Welcome to the third chapter of IMG’s SEO 101 course! In Chapter 2, we broke down how exactly search engines work and how they determine search results. Now, we’ll take a look at how keywords come into play and how you can use them to guide your website strategy.

What Is A Keyword?

Before we dive into the details – let’s do a quick refresher. Keywords (sometimes dubbed “SEO keywords”) are words and phrases that describe what your content is about.

Search engines use keywords to help them determine what content they should be showing for a given search result. If enough people are entering it into a search engine, it can be considered a keyword. And with over 3.5 billion searches a day on just Google alone – that’s a lot of potential keywords to account for. It’s a running joke within the industry that SEO specialists are like walking thesauruses.

As a result, any webpage can have an infinite amount of keywords related to it. Luckily, the AI’s that power search engines like Google can understand the context behind searches and connect related keywords and phrases to the original search. That makes it easier for both you and your audience to get connected.

Types Of Keywords
Of course, there are different types of keywords as well. They fall into 3 categories.

  • Short tail keywords: mostly consist of 1-2 words. For example – “SEO Tips”. These are broad and often ambiguous. Search volume is usually very high as result.
  • Middle tail keywords: consists of about 3-4 words. For example – “SEO Keyword Writing Tips”. They’re more specific, have less search volume, but more meaningful intent.
  • Long tail keywords: are mainly hyper-focused and long phrases. For example – “Real Estate SEO Tips For Converting High Intent Low Volume Search Traffic”. As you can guess, the search volume is much lower, but the intent is much higher.

A healthy SEO strategy should incorporate a good number of short and middle keywords, with a few long-tail keywords as needed. The key is identifying the keywords valuable to you.

Search Queries

One important distinction to understand with SEO is the difference between keywords and search queries. While keywords functions as the lynchpin between your site and search engines; search queries are the actual words and phrases people enter into the search bar when visiting search engines.

There are three types of search queries:

  • Navigational (Go): Trying to get to a website
  • Informational (Know): Has a direct question or need for info
  • Transactional (Do): Actively ooking for a need filled

While in the grand scheme of things they may seem to be the same – understanding the type of search query helps you understand the type of search people are making when entering in a keyword, as well as an indication on the types of people making the search.

Navigational

A navigational search query is considered ‘Go‘ query because it’s used when people want to find a particular website or webpage. It’s actually the most common. We all do this – instead of typing in the full address with the “.com” we type in the name. For example, you want the SEO services of the awesome folks here at IMG, so you type in Integrated Media Group.

You want to make sure you fully own the keywords related to this type of query – because they often contain your brand name or branded services/products. If you were the local library

Informational
The type of search most people consciously think of when they think of searches. An informational search query is all about people researching topics and finding answers.

Some examples;

  • What is a keyword?
  • SEO tips for business?
  • Is Tom Cruise a vampire?
  • How to rank high on Google

Your job here is to help offer answers. Blog articles and instructional videos often dominate this space and – here lies the strongest competition for new organic traffic exists. The goal is to provide value rather than hard sell.

Transactional

A transactional search query is used when people are ready to make a buying decision, become a lead, or scout out a potential business. They basically have strong buyer intent and want to cut to the chase. You’ll find direct product searches, searches for particular businesses prices, or a phone number for immediate assistance.

An important note here is that person searching much more likely wants to act rather than learn. Web pages that these individuals visit must be formatted and contain content that services that; i.e product pages, get a quote forms, and landing pages. You’ll see heavy paid search advertising or Search Engine Marketing in this space.

Keyword And Webpages

We’ve established that each webpage can have a whole host of different keywords that search engines can label them with. Not all of those are created equal. An SEO audit can reveal what the top keywords are for each of your web pages and what rank they hold in search results. This is something you want to do monthly, or even weekly, in order to track progress and keep an eye on any potential red flags.

Ideally, the results should line up with what your business offers. However, it’s possible for unrelated keywords to rank highly on your site and the keywords you do want show up ranking low. This is an indication of poorly optimized web copy and page structure.

Each web page should have a tightly related keyword cluster that serves as its primary focus. Everything on that page is geared toward discussing and showing up for those keywords. Even larger pages like a home page or directory should have a broader cluster of keywords it aims for, with each subpage getting narrower in focus.

Going back to the 8-ball example – each webpage should serve as the answer to a specific set of questions. It’s more valuable to the searcher and so more likely to bring in traffic.

How To Find Keywords

Now comes the big questions. What keywords should you use? Where can I find them? How do I know which keywords are good?

The answer? Research! Through data, analytics, and a bit of behavioral psychology – you’ll be able to find a solid list of valuable keywords to use for your website, blogs, and beyond.

It sounds straightforward, but it takes a lot of time and investigation. Even with plenty of SEO tools and success cases out there, there’s no one clear-cut answer. What worked for one might not work for another, and no solution stays static forever. So if you want to strike SEO gold – you need to dig, and often.

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is an SEO practice of finding, analyzing, and using the key terms and phrases people use to search for information online. It then involves analyzing, comparing, and prioritizing the best keyword opportunities to target for any marketing efforts. Keyword research is usually the first step of search engine optimization of any website.

Overall a combination of understanding audience intent and online data trends.

Why Keyword Research Is Important

Keywords are a core pillar that helps shape any SEO strategy. Choosing the right keywords is one of the main factors that can increase the number of visitors your website will get.

Proper keyword research provides you with specific info that can help you answer questions like:

  • What are people searching for?
  • How many people are searching for it?
  • In what way do they want or typically receive that information?

You need to know this to avoid creating content about things that nobody is searching for. In a way, you act as an investigative journalist – combing through information, getting inside people’s heads, and asking a lot of questions – with the goal to publish a piece people will read.

Keyword research also helps you to answer questions like:

  • How hard will it be to rank for this keyword?
  • How much traffic can potentially come from this keyword?
  • What kind of content would help rank better for this keyword?
  • Are the people searching for this keyword actually potential customers/clients?

Finding the right answers to these questions will help you pick your battles a lot more wisely. A big mistake many businesses make is writing content that they think is important or want to talk about. While that definitely has its value and place, not paying attention to what your audience is actively caring about is a recipe for trouble. Think about how TV shows and movies get made – at the end of the day, ratings (or in this case traffic) matters.

How To Do Keyword Research?

Keyword research starts with thinking about how potential customers might be searching for your business or website. You can then use keyword research tools to expand on those ideas and find even more keywords.

There are 3 general phases to keyword research.

1. Identify a potential keyword
2. Analyzing keyword viability
3. Determining how to apply the keyword

At a high level, this is the process each keyword should go through to ensure that you cover all your bases. Even potential obvious ones are worth screening because they can lead you to spin-off or variant keywords that can also be included.

Identifying Potential Keywords
This is where understanding your audience and competition comes in. This stage begins with brainstorming every possible idea, question, or need that you, your audience, and your competitors can think of. The goal here is to get a good grasp on a few core keywords that can serve as the catalyst for narrower focuses. However, imagination can only take you so far, so then comes the hunting.

Now you prowl the online pages where your audience is at. Depending on your business, it could be:

  • Forums
  • Social Media
  • Reviews
  • Wikis
  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • Emails
  • Blog Comments
  • Facebook Groups
  • Competitor Websites

You’ll get ideas as to what people are talking about – good, bad, and everything in between. You’ll see what’s being searched most often and what type of content potential competition is producing. Again, these can be one-word terms or full-blown questions – each can potentially be valuable.

Analyzing Keywords
Once you have your list, it’s time to vet it. When evaluating the viability of a keyword, here’s what you’ll be considering.

  • How much monthly traffic does a keyword get?
  • What is the intent behind the searches the keyword is in?
  • What web pages show up when searching for the keyword?
  • How competitive is it to target this keyword?
  • Is it worth dedicating resources to compete for this keyword?

Entering searches into Google and Bing is a good portion of this step, but it’s often not enough to get the real picture. Any SEO strategy worth it’s salt will have data backing up the decisions made. You need metrics and analytics that give you real numbers. While there are keyword research tools out there, it’s important to note that most cost a pretty penny and have steep learning curves.

Applying Keywords
The final stage for keyword research is knowing how you’ll use it and what goal(s) it’s tied to. Here you’ll strategize where on your website you’ll place the keywords, if a dedicated blog would be beneficial, or whether they’ll serve as a “word bank” to keep in mind when creating marketing content. Along the way, you may have even developed a clear Negative Keyword list, or terms you don’t want to show up for.

A good SEO strategy will have a clearly mapped out plan and roadmap for improving your rankings for your keywords, and the best order to do in. Things like meta tags and descriptions, page titles, subtitles, URLs, product descriptions, blog names, and even brand messaging; all can benefit from well-curated keywords. Knowing how to best incorporate keywords without overstuffing and losing your message’s core value is a balancing act best tempered by experience.

Your Next Steps

Now we have a better understanding of what keywords are and the basics of keyword research. In Chapter 4, we’ll discuss how your website affects SEO and how to ensure your site is easily accessible by search engines for crawling.

We encourage you to keep up with this ongoing series for even more in-depth breakdowns of how SEO works, and the best practices we employ to help our clients grow.

If you have any questions about SEO that you need answers to now or are considering bringing in some expert help, please reach out! The IMG team is always here to help you and your business grow.

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