What are Keywords?
From the earliest stages of your SEO campaign, you’ll be aware of keywords. These are single words or phrases which you want search engines to associate with your website, so that when those keywords are entered in search by a user, your site is visible.
These phrases should be central to your business, and highly relevant to the service and information provided by your website.
There are two crucial stages to pursuing keywords within an SEO campaign: Research and Optimisation. In this guide, we will introduce these processes to those of you who aren’t already familiar, and look more closely at the role and importance of keywords in digital marketing.
Choosing your keywords
When marketing agencies begin researching the keywords and phrases a website should be targeting, a lot of information about the site’s target audience is uncovered. Such insights are invaluable as the focus of a strong keyword strategy is not just to bring a high quantity of traffic to the site, but a high quality too.
Keyword research should be an ongoing process, which affords your digital marketing team and content writers the opportunity to adapt the website in response to changes in search behaviour, and new market trends.
The two main keyword categories
Every business should have a good grasp of the basic keywords they wish to appear for in search. Often, these are names of products or services you offer, and the industry and region you operate within. In targeting these keywords, businesses are able to attract users who are searching with intent to buy. Such keywords have transactional value, and the benefits of attracting traffic for such terms is high conversions.
Transactional Keywords: Search engines infer from these queries that the user wants to be shown a product or service. They can be broader phrases or very specific queries, depending on how close the user is to making a purchase. SEO strategists aim to catch users at every stage of the purchasing cycle, from early investigation to precise product hunting is crucial to increasing conversions.
Broad query at the start of a purchasing journey:
“Best coffee machines”
Specific query, close to conversion:
‘“Espresso compatible espresso coffee machine with 0.7 liter tank”
Digital marketers cannot afford to only target transactional keywords. In order to increase traffic to the site and boost visibility, digital marketers must target keywords which are indicative of a different, non-transactional user intent.
As users, the majority of searches we carry out are not related to a future purchase. More often than not, we are seeking information on a subject, which may or may not be related to a product or service. Studies into search query trends have consistently shown that informational queries are more common than transactional, one study from 2008 showed that approximately 80% of queries were informational in nature.
Informational Keywords: Search engines infer from these queries that the user wants to be shown a resource from a respected, informed source. These queries tend to be made of up several words, and can often be a question. There are a number of search analytics tools which SEO agencies can use to determine which informational queries and questions appear most frequently in search, and should therefore be targeted in your onsite content.
Example: ‘What is a babyccino’ or ‘how much caffeine is in tea’.
By providing detailed answers to such queries, businesses have the opportunity to raise brand profile and introduce new users to their services. In order to target informational keywords successfully (attracting high quality traffic in the form of potential customers from your target audience), digital marketers must identify and investigate the behaviour of potential customers, especially those who may not yet be familiar with a business or the service they offer.
What is the difference between short tail and long tail keywords?
Another two categories used to define keyword phrases are short tail and long tail. These overlap with informational and transactional. They refer to how search queries appear when plotted in a distribution graph that shows how often low-traffic, high-conversion keywords (long tail) searches are made each month, and how they compare to more frequently searched, more competitive keywords (short tail).
Short tail keywords: These queries are made up of only a few words, and they tend to be more generalised and harder to rank for. For instance, ‘raincoat’ or ‘local weather’.
Long tail keywords: These queries make up 70% of monthly searches. In a search demand graph, you can see this percentage creates the ‘long tail’ of search traffic. These queries tend to be much more descriptive and specific than short tail. This means that although the amount of traffic arriving at a site through long tail keyword may be lower, these searches often have a higher conversion rate. An example of long tail keyword phrases may be ‘red raincoat for dogs’ or ‘why does it rain more in April’.
It is much easier to rank for long tail keywords than it is for broader, short tail phrases which are highly competitive. So while long tail keywords have less search volume, due to their specitivity and individual variation in phrasing, they are a valuable part of SEO campaigns, attracting traffic and conversions.
Short tail, on the other hand, is much easier to optimise your website for. Peppering short keyword phrases throughout selected page content is a highly effective way of helping search engines associate your business with those short tail terms.
Your keywords should be as specific and uniquely relevant to your services and website as possible.
Keyword Semantics & Related Keyword Topics
For search engines to continue providing users with the best answers from the most relevant resource, search engines have had to become much more sophisticated in their keyword recognition. Capabilities have advanced to understand longer, more conversational search queries, rather than just identifying pages with exact match keyword phrases.
Algorithms are constantly being developed to advance search engine understanding of semantic groups and keyword topics. These algorithms enable search engines to stay up to date with evolving language and search behaviour, such as the ‘natural language’ of voice search.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): This Google’s process of trying to determine user intent by understanding the contextual meaning of words or phrases entered in search. Mastering this leads to improved query solution accuracy and relevant search engine results.
A key part of LSI is co-occurrence, noting which other words and phrases often appear on pages alongside a given keyword. For instance, by analysing thousands of webpages, Google now knows that ‘burglar alarms’ are related to ‘home security’, and these phrases often appear in conjunction with ‘cctv systems’. In order to rank for any one of these terms, a page should therefore have a clear semantic theme, such as ‘security’, so Google can easily detect its relevancy and informational depth for a security search query.
This is all a part of search engines striving to bring the most comprehensive and relevant results. It is important to understand this as it means that keyword research is no longer simply about choosing and hammering home specific keywords: it’s about building a theme.
This is just one of many techniques Google has developed to determine the relationship between words and concept to build a more comprehensive, informed data system. We’ve only touched upon it briefly here, but if you want to find out more here are some great places to start your further reading:
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