as head keywords, are usually singular words. While at first these keywords seem inviting because of their high search volume and organic visibility, they are also extremely vague and incredibly competitive terms to set goals against.
For example, if you have a client that is a hospital system and they are trying to rank for “doctor,” it’s important to know what the user is specifically searching for and what their intent is. A new doctor? To understand what doctors do? To find a specific kind of doctor? To find out when the new season of Doctor Who comes out?
Beyond the lack of intent, short tail keywords have significantly more competition from very authoritative websites that have been around as long as the Internet has existed. For example, it is very difficult to outrank outlets like Wikipedia and Merriam Webster for the first position of general short tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are the less obvious winners for keyword targeting and optimization, but the stats are on their side.
70% of all searches are long tail keywords and the competition for these terms is significantly lower or non-existent. That is because the keyword’s intent is often far more defined, specific, and clear. So, instead of simply “doctor”, long-tail keywords would be “BCBS family doctor near me” or “what do primary care doctors do?”
Because of the lower competition, these keywords are the low-hanging fruit. especially for large organizations like who already have a strong domain authority score.
What is the relationship between organic keywords & SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) aims to improve organic search results for keywords that have proven to contribute to a client’s business goals (whatever the goals are: leads, sales, signups, visits or page views for advertising sales, etc.).
What has changed with keywords in the past five years?
Google is smart – we all know that. Over the last five years, Google has become even smarter, specifically when it comes to organic keywords and the ways that the ranking algorithm operates. The world of search engine optimization continues to shift. Now, the spotlight is falling squarely on keywords, how they are used, targeted, and optimized for.
In the old days, when the algorithm was not as nuanced and expansive, it was far easier to “game” the system and earn number #1 rankings in organic search results. It was all based on keyword density (how often a keyword is used on one page) and perceived relevance. Say “computer repairs” five times more than your next competitor on your website’s page, and you win #1.
Nowadays, the algorithms are smarter, RankBrain has been released, artificial intelligence (AI) runs a lot of the show, and over 250 rules and parameters are a part of Google’s core ranking algorithm for search. Google’s crawlbots can now understand the context of words and the quality of a piece of content.
How do I write keyword-optimized content today?
First and foremost, content must always be written for the user and not for the algorithms. Second, it must naturally include relevant keywords and terms around the page’s topic throughout the copy and meta tags (H1s, meta description, title tag, etc.) but with no more than 5% density for the keywords as a whole. Third, it must be comprehensive and unique content that no one else has published previously.
From there, you promote the content, see how users interact with the content, review their engagement stats, and adjust content and keyword mentions until the organic clickthrough rates are within your targeted goal.
Learn more about how we can help you improve the SEO or your website or business.