One way to encourage natural traffic growth is to familiarise yourself with a concept known as search engine optimisation, or SEO. This is a way to get your website to appear higher up in search engine results pages, and it’s a practice that revolves around the idea of ‘keywords’.

Today’s post will introduce you to keywords and give you top tips for keyword research. It will also show you how you can find the keywords that work best for you.

What are keywords? Why should you use them?

Keywords are words and phrases that people use to search for what they want online. Keywords enable search engines to understand complex information and deliver it to users.

Keywords are words that you use to search for something in Google or other search engines. For example, ‘Restaurants London’ or ‘women’s shoes’.

Small business owners and bloggers both need to know the importance of keywords. They help search engines find your website.

If your website contains relevant keywords, people will search for similar sites to yours more often. This means more traffic and, for commercial websites, more customers.

You can learn how to use keywords to optimise your site for search engines and take advantage of an inexpensive and powerful form of internet marketing.

Keywords with long tail and secondary keywords

As you might expect, though, it’s not quite as simple as that, a distinction can be made between primary and secondary keywords.

Secondary keywords are more specific than primary/initial keywords, and often are more relevant to search intent (we’ll be looking at this more in detail next). If your primary keyword was “football”, then secondary keywords could be “Manchester United” and “football boots”.

A ‘long-tail keyword’ is a query that requires more information to be found in a search engine. These more complicated queries could include “vegetarian restaurants near Edinburgh” or “best espresso coffee in Edinburgh”. Common long-tail keywords include questions such as “how do I water my plants?” or “how do I make a business?”

Understanding user intent

When you are choosing keywords and creating content for it, it is important to understand the user intent.

It makes sense that if you want to rank for a specific keyword, you will be more successful if you target it with content that is relevant to the user’s search query. Google wants to show the most relevant results for that search query.

Keywords can be used to help users determine what they are looking for, and where they are in their buying process.

A keyword like “women’s shirt” suggests that someone is browsing the web, but reviews or “best women’s shirt” suggests that they are looking for information about comparing brands. If you search for “women’s red shirt 8”, the user will have a better idea of what they are looking for and be closer to the purchase point.

People don’t search just for products to purchase. A person searching for “how to boil an eggs” is searching for a guide. Someone looking for “how long did it take Titanic to sink?” is searching for the answer.

These queries are great opportunities to generate useful content for your website, which can increase brand awareness and drive sales.

The big question is: How do you find keywords worth targeting? Let’s take an in-depth look.

How to find keywords 

The Google Keyword Planner tool is designed for those running a Google Ads campaign (the paid adverts you see at the top of the Google search results), but it’s a handy tool for anyone wanting to find keyword ideas and compare the popularity of different search terms.

You can search for keywords by theme and generate more ideas for similar terms. It will also give you an estimate of how many people search for a particular keyword per month so that you can determine which keywords are most likely to bring more traffic to your website.

To use the Keyword Planner, click “discover new keywords” and you’ll have the option to start by either typing in your product or service or by putting your website URL into the tool.

Click ‘Get results’ to generate lots of ideas that you can use. You won’t find all of them relevant. However, you can choose the ones that are relevant and export your keyword ideas to a spreadsheet. The search volume can be used to determine the most relevant keywords for your site.

Another good source of keyword information is Google Trends, where you’ll find information on trending topics that will allow you to find out what people are searching for at the moment.

You can also use the handy comparison tool to compare keywords and find out their popularity in different geographic regions.

Google’s suggested search terms (auto-complete) are another great way to find long-tail and secondary keyword ideas. Simply type in a topic that interests you, and then add phrases like ‘how to’ and ‘why do’ to get suggestions.

You can search for “food blog how to prepare” and get suggestions such as “how to cook a turkey”, “how to make bacon in the oven”, or “how to bake sweet potatoes”. (See below). These topics are popular and are likely to attract more visitors to your website, making them great blog ideas.

You can also purchase keyword research tools that have greater capabilities than Google’s Keyword Planner. These tools offer more keywords ideas and more advanced search options, such as the ability for users to search for keywords according to their intent. SEMrush and Moz are the best.

Research on competitors

As with other areas of your businesses, competitor research can form a useful part of your keyword research process. You should always keep an eye on your competitors’ keyword targeting strategies. This can help you generate new keywords ideas and give you insight into their SEO strategy.

You can easily find the keywords they are targeting by going to their website and looking at the title tags for each page. This will be displayed in your browser tab. If the title tag for a page only says “home”, then they haven’t considered SEO. This is a disadvantage!

Deciding the keywords to target

Once you have compiled a list of keywords potential, how can you narrow down your list to those that are most valuable?

It’s not as simple as choosing the most searched terms. These terms will be the most competitive and search volumes for them are dominated by large brands with vast resources. These are the top tips and tricks to keep in mind as you choose your final keyword selection.

  • You need to balance keyword volume and difficulty rankingWhat keywords are most likely to get the most traffic, but not so competitive that it is unlikely you will rank for them? Small businesses will find it easier to rank on keywords that are more specific than just “restaurants” such as “Thai restaurants Oxford”.
  • Select relevant keywordsYour keywords must be relevant to your content. Do not try to target the brand of a competitor.
  • Your keywords should be mapped to pagesWhat pages will you target with which keywords? Take a look at your website and select two to three keywords that are relevant to each page.
  • Content added regularlyYou may discover pages that you don’t have content for. In these cases, you will need to hire a copywriter or write the content yourself. Keyword research can provide great inspiration for new content and blog posts.

Find the perfect balance.

Website owners used to include as many keywords possible on each page in the past, when search algorithms weren’t as sophisticated as they are today, so search engines would know exactly what pages they wanted to rank for.

Algorithms are smarter than this these days and have realized that keyword stuffing is not something that a human would want to read. With this in mind, it is possible to cause more damage than good to your search engine rankings by putting too many keywords on your site.

So, use keywords sparingly. While you should write for humans, search engines will also need to be able to understand your content. Although keywords won’t instantly get your website to the top of relevant search results, they will help you grow your audience over time.

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