using a search engine
SEO Basics - Keywords Explained

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) covers a wide range of techniques all with the common goal of pushing you up the rankings of a search engine results page (SERP). These techniques vary massively in difficulty and effectiveness, and the truth is there is no definitive way to win at the SEO game, but there are market leading recognised techniques that you can implement to give you the push up the rankings you need. Today, we’re going to look at everything “Keyword” related – from what they are and how to identify them, to implementing them onto your website and its content.

What is a Search Engine?

To understand SEO, you must first understand search engines. You type into a search engine whatever you want to find. They scour the internet and present to you the most relevant items, right? Well, you’re nearly right.

Yes, you do type a search term (Or query as they’re commonly known) into the search engine and you are then presented with the most relevant websites based on what you searched. However, the search engines do not perform a live search of the internet every time you ask where the nearest dog groomer is. Instead, search engines send bots to ‘crawl’ through the internet and gather a kind of 'report' of the website, before storing them in a huge database. So, when you input a search query, the search engine rummages through its database and presents to you the most relevant website’s in its database. It’s simple really...

What are Keywords?

Keywords are fundamental to your success in SEO. With keywords implemented onto your website, you’re making a search engine’s bots life much easier in their search for relevancy. While of course, keywords are not the only factor, they do play a big part in highlighting to search engines that you are the website they’re looking for.

A keyword is certain words or phrases within a search query that are identified as ‘key.’ The most commonly used word or set of words that lead to something. For instance, “Exercise” is a keyword that would relate to gyms. To use keywords successfully, you must speak the language of your customers: think about what they would type in when looking for your product and then optimise for that keyword.

keywords header image

Queries to Content

One of the biggest challenges in search engine optimisation is the task of identifying what your customers are actually searching for, a task which is made even harder when you consider the number of variations to say even the simplest of queries. If you wanted to know the weather this weekend, you could search, “What will the weather be like this weekend?”, “Weather this weekend”, “Weather in Sheffield” or simply “Weather.” With these complexities, you’d be forgiven for thinking you can’t possibly rank for everything that a customer searches for. Well, you’re right – you can’t. There is simply too much variation to account for. International spellings (I.e. colour vs color, a ‘z’ or an ‘s’ for words ending in ‘ation’ etc.) are yet another consideration if your company operates globally.

These issues mean that there is something that must be done before you begin optimising for a keyword – research.

Keyword Research

To rank in search engines on the queries that your potential customers are entering, in-depth research and analysis is required. I’ll pre-warn you, this can get tedious, but it is worth it. Get a piece of paper, or open a new Word document, and list every keyword or keyword phrase you can think of that is related to your business. Think products, services, even your brand name. Once you have compiled this list you should use a resource like SEMRush, Moz’s Open Site Explore or Google’s Keyword Planner (You’ll need an AdWords account but it is completely free) to find the volume statistics for each of them. This will give you an indication into which keywords are likely to give you the best results.

“I’ve found a keyword that has a monthly search volume of over 10,000, I should optimise for this keyword, right?”

Well, not exactly.

There are three main factors to consider before committing to a keyword;

  1. Search Volume

Of course, the keyword must be something that people are actually searching for, otherwise it is pointless. Don’t turn your nose up to those keywords with under 100 searches a month however. I’ll discuss why when we cover Longtail Keywords later.

  1. Competitiveness

If you have a good-looking keyword with a nice search volume, copy it into a search engine and see what the results are. You can get a clue of the keywords competitiveness by identifying a couple things. How many paid ads are there? The more there are, the more competitive the keyword is, and are there job listing or educational courses showing? If there is, you’ll find it pretty much impossible to get above them on the rankings.

google ads example

  1. Keyword Intent

It is no good ranking top for a keyword that potential customers are using to search for something that isn’t related to your product. If you are wanting to get a product to rank on a search engine, make sure the keywords you use are completely relevant to the product. You want people to find what they are searching for by using your website. You don’t want them to realise your website is unrelated, get a little annoyed, and leave your site immediately.

person using search engine

What are Longtail Keywords?

Simply put, they are keyword phrases, rather than just an individual word. Sometimes, a user won’t search for “Web design” instead they could search for “Web design Sheffield” or “Website design Sheffield” or even “Companies that build websites in Sheffield.” These are longtail keywords, and they must be considered if you are going to have any success with SEO.

Longtail keywords, generally, have fewer monthly search volumes, but what you’ll find is these longtail search terms have a much higher click through rate and rate of conversion. This is because the search term is much more specific. If a user were to search “Web design”, what exactly do they want? Are they looking for cool examples for inspiration to design their own? Maybe, they’re looking for a definition? Or job vacancies in that industry? Because of this, aiming to optimise for a keyword with the highest search volume, and nothing else, is a misguided strategy.

Instead, research what users are searching for when they find your website. This information will then give you a clear indication as to what you should be optimising for.

Longtail Keywords are also great because when you do implement them, you can start ranking for other keywords you weren’t even aware of, all because Google can identify strings of words using they’re clever bots, for instance, “Cheap web design companies in Sheffield” is a longtail keyword, but Google can break that down into the keywords; “Web design”, “Cheap web design”, “Web design Sheffield” and “Web design companies” opening more keyword opportunities than you could have imagined.

Where to implement Keywords?

So, now we are getting to the more technical side of SEO. I know, your cursor is slowly moving up to that red X in the corner, but before you leave, just let me tell you this – it’s not that difficult. Shocking I know. Of course, this is “SEO Basics – Keywords”, there is more too it, but by following these tips you’ll be well onto the right track of getting higher on those search engine rankings.

The main places you should be implementing your keywords are: Title tags, meta-description, headings, copy content and alt. tags. I know this sounds daunting to the untrained ear, but it isn’t.

Your title tag is the first thing that a user sees about your website, it’s the title above your URL on a search results page. It is vital you have good keyword usage in your title. It is also vital your title is short – no more than 60 characters, otherwise it will be cut off by the search engine and won’t do anyone any good.

title tags example

Your meta-description is the short piece of text beneath the title tag. The little snippet of information about your website that a user reads before deciding to click on. The use of keywords has a different importance here. Meta-description does not influence your search engine ranking directly, however, with good use of keywords you are shouting out to users that your website is relevant to their needs and ushering them to click on. Treat your meta-description as an advert for your website and more people will be inclined to learn more, the increase in traffic from this will bump you up the rankings of a search engine, so indirectly, your meta-description will have improved your search engine rankings.

meta descriptions example

Headings, are simply the big pieces of text that break up the smaller pieces of text. The technical name for these are ‘H’ Tags, the first will be called ‘H1 Tag’, the second ‘H2 Tag’ and so on. The H1 Tag is the first and most important, so all web pages should have at least a H1 Tag, and they should all only have one H1 Tag.  Implementing keywords on these show a search engine’s bots what the content below is all about, making them rank you more prominently from that. Look back through this blog and see if you can spot the keywords I have used in my headings.

Header tags example

Copy content and alt. tags are the final step in this optimisation. The written content on your website will naturally contain keywords as you write it, but it is always good to look back and see if you are missing any opportunities.

Alt. tags are reserved for the images on your website. While a search engine’s bots are incredibly clever, they have still yet to master the art of seeing images. Until that day comes, we must help them along by briefly describing exactly what is in the image with alt. tags, and where relevant, implementing keywords in these does help bump your rankings. For instance, if I were to include an image of a puppy in this article, though of course a search engine wouldn’t like the irrelevance, I would input the alt. tag, “Cute puppy” or “Cute dog”, this is an accurate description of the image and has the relevant keywords that a user would search for, however, they wouldn’t be too happy when they click on the image and are directed to a blog about SEO.

Alt tags example

Human First Principle

This is the most important thing to keep in mind. While you are optimising your website, it can become easy to lose site of the people you have made your website for; users and people – not search engines. Keeping a human first principle at the forefront of everything you do will make you consider and reconsider all the content on your website, asking yourself, “Do people want to read this?”

When I listed where you should be implementing your keywords, it is important to remember not to overdo it. Only use keywords where necessary and relevant. Using them too much is known as ‘Keyword Stuffing’ and is not only highly off putting for a user, it negatively affects your search engine rankings.

Welcome to the world of SEO, a frustrating, complicated, sometimes illogical community of the most rewarding website techniques. I hope this article has helped you take your first baby steps into this world.

As always, we are happy to help you with any of your SEO needs – whether you would like us to explain some things for you, do an audit of your website and identify what you need to do to improve your rankings, or take over the implementation of SEO on your website and relieve some of your stress, we at DS Creative are here to help – get in touch today for a free SEO Audit!

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Created by, Chris