An Introduction to Keywords for SEO


With an estimated 644 million websites on the internet today, there simply isn't room everybody on the first page of search engine results. This is why the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been tossed around like a rag-doll by digital marketing agencies since nearly the dawn of search engines themselves. Nowadays, large search engines like Google use complex algorithms to determine which websites appear-and the order in which they appear when a combination of words is searched. Nowadays, search engines like Google use complex algorithms that consider parameters like website load speed, total back link count, and keywords to determine their rankings. With this post, I'm going to give you a general rundown on Keywords and how to effectively use them to boost your rankings.

What are Keywords?

Keywords are words and phrases used by search engines to connect someone who is looking for something with someone who can (or already has) provided it. Whether that thing is a product, service, or an answer to a question, the keywords that are intrinsic to every web page play a vital role in controlling its visibility on the other side of a search.

How do search engines choose my keywords?

When google fetches information from a web page, it's going to want to determine a few keywords from the content on the page to use later when googlers search on relevant topics. It takes a count of the number of times each word on the page occurs, and the most used words and phrases become the keywords that are identified by the searching algorithm. In practice, this means that if you are designing a website to sell your state-of-the-art DIY soap products, you'll want to make sure your content is a clear reflection of your intent.

What are the different types of keywords?

Until now you may have been wondering why phrases are included under the banner of keywords. After all, shouldn't keywords be words only? To answer this question, I'll go into some detail about the different types of keywords. Using your DIY soap company, I'll give a few examples for each; note these are just examples and that further research should be done before using them for your actual DIY soap company website.

Head Keywords: These guys consist of one or two words that describe the offerings of your web page. You want them to be terms that googlers already search for. Things like "Soap" or "Cleaning Product" might fit the bill.

Modifier Keywords: Between 2-3 words, these keywords should have a moderate search volume while bringing a little bit more detail into the equation. "DIY Soap Company" and "Custom Soap Products" are a few examples.

Tail Keywords: Here where you really draw in the crowd that's looking for what you have to offer. Tail keywords are generally 4 or more words chained together—they should have a low search volume and distinguish your company from other companies that are similar. I'd go with "Custom Homemade Hand Soaps" and perhaps "Best Soap on the Market".

Why does choosing the right keywords matter?

Search engines please their users by providing them with the exact information they desire as quickly as possible. When a viewer encounters information on a web page that seems unrelated to their search, they leave quickly. Ultimately this translates into a high bounce rate and short viewing times for your page which generally doesn't help your SEO. Additionally, if your keywords are unrelated to the page content, it will not attract your target audience nor will viewers who stumble upon it stick around for long. It's best to do your research and make sure your keywords are as relevant as possible.

Imagine: A friend of yours is using their Friday afternoon at work to do some online shopping. They're looking to impress their spouse with a hot-find: a bar of your handcrafted soap for the guest bathroom. They're risking being caught off-task at work; but it's worth it, right? Because they can't remember your overly artistic brand name, they open Google and search: "World's best-handcrafted soaps". Clicking the first result, they are taken aback to discover that they've landed on a terribly unrelated page. They leave immediately. Meanwhile, your actual website is nowhere to be found because you did no keyword analysis and its top keyword is something arbitrary, like "hand". This example is extreme, but you get the point--don't let this be your website.

How do I choose the right keywords?

By brainstorming and researching! It's always a good idea to put together a list of important things to consider when looking through potential keywords. Cost Per Click (CPC), monthly searches, number of total search results, and an estimated conversion ratio are examples of common criteria to apply when ranking potential keywords. These points of analysis can be found using websites like SEMrush and Neil Patel's SEO Analyzer. Make sure you understand if the numbers you are looking at help or hurt the strength of a keyword--i.e. if the number of total search results is extremely high (in the order of billions), it may be more difficult to compete against the other websites targeting said keyword.

A few other points worth mentioning:

  • Your chosen keywords should reflect the general scope of information visible on your webpage. If viewers click your page only to find a pile of unrelated trash, they are not going to stick around.

  • Targeting 5-6 keywords for each page on your website is a good starting point. Remember to evenly distribute these between head, modifier, and tail keywords with increasing specificity.

Where do I put keywords on my page?

Google fetches information from pages in a systematic way. To better your SEO rankings, you should understand the general procedure.

  1. The title meta tag in your website's code is an obvious place to put keywords. Google looks for this first when determining the topic of a web page. If you're unfamiliar with web development, the title meta tag is what appears as the clickable blue text in a google search result.

  2. You guessed it, a description meta tag is also a great place for keywords to reside. If you don't have one yet, this is replaced with the first 160 words on your webpage.

  3. Throughout your content. Readers like to be assured that what they are looking at is relevant to their search. A word of caution: be careful to not overload your site content with a keyword, you may risk tripping an "overstuffing" filter that results in a ranking penalty.

Keyword development and SEO is never as straightforward as we business owners and web developers would hope. It's important to always be staying up-to-date on the latest SEO trends to ensure that you are using your dedicated SEO time effectively.

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