Today, digital marketing revolves around keywords. But, what are keywords? Why are they so important to SEO and PPC campaigns?
Recently, we discussed strategies for picking profitable keywords using free tools online. This blog focuses on keyword terms and definitions that are crucial for understanding why keywords are so important and how to properly conduct keyword research.
Keyword Glossary (Terms & Definitions)
Keywords are basically the word, phrase, or sentence that someone types into an online search bar. For instance, if you type “best movies on Netflix” an article In order to rank for a keyword, you will want to include the keyword in the text of your content (images and video are not enough). You can also pay to appear in the search results in pay-per-click search engines.
When you excessively try to rank for the same or similar keyword on too many pages of your website, it makes it difficult to know which page the search engine should direct users to. In order to avoid keyword cannibalization, you want to pay attention to your website hierarchy and make sure that your main pages are the ones that are trying to rank for that keyword.
It’s a good idea to have your main page rank for the main keyword and have blogs and other content target longer tail keywords.
Plot out your most important “seed keywords” and make these pages on your website. A good way to think of “seed” words is if there is a Wikipedia page for that term/phrase. If it has a Wikipedia page, then it’s a good idea to make that target search phrase the keyword for your main products/services pages.
You can help avoid the keyword cannibalization issue by creating breadcrumbs or by linking to the main page in the body copy. For instance, if you have an Air Conditioning page, and then another page targeting “Air Conditioning Zoning Solutions,” link back to the “Air Conditioning” page.
Keyword density refers to how many times the keyword shows up on your web page. While “keyword stuffing” used to be an effective SEO practice, it can now harm you more than it can help. It’s helpful to have the keyword show up in title, meta descriptions, and alt tags, but too many uses of the keyword is frowned upon. Try using relevant synonyms instead and watch how many times you use the keyword in your content. People and search engines want useful information, and algorithms have adapted to the blackhat SEO tactic of keyword stuffing.
When developing keyword research and targeting specific keywords, it’s important to keep in mind keyword popularity—how many searches are made for that particular keyword during a period of time.
Keyword prominence refers to where the keyword is located in the HTML source of your web page. While it’s important not to stuff your web pages with keywords, the search engines look for keyword prominence in places such as the beginning of the text, (how high up the keyword is on the page), heading tags (H1, H2, etc.), URLs (<title> tags), and hyperlinked text.
Keyword research is the process of finding word and phrases that people are searching for that can be used for websites, landing pages, blogs, advertisements, and more. It is a time-consuming part of SEO and PPC research, but the rewards are high.
Keyword stuffing is an SEO “blackhat” technique that involves placing an excessive amount of keywords into a page’s HTML code and content in order to fool the search engines into thinking that the page is highly relevant for that keyword. Tactics involve making text the same color as the background, and filling alt tags and meta descriptions with long strings of keywords. it used to be an effective tactic for boosting a page’s rank, but since search engine algorithms have improved and it detracts from page quality and usability, it is a highly discouraged technique.
Usually a writer or SEO professional is responsible for content creation. In addition to writing quality content, a content creator for the web must have a knowledge of how SEO works. This involves targeting a keyword so that it matches up with a user’s search query with that keyword phrase, their synonyms, and related concepts.
Here are some effective keyword targeting techniques:
- Use synonyms, concepts, and popular phrases surrounding the keyword your wish to target on a web page, but remember not to use the main keyword excessively (aka keyword stuffing). Learn how to write semantically rich content surrounding a main target keyword phrase.
- The URL, main body, <title> tag and <h1> tags are the most important elements on the page for targeting your keyword.
- Write short, journalistic paragraphs for easy readability.
- Learn more copywriting and content writing tips for keyword targeting.
A meta description is an HTML tag <meta> that helps describe the content on that page. Search engines sometimes use your meta description to summarize the page content so users know what the page is about before clicking on the link. While it is hidden on the actual web page, search engines use this Twitter-length snippet to summarize the page for searchers in the search engine results page (SERP). Search engines normally cut off a meta description at 160 characters or less. Here is an example of a meta description:
Keep in mind that Google and other search engines may not use the meta description that you provide. Sometimes, search engine snippets will use information from your meta description, but other times they will pull text from your on-page copy and “Open Directory Project Data.”
While there isn’t much you can do to force Google to use your meta descriptions, you can help by:
- Naturally including the keyword you want to rank for in the meta description (don’t just list your keywords in the meta description).
- Removing any duplicate meta descriptions (each page should have a unique title tag, meta description, and page content).
- Blocking your Open Directory Project Data with this META tag: <meta name=”robots” content=”NOODP”>.
- Blocking the snippet entirely with the META tag: <meta name=”robots” content=”nosnippet”> (this should only be used in extreme cases where the meta description that is used is causing you branding or legal problems).
- Ignoring it (in general, Google and other search engines are trying to pull the most relevant information for the user, such as bolding specific keywords and other text that matches the users’ query).
Meta keywords are hidden META tags in the page’s HTML code that list the keywords that are relevant to the web page. But since meta tags have been highly abused by SEOs and search engine spammers, the majority of search engines don’t use them at all. Way back in 2009, Google announced that they would no longer use the keywords meta tag for web rankings. Save yourself the time and don’t bother with meta keywords.
Long-tail keywords are longer keyword phrases that involve four or more words, such as “Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith.” They are more highly targeted than shorter queries, such as “Star Wars.” Keep in mind that the majority of search engine queries are long-tail.
- Around 70% of all search queries are long-tail.
- So-called “head terms” account for only 30% of search queries.
- Around 25% of search queries on Google are completely unique (consider them “ultra-long tail”).
Source: The Art of SEO (252-258)
Since ranking for “head terms” is highly competitive, we recommend trying to rank for the long tail of search by providing information for more specific queries. Read our Keyword Research Guide for tips on coming up with a long-tail keyword strategy.
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