Whether you're a brand-new small business or trying to expand your online customers through your website, you may be wondering exactly what your competitors are doing to get online traffic to come to them. While larger businesses may have the means to create expensive marketing campaigns, there's one decisive way to make SEO work for you for small business: keywords.
We've put together a quick guide to cover all you need to know about keywords for getting started, from what they are to how to use them successfully to build your customer base. Read on for all the details:
What are keywords, and why should you use them?
Keywords refer to the words and phrases used within websites that help searchers find specific products or services online. Search engine algorithms, like Google, utilise these keywords to find out whether content on a website is relevant to a specific search. Search engines want their platforms to be useful to their users. Targeted keywords provide information that search engines need to decide whether your business is relevant to a specific audience.
If you search 'houses for sale in Sydney', the results that come up are for sites that sell houses in Sydney. Google and similar search engine platforms use complex algorithms to decipher what each searcher is looking for. Keywords are ways that search engines can figure out where your business suits that specific search or niche. As a vital component of SEO marketing, keywords are an effective tool to make your business visible to your potential customers.
How do keywords and SEO work together?
Search Engine Optimisation refers to all the processes involved to make your website more appealing to SEO. Keywords are a significant and vital portion of SEO, alongside other forms of optimisation like link-building, page speed, and even improving the HTML code of your site. Keywords play into other important areas of SEO, too. Such as compelling content creation and meta titles and descriptions, making it essential to use keywords in a high-quality way.
The different kinds of keywords
While all keywords are important, there are different types of keywords to consider when looking at SEO for the first time. These include:
Primary keywords are the main words that you want customers to search to find your website. For example, if your business sells handmade hats, you may want to use the primary keywords 'hats' and 'handmade hats'. Your optimised primary keywords should provide search engines with information on what your business is and does.
Primary keywords are high volume keywords, which means they are searched more frequently by users. Your goal with primary keywords is to define your business's nature and what you sell by targeting search terms that can drive the largest potential audience to your platform. These keywords should be included in your content and headings, anchor links, and meta information.
Secondary keywords are typically added onto primary keywords to fit a specific niche and serve as a supporting role to primary keywords. Search engines use secondary keywords to better understand what you do beyond just selling hats, for example.
With a slightly different goal than your primary keywords, secondary keywords are typically descriptive and provide a narrowed-down look at the exact products you sell. Using our example above, our hat business' secondary keywords could be 'knitted hats in Sydney' or 'pink homemade hats for girls'. While secondary keywords aren't quite as valuable to your SEO in terms of traffic as much as primary keywords, they are still an essential component of your strategy – especially if you're in a highly competitive niche.
While secondary keywords will have lower search volumes than primary keywords, they are more targeted and as such will usually have a higher conversion rate due to their more specific match for what someone is looking for. For example, someone searching for 'hats' may be looking for a style of hat you do not offer. Where as 'pink homemade hats for girls' is something you do you offer. Being as specific as that in a search query, it is clear the searcher knows exactly what they want, and not still in a research phase where they are unsure and still trying to find styles they may like.
User intent and keywords
When you're deciding on the best keywords to include in your website, user intent should be your top consideration. Also known as search intent, the purpose of researching user intent is to understand the meaning behind why someone is searching for a specific thing. Someone searching 'women's hats for winter' may be looking to buy a product, while someone searching 'make homemade hats' may be searching for a tutorial or how-to video.
Search engines will always try and provide their users with the most relevant results possible, and the technology behind understanding user intent is more advanced than ever. When it comes to SEO and keywords specifically, understanding user intent can help you to decide which targeted keywords will achieve the best results for your business. We've covered some of the best ways to research keywords below.
How do you research keywords?
Now you've got a bit more of an understanding of what keywords are and why they are important, the next step is researching which keywords you should include in your content. Here are just a few of the ways you can research keywords effectively:
Use online tools
Google's Keyword Planner is a handy tool for beginners. All you need to do is enter products or services related to your business, and Google will generate plenty of results to get you started. You can then go through those results to see what's most relevant to your company and brand.
Look at your competitors
Never underestimate just how helpful your competition can be when it comes to marketing research in general – and keyword research specifically. Competitor research can help you understand what keywords they are targeting, enabling you to figure out what their users are searching to reach their business.
How do you find out what keywords your competitors are going after? There are 2 main areas you can look at:
- Look at their meta title tag for each page.
- Look at the keywords used in headings.
NB: When looking at your competitors, you also need to realise they may not be running their SEO correctly, and if they aren't, you may be copying an incorrect strategy. Don't look at just one competitor, look at multiple and build a base of keywords based on what multiple competitors are using.
Use an expert service
If you're serious about SEO and keywords in a highly competitive industry, you can seek expert help for keyword research. This doesn't necessarily mean you can't do the rest of your optimisation work yourself. In some cases, getting specialist help to get your keywords together in the first place can save you time and ensure you're on the right track for optimisation.
Handy tools for keyword research
If you're looking to go more in-depth on your keyword research, these tools might be exactly what you're looking for to go deep:
Soovle gives keyword ideas from a vast range of sources, allowing you to find keywords that your competition hasn't targeted quickly and effectively.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
If you're a fan of masses of analytics and data, Ahrefs offers a deep dive into every keyword you're considering and even gives a difficulty score on top.
For competitor keyword research, this tool is a lifesaver. You can see exactly what your competitors rank in, even down to the strangest and most obscure long-tail keywords.
SEOquake chrome plugin
Is very helpful quick access tool while browsing competitors to find keyword data and other metrics.
Narrowing down your keywords
Once you've carried out your research, the next step in successfully using keywords in SEO is narrowing down which you should use. In the past, many businesses were able to game the system by throwing keywords on their website to see which stuck. But Google's modern-day algorithms don't have any tolerance for keyword stuffing. You should ensure the keywords you pick are targeted per page to make the most impact possible, and are written into your content in a way that makes sense to a reader.
It's essential to maintain balance with keywords. That means using a mixture of competitive primary keywords and less competitive secondary ones. You should also ensure you've researched user intent to ensure your keywords are relevant for your website and your audience. SEO is all about moderation. It's just as important that your website has high-quality, audience-relevant content as it is to include primary and secondary keywords.
How do you create keyword content?
Once you've moved to the next step and ready to implement those keywords, now is the time to start creating relevant, high-quality content. Google and similar search engines place a significant emphasis on great content for websites. The better your content optimisation is, the better the results will be.
Here are the main ways you can introduce optimised content organically into your website:
Your website's content is the primary way to use your keywords and is your first step in improving your rankings. A website with minimal content does nothing for search engines and doesn't tell them who you are or what you do. Every page should have a reasonable amount of content, and all that content should be relevant, readable and useful to your specific targeted audience.
Examples of website content include:
- Service pages: All individual services should have pages with content and relevant keywords to show your customers what, exactly, you can offer them.
- About/Brand pages: Talk about your company, what you do, your mission, and include relevant keywords in the process.
- Product descriptions: If you have an online store, every product should have a complete description and its own separate page – these are perfect places to insert highly relevant keywords.
- FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions on suitable pages are ideal for hitting those secondary keywords and answering potential customer queries in the process.
- Content-rich homepage: Your homepage shouldn't just be imagery. Describe what you do and what your brand offers, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to integrate keywords naturally.
In addition to expanding on your current website content, blog posts are ideal for adding value and introducing more keywords in one package. Blog content should always be relevant and useful to your audience. Think how-to guides, product showcases, insider news and even guest content from industry specialists. Search engines love high-quality blog content, and the longer form, the better. If you can aim for 1,000 or more, you're on the right track.
For successful search engine optimisation, understanding keywords is a must. Check out our other introductory guides to find out more about how to make SEO work for you.