Horizon Featured Article

Understanding Keywords & How to Use Them

Keywords are Key to Search Engine Success

There are a lot of 'secrets' to success that you'll come across online, when it comes to marketing your brand and your business.

At Northsail, we believe that open, honest communication with customers is one of the biggest benefits you can give yourself. It's worked well for us, because our clients know they can always trust us to complete projects on-time, on-spec, and on budget - if we don't think that we can meet their expectations, we simply won't take on the project.

For businesses that are just building their sites or are doing major content overhauls on their websites, we've been making a lot of suggestions lately on how you can make life easier on yourself. But if you aren't building keywords into your content, they could be the missing ingredient to achieving SEO success.

But what are keywords and key phrases? What are the different types of keywords and the benefits of on-page SEO tactics? Before we get to some tips for using keywords effectively in your SEO strategies, let's discuss these important elements.

What are Keywords & Key Phrases?

Keywords (sometimes referred to as SEO keywords) are ideas, topics, or combinations of words that define what your content is about.

When someone is searching for content in your industry online, whether that's for education, entertainment, or for the purpose of purchasing something, the collection of terms that you include throughout your content help place you organically in search engine inquiries.

The popularity of keywords is defined by how many unique monthly searches they get on search engines. For instance, Google trends can show you which keywords for SEO are currently getting a lot of attention. In many cases, the more closely you focus keyphrases, the less popular keywords become; and yet, you'll find customers using these terms are much closer to the bottom of your sales funnel.

This means that your keywords should always be relevant to your industry and to the people that your business is trying to service; otherwise, you could end up drawing people to your website that aren't really interested in what you're offering, and they'll leave without making their way through the bottom of your sales funnel.

The challenge that arises is figuring out how to include lots of relevant keywords throughout your content, while also standing out against competitors who are often utilizing the same (or similar) keywords throughout their own website copy.

The Different Types of Keywords

There are a surprisingly large number of different types of keywords, some of which are easier to use than others. Sometimes aiming for a higher keyword difficulty can give you a leg up on competitors that aren't willing to spend the time trying to find ways to organically use those words or phrases.

Some examples of different types of keywords include:

This is by no means an exhaustive list of keywords, but you can see that there are a ton of different ways that you can use different types of keywords to your advantage.

Regardless of the type of keywords you're using, in order to use them effectively, they each need to be included at least 2-3 times on each page. Otherwise, they may not work as effectively as they would for other competitors that are including them more often.

Also, keywords can be picked up by search engines, even if they don't appear exactly as you'd expect them to. You can actually fit up to 15 characters between parts of a keyword/key phrase before you'll break keyword functionality.

The Benefits of On-Page SEO

The biggest benefit of using on-page SEO tactics like effective keyword strategies is that it helps better connect your products/services with the potential customers that you're trying to reach.

It's helpful to think about keywords as much as a reflection of the target customer as it is of your content itself. In many cases, these search terms are the most direct way to get people that are already near the bottom of your sales funnel to choose you.

Using search engine optimization (SEO) driven plans in your content strategy is a great way to close the gap between terms people in your industry use to describe your services, and the keyword ideas that customers will come up with to search for the types of things you offer.

Done well with good keyword research, this will help Google Analytics place your business as a credible force within your marketplace. In turn, it can increase your monthly search volume appearances, and push your pages towards the top of the SERPs list.

7 Tips for Improving Your Keyword Usage:

1.) Have an SEO Specialist Perform an Audit on Your Site

A good place to start if you are having trouble managing your SEO strategies (or specific keyword strategy), is to turn to a specialist that can perform an SEO audit on your website.

This will help identify major search terms that you should be including in pieces of content, as well as help put together a keyword list that fits with relevant content in your field that you may not have considered.

In many cases, the auditor will suggest some landing pages, as well as some tips that you can use to improve your content strategy with more meaningful content.

Not only does this give you a great starting place with focus keyphrases that you should consider including, but it's one of the most invaluable keyword research tools you can get.

2.) Build Content Using a List of Keywords

Now that you've got some help defining where your short- and long-tail keyword strategies may be lacking, you've most likely got a list of search terms and phrases that you need to start building into your website and social media campaigns to increase your visibility.

As you're creating new forms of content, have your writer reference the list of target keywords and include as many naturally as they can. The benefit of having a list of terms like target keywords is that it can actually help provide direction on your content strategy.

For example, if you're dealing in automotive parts and you're seeing a lot of keywords involving 'car batteries', but have no relevant content on your site for that topic, you can build a blog specifically for the purpose of naturally placing those keywords.

It's a great way to utilize a number of exact match keywords, without having to try and stuff them into pages that don't make any sense or won’t sound natural.

3.) Utilize Keywords in Different Types of Content

You should be sure to include your short- and long-tail keywords in more than just your landing pages and blogs. In fact, you should really be thinking about building informational keywords into any type of content your site utilizes.

This means taking a step back to look at your content strategy holistically. Spend some time thinking about where and how you might be able to fit exact match keywords in naturally.

If you're having trouble, start with places that you wouldn't normally look like meta title and meta descriptions for each of your pages. Meta descriptions in particular offer between 155-160 characters that you can use tactfully for your keyword strategy.

It can help make your pages more visible when users search keywords, because they may even be able to see those phrase match keywords in the page description near the search bar or search box.

In many cases, this can be good encouragement for visitors to click-through and start exploring other content on your site.

4.) Don't Just Use the Most Popular Keywords

Following Google trends is a great way to help point you in the right direction for your broad match customers, but if you really want to see more conversions, you have to target users at every level of your sales funnel.

Keywords with extremely high monthly searches are great for hitting people at the top of your funnel, but often, these people are less likely to convert. You need to use these terms with additional keywords that target people closer to the bottom of your funnel.

Yes, these additional keywords will have fewer monthly searches than popular keywords, but the people that are searching them have a much higher intent to convert.

When you're doing keyword research, don't dismiss keywords that only have 100-200 searches per month. They won't drive incredible traffic numbers, but combined with higher yield keywords, they can steadily help you reduce your bounce rates and improve your revenue stream.

5.) Create or Commission a Keyword Planner

This is an additional service that you can request from your auditor, but may not automatically be included in many cases.

A keyword planner will take some of the guesswork over how and where you should be using exact and phrase match keywords on your site.

Often, this will include recommended pages to build, blog topics to write about, and any educational resources that they feel you should be providing for your audience, in order to improve their education and site engagement.

Typically, the keyword planner will be organized into something that's easy to understand and use (i.e., Google Sheets, etc.), so that you can access it easy from most digital devices; as well as share it with any commissioned content creators you might be hiring to assist with executing these search terms insights.

If you didn't request a keyword planner to help you get started using the keyword research you've paid for, we'd strongly recommend going back and looking into this option as well.

6.) Take Advantage of Multiple Types of Keywords

You shouldn't stick to a single method for executing your keyword strategy.

In order to function the most effectively, you need to use a variety of types that provide different values for your site content. Semantic keywords can back up the effect of primary keywords, as an example.

Your keyword module may have keywords divided by type (these are often the best), so you can pick and choose different types that you feel would fit each topic appropriately, and then fit them in where relevant.

If you have a specific product that only you carry, it might even be worth looking into some class keywords or branded keywords that can really make a difference in differentiating your brand from your biggest competitors.

Are you servicing locally or globally? Global businesses have access to nonlocal keywords as well, which may help you stand out against brands that are only dealing in specific geographic areas.

7.) Avoid Keyword Stuffing

You've got all this incredible keyword research that you've paid for, and a comprehensive keyword module you can use to get started, so everything is ready to roll, right? Not quite.

It's extremely important that you avoid keyword stuffing in any/all of your content. Yes, you want to hit all those important terms your users will be typing into their search bar or search box, but you still have to focus on keeping your brand image professional and your content clean and concise.

In our experience, we've found success by limiting the number of different keywords trying to be included in any given piece of content. Short-form content shouldn't use more than 3-4 primary keywords throughout, whereas long-form copy has more space to organically fit in pieces from your keyword research - around 7-10, but don't go crazy.

You want everything you write to read well, and when you start stuffing search terms into your copy, it makes everything seem muddled, amateurish, and in many cases, it makes your keyword strategy transparent for competitors.

The last thing you want is to poorly execute a page of content, only for a competitor to double-down and do it better/more effectively than you, based on the keyword research they can glean from your site.

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