Social Savvy: An actionable introduction to keywords for your business - Feb 2021

By Irene Williams

Did you know that keywords are key to your business success? Well, they are, assuming you want to meaningfully connect with customers and make it simple for them to find you online. The inclusion of keywords on your website is an essential tactic to help your business appear in search engine results. Search engines include Bing, Yahoo, and, of course, Google. As a matter of fact, Google is the grand standard of search engines with its 75% share of all global searches (93% if you add in its properties such as Google Maps and Google Images).

I’ll start the discussion with a few foundational key(word) points worth bearing in mind.

• Online search is how most humans find things they need in today’s world. About 68% of online experiences begin with search engines. Most people “Google” first-meaning they type queries into the search field at order to find and easily click through to the sites that have what they’re looking for. The second most popular search option is Bing, which is owned by Microsoft.

• Search engine optimization, aka SEO, is the strategy and practice of integrating elements into a website so that it will appear as high as possible in relevant search results and drive people (customers) to that site. SEO addresses “organic”-or unpaid-results.

• Keywords live up to their name in that they work like keys to rev the search engine and bring up useful results. “Keyword” is a catch-all moniker; it can refer to just one or two words, as well as phrases or full sentences, including questions (lots of people type complete questions in their online searches). Most searches contain at least four words. Basically, anything anyone types into the search field on any search engine is a keyword or search term.

A very short keyword is called a fat-head keyword. Typically, it’s really hard to show up in search results for these terms because they are common and broad in nature. Longer, more detailed search terms, known as long-tail keywords, often bring up more targeted, useful search results that may be more meaningful for your business.

For example, the search results for “pet-friendly carpet” in Google shows nearly 63 million results with no local retail options. In contrast, “pet-friendly carpet retailers Minneapolis” shows 7 million results with local Google business listings and regional websites that dominate all the results on the first and second pages.

While keyword “relevance” has been a focus for a long while, we’re seeing “search intent” increase in importance in today’s SEO strategies. Google and other search engines are more finely tuned to offer results that answer the intent behind searchers’ queries. This may seem like a subtle nuance, but it’s actually a highly intuitive evolution in online search.

For example, the search for “tile flooring for bathroom” will bring up different results from “where to buy tile flooring for bathroom” because the search intent is so specific in the latter search phrase.

• In optimizing your website for good search results, you are compelled to better understand your customers: what they need, how they think, the words and phrases they use, even the devices they prefer, the times of day they are active online, and so much more. A solid SEO strategy involves more than keywords, yes-but keywords are absolutely the heart of the matter.

1. How do you identify the best keywords for your business?
Here are my recommended steps for conducting a keyword search. These steps are helpful if you’re brand new to SEO or are seeking a refresh for your keyword list. As a matter of fact, I recommend you go through this process at least once every other year because your customers’ wording and search intentions are ever-changing as the market ebbs and flows.

• Create a starter list of words, phrases and questions with your team.

I suggest you involve everyone on your team who’s in a customer-facing role for this exercise. Invite each person to create a top-of-mind list of what they think your business’ top keywords are and submit them or host a short team meeting with the purpose of compiling a list collectively in the moment.

To spark ideas about what words, phrases and questions to include, ask your team members to focus on the inquiries and statements they hear most frequently from customers, as well as relevant lingo and buzz terms that are commonly mentioned in the marketplace and media. Remind them to consider local specificity and search intent as they come up with their lists.

Once everyone has contributed, input everything into a spreadsheet in order to rank the top words and terms you’ve collected in-house. Manually search the top ten terms on this list, taking note of the number of results returned and related keywords that Google offers in association with your searches. These two bits of info can show you how competitive your terms are and reveal other viable keywords to consider including on your list.

Side note: Not only will this exercise that involves your team result in a solid basis for your keyword strategy, but it’ll also get everyone engaged and thinking about your customers in meaningful, unique ways. That will bear good fruit all around!

• Conduct keyword research using third-party tools.

To further hone your keyword list in alignment with an overall SEO strategy, turn to outside resources for deeper research. Some of these options require payment following free trials, but don’t let that hinder you. Most of these sites offer more than just keyword solutions to support more comprehensive SEO tactics, so it’s likely worth investing in the nominal fees to gain access to the tools and insights.

To learn more about each of these and which one is best for your biz, just type the names in your preferred search engine and peruse the results!

Google business tools: This includes Google Keyword Planner (you need a Google Ad account to access), Google Trends (“see what the world is searching”), Google Analytics and Search Console (hopefully, you are using these solutions in association with your website).

Ubersuggest: This solid tool associated with renowned SEO expert Neil Patel offers a seven-day free trial, then a monthly fee; subscribers get access to lots of learning and customer support.

SEMrush: Some might say this solution is the longtime standard in keyword and SEO insights; offers a free trial and paid options.

KWFinder: Worth checking out because it offers a healthy dose of free lookups when you sign up for a ten-day trial at no charge.

Ahrefs: Offers an “all-in-one SEO tool set,” including a site audit feature, suited for anyone from newbies to established digital pros.

Tip: If you search for keyword tools online, you might be overwhelmed by the seemingly bottomless search results. By starting with these select options I’ve just shared, you will likely get what you need and avoid the mind-boggle of a blanket search.

2. How do you use the keywords you identify?
Though the full discussion of keyword usage is more than we can cover in this article, I will top-line the most important ways to put these essential terms into action for your business. (Pardon if some of the terminology I’m sharing might be a little bit technical, but I assure you that your marketing team or webmaster will be able to guide you if needed.)

On-site: Use keywords in your website’s page titles, meta descriptions (the blurbs that show up under page titles in search results), blog/article titles, within the first 200 words on any page of your site, headers/headings, and alt-tags for images on your site (this makes photos searchable on Google). Not only will this support your overall SEO, but it will make it easier for people to find the content they want when searching within your site. (It’s important to prioritize in-site search for the best user experience).

On social media: Use keywords as hashtags in social media posts. On Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags to help more people see what you post. Those keywords will help you hashtag intelligently!

In emails: Plug those keywords into the subject lines of your emails as a way to get your audience’s attention in the inbox.

As a content guide: Keywords serve as excellent inspiration for blog and article topics, as well as content for social posts.

For business intelligence: Keeping up with the keywords provides an excellent window into all sorts of business intelligence such as product trends/popularity, consumer language and sentiment, and location-specific interests. These insights can help guide your sales tactics and overall marketing strategies.

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