The most important thing to understand about keywords is that they are the single biggest factor that gets your website ranked in Google searches. Almost every aspect of assigning rank revolves around their use either on your site or elsewhere, and even via links back to your website. Why? Because this is fundamentally how search engines like Google and Bing figure out what your website is about.
This refers to any single word or phrase. It can be one word, but it could also be a phrase with two, three, four or even more words together. All of these are referred to interchangeably as ‘keywords’ or ‘keyword phrases’ even when there is just one word. Search matches with single words are generally most common, phrases with two words less common, and phrases with three or more words less common again.
Examples keyword phrases might be:
“running shoes” (201,000)
“Nike running shoes” (165,000)
“buy Nike running shoes” (170)
“buy Nike running shoes online” (140)
“buy Nike running shoes online nz” (<10)
(Worldwide search figures last 12 months – Google AdWords Keyword Tool):
Long-tail Keyword Phrases:
This refers to a keyword phrase that has at least 2 words. Generally, the more words the ‘longer the tail’ and the more rare they are in actual use.
Broad Match Keyword Phrases:
This is where you might match a search word fairly loosely to keyword phrases you are using in the website. It means the search is related to the keyword, but is not necessarily exactly the same as the keyword. Here are some examples of broad-matched keywords:
Nike shoes matches to Nike runners
Running shoes matches to gymn shoes
Foot matches to feet
Phrase Match Keyword Phrases:
These are keyword phrases in a website that match to any other keyword phrase in search, either in part or in whole. Here are some examples:
“Nike shoes” matches to Nike shoes online
“shoes online” matches to Nike shoes online
“shoes” matches to Nike shoes online
Single phrase-match words operate similarly to broad match, but are not modified by a plural (shoes) or possessive (shoe’s) or any other transformation, like foot and feet.
Exact Match keyword Phrases:
This is when a keyword being used in the website is exactly the same as the keyword being searched. Usually (but not always) this version of keyword matching is stronger that phrase or broad matched keywords, but overuse in website texts can result in content that reads poorly. Here are some examples:
[Nike shoes] matches to Nike shoes
[buy shoes online] matches to buy shoes online
Commercially Relevant Keyword Phrases:
These are keywords that when used in Google search are likely to be used by someone wanting to find a product or service provider. Sometimes there are very clear signals that a keyword phrase has commercial relevance, like when the word “buy” or “online” is used in the phrase. E.g. “buy shoes online” is very likely to be commercially relevant to a website that sells shoes. Or, “buy shoes” might be someone searching for a store location. And, “shoes online” is likely to be someone searching for an online retailer who sells shoes. But: “shoes” alone as a search word does not demonstrate any intent to purchase at all. Understanding commercial relevance is an important part of deciding which words to use on your website, plus determining which combination actually occurs in reality is a crucial step in that process too.
Verifying Keyword Use:
For every keyword phrase you plan to optimise your website for, you should verify that the keyword phrase does actually occur in real use, because it has little if any commercial value for you to optimise for keyword phrases that are never searched at all. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to perform research on keyword use. You can read more about how to use that tool here. Try not to make assumptions about keyword use in search. I’ve dealt with many business owners whose knowledge about their own business was immense, but at the same time their understanding of referring keywords in search was poor. The conclusion I draw from that is that business owners are generally not a good source for keyword research in their own industry.
It may be tempting to chase keywords that are used most often, but as you may have read above, the most common keywords are broader and may carry less commercial relevance, so usually it’s best to check for longer keyword phrases like ‘long-tail’ ones with two, three or more words in them. There will be fewer searches for each but there will also be more variations. In other words, it’s better to optimise for 100 long-tail keyword phrases with 1000 searches in total than it is to optimise for 10 short keyword phrases with 1000 searches in total. It actually easier to determine commercial relevance in those longer phrases. But how do you write good content across so many keyword phrases? You’ll need to implement a strategy that finds common sections in the long-tail keywords and group them into sets based on those common parts. These are called ‘keyword pivots’. Here are some examples, where the pivot is ‘Nike shoes nz’.
“cheap Nike shoes online nz”
Nike shoe stores nz
[latest Nike shoes nz]
Nike Air Jordan shoes 2015 nz
From the above examples, you might have noticed that I still class all three match types (broad, phrase and exact) as matches to the keyword pivot. That’s an important point because it means you can write quite creatively on your website about Nike shoes and not necessarily repeat the exact order of the words in the keyword phrases. Plus, here’s an extra tip: If your website domain name ends in ‘.nz’ or is targeted to New Zealand through Google Search Console settings, you’re unlikely to have to use “nz” anywhere in your website texts.
If your website was about nothing but Nike shoes, then your pivots are most likely to be about sub-branding like “Air” or “Air Jordan” etc. But if you stocked many different brands and types of shoes then your pivots would likely be about each brand, gender style etc.
Keyword pivots should align with the number of landing pages in your website. If you have grouped 1000 keywords into 15 keyword pivot sets, then you should be writing great content for 15 landing pages, plus general content for your functional pages.
Using Keyword Phrases:
There are many places you can use keywords to gain rank, but generally those place fall into three categories:
- Contextual placement
- Technical placement
Contextual placement of keywords is most powerful at gaining Google rank. These are the words that your website users can read and engage with while on your website.
Technical placement of keywords occur in code elements in your website page and are not generally visible to users of your website, but some technical elements like the Page Title and Meta Description may be visible in Google search in relation to your website.
Off-site keyword placement is something you may have little control over, unless it’s in a domain where you can edit the content yourself, like on blog or article websites. Ideally, the website that has a link to your page has lots of great content about the exact same topic of the page in your website.
Hopefully this has covered off a few of the things you didn’t already know about what keywords were and how they are used. If you need help with determining the right keyword set for your website texts, consider calling us for help.