Dec 09, 2016

How to choose the right keywords for your business

The best way to put together a strong, effective keyword strategy that will skyrocket your online results and achieve your business goals

Have you heard the phrase ‘Content is King’? It’s one that’s used a lot when you read about online marketing. The basic principle is that if you just keep putting out good content, your target audience will organically gravitate towards your website. However, although fresh quality content regularly added to your site will help you attract and retain new customers, it doesn’t automatically mean content is sufficient to get you ranking high on search engine results.

So if content on its own isn’t enough, what’s the missing ingredient? Relevant keywords!

Now, you may ask… do keywords still matter? Yes they do! However, as search engines have become more sophisticated, they have started putting far less emphasis on specific keywords, and more emphasis on the meaning or intent behind those keywords.

For instance, if you exclusively used the keyword phrase “rye bread” on a particular web page, it’s entirely possible you could end up ranking for “bakery” or “bakers”, even if you haven’t used those specific words on the page. The emergence of a more sophisticated search has also led to a decline in the importance of using specific keywords in your copy. Google and other search engines have become better at determining the intent behind a search query. For instance, using the example above, Google is better able to determine that someone searching for “rye bread” may just be looking for a bakery in their area that could provide them with this type of bread. In the past, Google may have returned results specifically for rye bread: pictures of bread; instructions for how to make rye bread; etc.

The importance of the right keywords

Of course, you can most likely guess what might be important keywords to your target market, but it’s much, much better to research which questions, phrases and long-tail keywords people are actually typing into Google. ‘Long tail keywords’ are search phrases that are highly relevant to your specific niche, product, service or topic. In addition, long tail keywords don’t have much competition, are searched for by relatively few people and are usually three or more words long. For example, ‘hotels’ is a very generic keyword that returns approximately 1,420,000,000 hits in Google.

However, if you were to use a long tail keyword that was something like “budget hotels in Dublin Centre”, Google gives just 629,000 results. It’s much easier to rank highly when you’re competing against fewer websites, which is why long tail keywords are so important.

How you use your keywords is also crucial. In the past, it was customary to add as many keywords as possible into the text on a web page, nick-named ‘keyword stuffing’. You wouldn’t want to try this now as it doesn’t read well and, even worse, your site may end up being blacklisted by search engines, hence drop in rankings, the opposite of what you want.

So if you can only use a small selection of keywords, you’d better make sure you’re using the right ones. With the fast-paced nature of the internet, it’s also worth bearing in mind that what might be a good keyword today may not be as effective tomorrow, so it’s an ongoing process to keep yourself visible online. “Vintage wedding dresses” might be a popular search at the moment, when vintage is considered the height of chic, but will people still be looking for them in 5 years’ time?

As if all that wasn’t enough, the search engine emphasis on quality has also resulted in word counts becoming more important than keywords in determining your rank. Longer content will automatically include a higher number of relevant keywords and in recent years, as the number of keywords included in high-ranking content has increased, we’ve also seen a corresponding increase in the average word count on high-ranking pages.

What do you want your website to achieve?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of assuming that being successful with search engines means you’ve increased traffic to your site so you’ve done everything you need to do, but although more traffic is nice, it isn’t what you want. What you want is an increase in sales!

You should always be thinking about how you can increase your sales. Web traffic helps you do that, but lots of page views does not necessarily equate sales if people come to your website, but then leave without sending an enquiry or making a purchase or reservation. So when you’re doing keyword research, the first thing you need to do is to decide what exactly you are hoping to achieve.

Defining your Goals

Depending on your business and what your current focus is, you could have any one of a number of different goals for your website. For example, you might want to simply increase sales and that’s a perfectly decent goal – but what exactly is your sales target? A specific percentage or number? Or is it that you want to improve the number of ad clicks and impressions? Or perhaps you are aiming to build awareness of your website and services or strengthen your brand?

Whatever your goal, this will determine how you approach keywords. When you know what you want to achieve, you can research keyword categories specifically for those goals and then start to use this research as the foundation of your content and marketing strategy.

Using Money Keywords to Best Effect

There are certain phrases that are associated with high sales. These are known as ‘money keywords’. Examples of money keywords could be ‘cheap hotel rooms Dublin’ or ‘special offers hotels in Ireland’.

On the one hand, money keywords are great because they have a strong correlation with closing sales. However, because they are known to have this link, they usually have a more expensive cost-per-click (i.e. Google AdWords).

That’s not the only problem with money keywords. They’re also highly competitive, making it difficult to rank well for these phrases in organic search results.

As a result, you may well find that it’s more profitable for you to focus your keyword attention elsewhere.

Understanding Search Engine Algorithms

Did you know that the latest Google algorithms don’t rank pages based on their keywords? These days, search engines don’t just look for keywords. They want keywords and phrases associated with expertise, authority and trustworthiness. This is good news for smaller businesses, because it opens the door for you to rank highly in search engines if you use your keywords effectively. If you combine high ranking with a site that’s targeted towards solving your clients’ problems and establishing yourself as someone they want to do business with, then you’re onto a winning formula.

Establishing authority

As mentioned above, Google and other search engines, like Bing, prefer sites that are associated with expertise and authority. This means that you need comprehensive, quality content to support your keyword strategy to see the best results. And instead of choosing obvious money keywords or short keywords that are generic to your industry, you should work on building your internet presence using authority boosting long-tail phrases while at the same time adding fresh content regularly (such as frequent blog posts).

Playing with words

The way we use words is constantly changing. A phrase can have multiple different meanings depending on the context. That’s why you need to have a clear understanding of what words and phrases your target audience will be looking for, since a search engine will be ranking your site based on how well you satisfy your visitors’ needs. Although it is impossible to predict exactly how people will use language and whether you’re going to be able to answer every single query, still, your aim should always be to get an understanding of all the possible intentions of any given online search.

Google’s guidelines

It’s always worth checking to see what the current Google guidelines are, since they’re constantly changing and adapting to stay ahead of trends. At the moment, Google considers a site to fully meet its visitors’ needs if:

  • The query and need are specific, clear and unambiguous.
  • The result is fully satisfying, regardless of which device a visitor is using, making it easy for visitors to get/use what they’re looking for with a minimum of fuss.
  • The vast majority of users, if not all of them, are completely satisfied by the first search result, so don’t need to search again to find an answer to their query.

Get all this right and you’ll earn the coveted ‘Fully Meets’ rating. The top ten ranking results for any keyword appear that highly because they’ve set up their site to ensure they satisfy their visitors’ intent for that specific keyword. This is why it’s so important to know whether a keyword phrase has more than one meaning. If there’s any ambiguity to the meaning, you need to tailor your content accordingly.

Your keyword strategy moving forward

  1. Think long term. An effective keyword strategy is based in research to enable you to understand your niche fully so that you can develop your site into one that is authoritative, expert and trustworthy.
  2. Understand your site visitors. Algorithms focus on how well you meet the user’s intent rather than simply matching a query to a keyword. This means that your content should be designed to satisfy users coming to your site following a specific keyword search.
  3. Inbound links. Relevant inbound links from authority sites help you achieve better search rankings. People will link to your pages because they solve a particular problem and give a positive experience, not because they admire your clever use of keywords.
  4. Use outbound links. Although it might seem counter intuitive to link to other sites, clever use of outbound linking can boost your search engine rankings even further. After all, search engines really want to make sure that searchers find what their looking for, so when you link to other useful, relevant sites, this makes you look even more attractive to a search engine algorithm because you’re making it even easier for users to get their queries answered.

When you consider all of the above and put together your keyword strategy by taking user intent and experience into account, it’s easy to see that you’ll have a much more effective strategy than simply picking the most popular keywords.

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