After all, creating and distributing content that you think your customers and prospects will find relevant, valuable or entertaining—what’s known as content marketing these days—is a questionable endeavor if those people can’t find the expensive assets that you create.
What the heck is a keyword?
Wikipedia defines keywords, and the research for them, as a practice used by search engine optimization professionals and marketers to find and assess search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search.
Interestingly, keywords have had a long and memorable history with search engines. Highlights include:
- 1995 Early search engines Infoseek and AltaVista popularize use of keywords
- 1997 search engines realize keywords attribute is often unreliable or misleading
- 1998 search engines start dropping support for keyword metadata
- 2000 most search engines veer away from reliance on meta elements
- 2007 Google +37 leaders in SEO conclude keywords have little search relevance or value
- 2009 Google announces keywords are not accounted for in search results positions (SERPs)
- Today, meta keyword tags receive lowest importance ranking in search signal
- Meta keywords now have less search effect than inclusion in content or headlines
If search engines don’t care about keywords, why should you?
The reason SEO professionals research keywords is to uncover the words or terms that can be integrated properly in a structured manner to improve the opportunity of achieving better search results rankings. The operative qualifiers here are proper and structured inclusion. Black hat and non compliant keyword overstuffing is not recommended to “game” the search engines. In fact, with Google’s recent Penguin and Panda updates, these practices have been virtually obsoleted.
The diagram below shows how keywords work in context with other SEO components in a query and search results page.
What are the right keywords?
Keyword research is a process that must be done regularly for it to deliver your content in a higher position on the search results page. Frequent research also gives you valuable insight into your industry’s trends as well as which products and services are in demand at different points in time.
Comprehensive keyword research can also help boost your business and website visibility through cost-effective organic search engine traffic instead of spending valuable resources on pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) ad campaigns like Google AdWords.
3 point strategy for keyword success.
1. Create a list of 3—5 keywords relevant to your business
Put yourself outside of your company and in the mind of someone searching for a solution like yours with a search engine like Google. Words and short phrases that describe the pain or challenge that your prospects face is the best place to start. This will help you focus on the value that you offer and the problem that your products or service solves.
2. Choose keywords based on difficulty and relevance
The greater the volume or number of daily searches on a keyword, the more competitive it is. If you’re a small or medium-sized business, choosing less competitive keywords instead of general terms like “golf” or “yoga” is a must. And the more specific and related to your business (like where you operate or conduct business) the better.
There are a number of different free and paid tools you can use to figure out how competitive a specific keyword is and what might be a better alternative. Keyword relevance to your business is essential for selection. While some obscure terms might be easy to rank for, their relevance may attract the wrong visitors who aren’t truly interested in what you have to offer.
The goal of the research is to find a balance between relevance and competition for the term or word. Trying out different keywords, and then analyzing their performance over time will help you to continue to refine and improve your search results ranking.
3. Stay focused on what matters when you deploy
Once you’ve narrowed the list of keywords based on your strategic criteria, they have to be integrated and deployed on your website or blog.
- Keep keyword research and integration in context of a website development schedule
- Remember that keyword software tools disclose opportunities and may validate use or direction
- Keyword research only provides direction of where to focus—it will change over time
- Keywords are not a panacea and do not make compelling copy for your website content
- Filter and/or eliminate keywords that don't address prospect pain & need—what they would enter in the search box
- Your keywords should include common, simple language—not solution, category or guru speak
- Keywords should be aligned with your brand positioning and the value that you offer customers
- Don't look to keywords to replace brand expression or tone
- Include keywords in the proper positions and structures of website & page production
In spite of a checkered past, keywords aren’t going away. Especially when you consider that search engine algorithms are built on words. So getting the right words in the right place for your content to get found is critical for today’s content publishers.
Have you had success by sticking with a few keywords. Or have you adjusted your keyword list to accommodate the changes and competition in your area of expertise? Share your success or stumbles.