What Are Keywords?

When talking about SEO, the term ‘keyword’ comes up a lot. Keywords are a large part of search engine optimization, but just how big is their significance? The answer is massive. Keywords and keyword phrases are simply the ideas and topics your content is about. In terms of SEO, they are the words or phrases that users type into a search bar in search engines. When these are typed into search engines, they are also known as search queries. Think of keywords as being one word and keyword phrases as being multiple words put together. For example, if I type “marketing agency in Springfield,” that would be considered a keyword phrase. You want your content to include keywords that are relevant to what users are searching for.

magnifying glass over Google

Why Are Keywords Important?

Keywords are important because they bridge the gap between what users are searching for and the content you are providing. You want your content to be easily accessible to users when they are performing a search. The keywords you choose to target will determine the kind of traffic you get. For example, you may own a pizza buffet in Seattle. If you target just “pizza,” it would be harder to outrank all things pizza that show up in search results. If you use a specific combination of terms to target — also called long-tail keywords — such as “pizza buffet in Seattle,” then you are more likely to get the traffic you want.

Keywords in SEO are about understanding your audience just as much as they are about your content. How you describe your content may be different than how users are searching for it. The key in using keywords is understanding users and how and why they might search for something. You need to understand the content they are searching for and the language they use.

So, What is Keyword Research?

How do you know what keywords or phrases to target? That’s why performing keyword research is incredibly important. Keyword research is the process of researching and analyzing search queries users type into search engines. This provides a range of data including search volume, keyword difficulty (as in how competitive it is), and other relevant keyword opportunities. Keyword research is often performed for the purpose of developing a marketing strategy, specifically with SEO and content marketing.

Now, it’s important to note that the keywords you target do not need to match exactly what users are searching. Rather, what’s more important is the intent behind the keywords or phrases. For example, the intent behind “pizza buffet in Seattle” and “pizza buffet 98101” (A Seattle zip code) have the same intent behind them. By performing keyword research to find keyword popularity, search volume, difficulty, and general intent, you will be able to provide content that is relevant to information that users are most searching for.

keyword research

Using Keywords on Your Site

It’s important to make sure you are using your keywords enough in your content and not too much at the same time. Keyword density is a foundational concept of search engine optimization regarding content. Keyword density refers to the amount of time a keyword or phrase is used on a webpage or within a piece of content in relation to the total amount of words, often shown as a percentage. It is also sometimes known as keyword frequency.

What’s the right keyword density?

There are not any exact rules when it comes to keyword density, or any rule on exactly how many keywords a piece of content should contain. However, there are some points to consider when optimizing content. For example, one major thing to avoid is keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is the practice of overloading content with a keyword, stuffing as much of a keyword as possible in content to the point where it feels unnatural to the reader. Let’s maintain consistency and use the same keyword phrase mentioned earlier, “pizza buffet in Seattle.” An example of keyword stuffing is the following:

We are a pizza buffet in Seattle. We are the best pizza buffet in Seattle. Our menu offers the widest pizza selection at our pizza buffet in Seattle. Come join us at our pizza buffet in Seattle!

The above example both looks and sounds spammy. Back when keyword stuffing was heavily used, it was easy to rank in the first position. Google’s algorithm was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today and did not interpret keyword-stuffed pages as low-quality and spammy. Today, Google heavily penalizes sites that employ keyword stuffing, so you should avoid overusing keywords. It’s important to understand how keyword density works because it can have an impact on visibility and rankings in search results.

Formulating Your Content Strategy Around Keywords

The very first thing you need to do is determine exactly what your website is about or what you plan to provide users with. Ideally, each page of your website will target a unique keyword. Your home page should be the broadest keyword you want to target, and with each page branching off the home page, you narrow down your focus and target specific needs.

content strategy around keywords

Picture your website as a large tree. The roots are all the data you gather to help you decide which main keyword to target in telling users what your site is about. The trunk is the broadest keyword that you are targeting, with each branch (or web page) narrowing down its focus, and each stem narrowing down further.

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