As with everything Internet, SEO is in a constant state of evolution. Does that mean that keywords are less relevant to your SEO strategy than they were 5 or 10 years ago? Not at all. Keywords are just as important as ever. Prior to 2011 when Google’s Panda update changed the face of SEO as we know it, keyword density was the manna of life. Identifying and repeating your keywords ad nauseam throughout your website content was ultimately what increased your rankings and drove traffic to your product. Since Panda however, keyword placement trumps keyword density. Today, overutilizing keywords can devalue your content and make it look spammy. In extreme cases, your content will be picked up by spam filters – working in direct opposition to your goal. When crafting your SEO strategy, it’s imperative to prioritize keyword placement and understand how to identify and leverage these words to maximize your searchability.
The psychology of the search
When setting out to create your SEO strategy and subsequent content, it’s important to understand how we search for information. Although we speak in full sentences, we’ve been Internet-trained to search in keywords and phrases. If for example, you’re interested in finding a business in Minneapolis where you can buy paleo baked goods, you’re not likely to type “I’m looking for a bakery in Minneapolis where I can buy paleo baked goods.”
Instead, your search might look like…
Paleo baked goods Minneapolis
Paleo bakery Minneapolis
grain-free bakery Minneapolis
The way we search is one big reason keywords are still an important component of the SEO game.
Long-tail vs. short-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords consist of less than three words while long-tail keywords consist of more than three words. It’s widely recognized that long-tail keywords target a more specific search query which helps you hone in more accurately on your target market.
Google is getting smarter, however, and is now able to search the semantics behind your words. Say you search changing oil on a RAV4. While previously Google would simply return search results that contained keywords from your search, after the Hummingbird algorithm overhaul in 2013, Google infers some other information about you from your search criteria. In this case, Google may assume that you’re a new, inexperienced driver or that you’re a young professional that doesn’t typically change your own oil – hence the need for a tutorial. As search engines become more intelligent, they are returning more accurate results and driving more on-point traffic.
Effective keyword selection
Sticking with our earlier theme, let’s say you host a website where you share paleo recipes and market your new paleo cookbook. As part of your website, you have a blog. In your next post you want to discuss grain-free flour substitutes for people with nut allergies. How do you determine which keywords to incorporate into your post to fetch the best SEO and drive traffic back to your page (where prospects will ultimately see you as an industry expert and purchase your new cookbook)? Maybe you’re trying to figure out which is a better keyword choice: nut-free grain-free flour or allergen-free paleo flour or if perhaps there’s a keyword that would be more relevant. There are a few different avenues you can explore to help make that determination.
Google Keyword Planner – This will help you see what the average usage is of a given keyword and help you determine which ones are most relevant for your business.
Google Webmasters – This tool will give you insight into which search queries people are currently using to get to your website
Your competitors’ webpages – Identify competitors who generate substantial web traffic and do some recon work on their websites. Pouring through their content may help you will find one or two keywords that resonate with yours.
Indeed, because we still search keywords to find content and search engines are learning how to return more relevant search results from our keyword choices, keywords are still an integral part of an effective SEO strategy. If you are interested in learning more about creating an effective SEO strategy for your business, we would love to help!
Be sure to stay tuned for our next blog on tying your keywords to your content marketing strategy which is equally important! Don’t have a strategy? Fortunately, we sell that here 😉 If you could use some help with your keyword strategy, click here to schedule your keyword research marketing strategy session with one of our experts today!