Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy and usually takes place near the start of your campaign (although selected keywords should be regularly reviewed throughout). As the title suggests, keyword research is the practice of discovering and analysing the potential keywords that will form the basis of your SEO campaign.
What are Keywords?
When someone searches the web using Google or another search engine, it requires they enter a search query. The term “keywords” became the popular means to describe the important words that make up a search phrase. The term is closely linked to the “meta keywords” HTML tag that Search Engines previously used to read when analysing a webpage. However, this tag was heavily abused by spammers and is no longer utilised. Other similar terms such as “keyphrases” and “search queries” also describe the same thing. In fact, we prefer the term “keyphrase” over “keywords” as we feel it better describes what we’re optimising!
Why do we need Keywords?
Optimising a page for certain keywords will help it rank higher in search results if those keywords have been used in the search query. Keywords or keyphrases may form the entire search query or just a part of it – optimising a page for a certain set of keywords will help it rank for the query. Due to the increasingly competitive SEO landscape, chosen keywords need to be very similar to the full search query to be effective.
Understanding what your potential customers might search for will help you determine a strong set of keywords. Optimising your website for these keywords will help your website appear more often when these customers are performing searches.
Short-tail vs Long-tail Keywords
You may have heard the phrases “short-tail” and “long-tail” used when describing keywords. These not only describe certain types of keywords but also relate to different SEO strategies.
Simply put, the two terms describe the length of keywords being optimised. Short-tail keywords being a shorter a phrase whereas long-tail being a more lengthy phrase. Often, these two terms also describe variations of similar queries – for example, “dog food” and “grain free dog food” illustrate a short-tail and a long-tail keyword. In addition, these two examples show a more general search term and a more specific, niche variation.
As a rule of thumb, general search queries attract more traffic but are also more competitive and have lower conversion rates. Conversely, long-tail versions are usually less competitive, provide higher conversion rates but attract much lower traffic volumes. Different SEO strategies include a mix of both long and short-tail keywords.
Only Fools Rush In
It’s crucial that keyword research is not rushed. SEO is a long-term investment and can take many months to take full effect. You wouldn’t want to complete six months worth of work to find out you’ve chosen the wrong keywords!