In General

Today, we’re going to dive into a subject that sounds pretty boring, but it’s actually one of the most important places for you to begin your marketing journey: keywords.

Keywords are the lifeblood of your digital marketing strategy. Everything is built around the keywords you use. They play an important role in organic and paid search, and they also help solidify the identity of your organization.

Two Important Types of Keywords

Whenever you’re doing keyword research, it’s a good idea to start with primary and secondary keywords. Primary keywords are the words and phrases that your audiences would associate directly with your brand. They are different than “branded keywords” which actually use the name of your business or organization in them. A primary keyword would be like, “shoes” for example. Secondary keywords are the words and phrases that give your primary keywords a bit more detail and help narrow your audience. A good secondary keyword might be “women’s shoes,” for example.

The interesting thing about secondary keywords is they are actually more important than primary keywords. They’re more specific than primary keywords and therefore include a much higher buyer intent. Think about it … if you are a women’s shoe retailer who specializes in high-end high heels, would you rather have someone find you using the word “shoes” or using “women’s high heel shoe stores near me”? In this case, the secondary keyword is going to bring people to your website who are much more likely to actually buy a pair of shoes from you than a person who types in shoes. They could be looking for men’s shoes, children’s shoes, sports shoes, casual shoes, business shoes … etc. Only a small percentage of the people looking for “shoes” may actually be interested in what you’re selling.

Where to Begin

Getting started with keyword research isn’t too difficult if you understand how people are using them. Your customers are using keywords in search all the time. They may be asking full questions using a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri, they might be typing a few words into the Google machine, or they might be looking for the products or services you sell with highly detailed search terms.

The good news is that you don’t have to hire outside experts to find the keywords for you. You’re the best person to choose keywords because you know your business better than anyone. Sure, an agency might be able to give you insight into how customers use search terms, but you’re still the person who best knows what they’re looking for.

Finding the Perfect Keywords

Keyword research is usually done by first checking out your own website and any existing marketing materials you may have. The best move is to first find three or four “seed” keywords that can serve as the foundation for what you have to offer. Once you’ve identified these important words, you can expand your search by looking at words your competitors are using and asking your customers how they found you.

Seed Words

Your “seed” words shouldn’t be too narrow for the reasons mentioned above. You want the people coming to your website to be motivated buyers, not casual window-shoppers. Choose a short, common phrase that you and your customers associate with your business or industry and what you offer specifically. Using our women’s shoes example, some good keywords might be “women’s high heel boots” or “women’s high heels” or “women’s high heel dress shoes.”

Now, take a quick look at your keywords. If they have any words that don’t directly pertain to your service or product, they have to go. For example, “High heel shoes for women” contains the word “for.” You don’t want “for.” It’s a useless word that adds no value to the search term. The same goes for other words, too. You want to avoid articles, prepositions, pronouns and other non-specific words. You want your keywords working hard for you. No scrubs.

Look Around You

The next step is to expand your keyword list by reviewing your website, talking to your customers, and stalking your competitors for keywords they use. If you don’t have a website yet, use the Google search engine to see what keywords it suggests. As you start to type, Google will suggest keywords. For example, typing in “women’s high heel” gives you a plethora of keywords to choose from, including “women’s high heel booties, women’s high heel sandals, women’s high heel sale, women’s high heel dress shoes,” and so on. Maybe you have a top seller that you think people might be searching for.

If you do have a website, check out your Google analytics and Google Search Console if you have them set up. These are great tools you can use to identify the search terms already bringing people to your website. You can also use free online keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner, Bing Keyword Research, or Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. There are also some very good paid options, too, like Mangools’ Keyword Finder, SEM Rush, or Spyfu. These may help you identify keywords you haven’t even thought of.

By now, you should have a pretty healthy list of keywords. Next you want to start incorporating them into your website content. You can also use them to do paid search through Google and other search engines.  

In the old days of the world-wide interweb, keyword stuffing was rampant. Website builders would just chock a website full of relevant keywords and the search engines would just gobble them up and spit out results that included the websites with the most keywords. After a while, it got so blatant that developers were literally adding blocks of keyword text at the bottom of a website page and changing the font color to white to match the background of the page. Nobody saw it but the bots, and those with the most keywords got the most search love.

Adding Keywords to Your Website

Those days are thankfully over.

These days, search engines are bit more sophisticated. They no longer look for numerous keywords on a page; instead, they want to see an entire page built around a single keyword theme. And furthermore, they don’t want to see a bunch of pages using that theme. They want to see one good, solid, and engaging page that focuses on just that keyword. 

In addition to adhering to a minimum word count of 300 words, search engines also want you to use the keyword in specific places, including the title, the first paragraph, the meta description and throughout the body of the article, page, or post. You also want to add the key phrase to your alt-tags (which are the meta-information associated with the pictures you use on your page). And don’t forget to use it in your subheads, as well.

Outfitting your website with relevant and high performing keywords is perhaps the most important thing you can do to get long-term search rankings. You’ll start out low, but over time, as you continue to maintain your website, add new content, and keep it updated, the search engines will notice and your rankings will start to get closer and closer to the first page of the search results. 

Using Keywords Off-Site

Besides your website, you can also use those keywords in your advertising campaigns—both on social media and in search engines. While you’ve undoubtedly seen the ad designation in Google and other search engines, you may not realize that your social media platforms are actually pretty powerful search engines, too.

Keywords serve as the foundation of your digital marketing strategy and are therefore critical to everything your business does online. Not only do they dictate the content you produce, they light the way for your brand narrative, your brand identity, and your entire digital persona.

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