What is a Keyword?
A keyword is a word or phrase that users enter into a search engine to find information relevant to their needs.
In the context of Search Engine Optimization, a keyword is a term that you want your website to rank for in search engine results to attract a specific target audience.
This target audience is made up of users whose search queries align with the content and niche of your website.
For instance, if you run a shoe retail website, you might target keywords such as "shoes," "shoes for men," and "leather shoes."
These keywords are more likely to attract your intended audience, while other search queries like "travel destination for summer" or "resorts in Bali" would not be relevant to your site.
However, some niches can overlap, and a broad website covering various related topics may attract users searching for keywords in any of those categories.
For example, a big website on fashion trends might cover categories like shoes, outfits, accessories, jewellery etc. Users searching for any of these categories might end up landing on that big website.
Why is a keyword important?
If you own a website, keywords are at the top of the list of the most important things you must work on. Here is why they are so important:
According to the user
When a user types keywords into a search bar, they expect to find relevant websites that provide satisfactory answers to their queries.
To attract users to your website, it is crucial to choose the right keywords that accurately represent the content of your site and match the user's search intent.
For instance, if a user searches for "best travel destinations in Pakistan," they expect to find results specifically related to travel destinations within Pakistan. They are unlikely to click on results about travel destinations in other countries.
By selecting appropriate keywords that accurately represent your website's content, you increase the chances of attracting the right audience and meeting their search expectations.
According to the search engine
Keywords play a vital role not only from the user's perspective but also from the search engine's perspective.
Search engines use algorithms to determine the relevance of keywords to the content of a website, ultimately influencing its ranking in search results.
Search engines are designed to assess whether a keyword is genuinely related to the content or if it is being used solely for its popularity.
If a keyword is determined to be irrelevant to the website's content, the search engine will not rank the site favourably.
For instance, if your website is about packaging boxes and you use trending keywords like "COVID vaccine" or "COVID safety measures," the search engine will recognize that these keywords are not relevant to your content.
As a result, your website will not be ranked highly in search results, as it does not provide valuable information that satisfies the user's query.
According to SEO
When selecting keywords with SEO in mind, you are considering both search engines and user intent, which is a combination of the two.
From an SEO perspective, keywords are essential for optimizing your web pages to increase traffic to your website. The key is to select the "right" keywords for the "right" audience.
For instance, if you have a website about your luxury goods business, you might use keywords like "buy women's handbags" or "buy men's watches".
When a targeted user visits your website, they should find the content they are looking for based on these keywords. Misleading users by directing them to a page unrelated to these keywords will not benefit your SEO efforts.
According to PPC (pay-per-click)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising campaign where you pay a specific price for each click your advertisement receives.
In this type of advertising, keyword bidding is employed, which involves bidding on keywords that searchers use to find your advertisement or content.
Keywords play a critical role in PPC ad campaigns because they are an integral part of the process.
By selecting the right keywords, advertisers can target their ads more effectively, reaching users who are likely to be interested in their products or services.
What are the types of keywords?
Keywords can be divided into several categories.
Head terms & long-tail keywords
Head terms are keywords that are highly competitive and consist of only a few words. They are very general and also have a high search volume.
For instance, in the case of a digital marketing business, the head term can be “digital marketing”, “SEO”, or “SEO techniques” can be some of the few very general keywords that will be called head terms.
Long-tail keywords are words that have low search volume, are very specific, and often contain more words than head terms.
If we use the same example of “digital marketing”, the long-tail keywords would be “how to earn from digital marketing?”, “the best digital marketing techniques”, etc.
Seed keywords are the short keywords that have high search volume and competition. They are without modifiers, and a lot of long-tail keywords (specific ones) can be made by adding modifiers to them.
For example, “digital marketing” is a seed keyword for a digital marketing agency. Writing it like “the best digital marketing agency” makes it more specific due to modifiers (“the best” and “agency”).
Branded & non-branded keywords
Branded keywords contain the name of the brand and are specific to that brand or domain. For example, the “SEODebate Chrome Extension” has the brand name (SEODebate in it).
Non-branded keywords are those keywords which do not have the name of the brand or domain in them. They usually talk about products or services but do not have the name of the brand or domain.
For example, the keyword “website domain rating checker” represents a tool by Ahrefs but does not have “Ahrefs” in it.
You might have heard about negative keywords in terms of pay-per-click campaigns. They are used in GoogleAd as a filter which means that you do not want your ad to be shown for some specific words.
Some words are similar to the main keywords, which is why they mislead the users and can make you pay for the click that the users make due to misunderstanding.
For example, if Asiana TV bids on the keyword “Asiana” and a user clicks on its ad while finding Asiana Airlines for booking, the cost of that click will go wasted.
To avoid this, you will tell GoogleAd what negative keywords can affect your campaign such as: using the above example, Asiana TV may want to block being visible for “booking” or “tickets” because these two negative keywords (booking and tickets) can only belong to Asiana Airlines.
In this way, they can avoid paying for the click that does not give them any benefit.
Primary & secondary keywords
Primary or focus keywords are the main keywords you focus on to rank for. Your content revolves around them, and they have a leading role in your content’s ranking and visibility.
For example, “buy smartphones” or “digital watches” can be your primary keywords.
Secondary keywords can be called supporting keywords because they support primary keywords and are more elaborate and specific to your products or services.
They can better tell Google that your content is about a specific topic or niche. For example, “black digital watches for men” or “buy smartphones at a reasonable price” can be the secondary keywords.
These keywords include location and help grow local businesses. For example, “Restaurants in Dubai” or “Psychologist near me”.
Topical & evergreen keywords
Topical keywords are the keywords with a very high search volume at a certain point in time, but they do not continually maintain this volume.
They become popular temporarily. For example, “Tide pod challenge” or “Christmas celebration ideas”.
Evergreen keywords are opposite to topical keywords because they continually maintain a good search volume. Their examples can be “How to lose weight?”, “weather forecast”, and “petrol prices”.
LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords
LSI keywords are neither long-tail keywords nor synonyms of the main keywords. They are related to the words of the main keywords that search engines can recognise and fetch the required results.
For example, if you search for digital marketing, the words like “SEO” and “internet marketing” pop up in the results because they are related to digital marketing.
However, Google denies the existence of LSI keywords. If you want to learn more about the LSI keywords, read this article on Latent Semantic Indexing.
What is the criterion for evaluating keywords?
You can evaluate a keyword through the number of searchers searching for that particular keyword. This quality of the keyword is the competition which tells you how much traffic one keyword is able to pull.
As for focus or seed keywords, they have a high competition because they are more general, while long-tail keywords have low competition.
Keyword difficulty is a metric used in search engine optimization to estimate how challenging it will be to rank well (appear in the top 10 results) on search engine results pages for a specific keyword or keyword phrase.
This metric takes into account the level of competition and the effort required to achieve a high ranking for that keyword.
Understanding keyword difficulty can help you prioritize your SEO efforts, allocate resources effectively, and set realistic expectations for your campaigns.
Competitive density is a metric that indicates the level of competition for a keyword among advertisers in paid campaigns, such as PPC advertising.
It provides insight into the number of advertisers bidding on a specific keyword, helping you understand the competitiveness of the keyword in the advertising landscape.
It is important to remember that competitive density is different from keyword difficulty, which focuses on the organic search landscape and the challenges associated with ranking well on search engine results pages for a given keyword.
While both metrics are essential for an effective digital marketing strategy, competitive density specifically helps advertisers make informed decisions about their paid search campaigns.
Search volume refers to the number of searches a specific keyword receives within a given time frame. In other words, it is a measure of the popularity and demand for a particular keyword among users.
High search volume indicates that many users are searching for that keyword, while low search volume suggests that fewer people are interested in the topic.
Length also determines the type of keyword. As we have discussed earlier, general keywords (focus or seed keywords) usually have a few words. On the other hand, specific keywords, i.e. longtail keywords usually have more words.
However, this is not always the case. It is because branded keywords are specific but can be short to moderate.
Different keywords can have different costs. For instance, the keywords that have high competition will have a high price.
How to optimise for them?
To optimise your content for keywords, you must go through a sequence of steps gradually.
Relevance and users’ intent
As a webmaster, understanding the concept of keyword relevance is crucial to effectively present content to your audience.
Keyword relevance ensures that the content on your website is directly related to the selected keywords, which allows you to better target your niche.
Once you have identified your niche, the next step is to choose appropriate keywords that align with both the niche and the content you will create.
An essential aspect of relevance is user intent, which refers to the purpose behind a user's search query.
Users might be looking for information, directions, access to a website, or making a purchase. Ensuring that your content and keywords cater to these different intents is vital for successful targeting.
With these concepts in mind, the next stage in your strategy is to conduct thorough keyword research. This will help you find the most effective keywords to target in order to reach your intended audience and achieve your website goals.
It is the process of looking for keywords related to your niche and making a list of them for using them in your content.
As a webmaster, you can do this research on the search engine exactly as a user do. For this, you should pick a seed keyword to do more research on that.
For example, if your website is about digital marketing, you can pick “digital marketing” or “internet marketing” as seed keywords. Typing these seed keywords into the search bar, the search engine’s auto-complete will suggest popular keywords.
You can also have a clue from the “More to Ask” section or can go to the bottom of the SERPs, where the most trending keywords can be found.
Another way is to use tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool, Ahref’s Keyword Explorer, and Google Trends.
They will not only give you keyword ideas but also give you stats about search volume and keyword difficulty.
After conducting keyword research, the next step is to determine the appropriate keyword density for your content. Keyword density refers to the frequency with which a specific keyword appears within your content.
There are no strict rules for determining the ideal keyword density; the goal is to incorporate keywords naturally and only when necessary, ensuring they are evenly distributed throughout your content.
While creating content, avoid keyword stuffing, which is the practice of excessively and meaninglessly inserting keywords into your content. Engaging in keyword stuffing can harm your website's search engine ranking.
Once you have established an appropriate keyword density and ensured natural usage, the next consideration is the strategic placement of keywords within your content to optimize their effectiveness.
Areas to place them
The areas where you can use keywords but in moderation are:
It is important to include your focus keyword(s) in the URL to optimize your content for search engines.
The part of the URL following the last backslash is called the URL slug, and this is where you can place your focus keyword(s).
Incorporating keywords into the URL slug not only helps improve search engine rankings but also makes the URL more user-friendly and descriptive.
A page title is a brief introduction and the first thing the readers look at to find what type of content is on the page. Therefore, putting keyword(s) in the title is crucial to pulling the targeted audience.
The introduction of the page must also contain keywords because it is the first paragraph of the page’s textual content.
Subheadings are an excellent place to incorporate keywords because they are prominently displayed and easily noticeable on a web page.
These areas are important for both users and search engines, as they help emphasize the main topics and structure of your content. However, it's crucial to maintain a natural flow and avoid overusing keywords in subheadings.
Alt tags, or alternative text, are descriptions that appear when an image cannot be displayed or downloaded.
They help search engines understand the content of images, as search engines cannot directly interpret visual information.
Including keywords in alt tags can be beneficial for SEO, as it enables search engines to consider the image's relevance to your content and potentially improve your ranking.
A meta description is a concise summary displayed in search engine results pages that describes a web page's content and highlights the keywords a searcher is looking for.
Google may modify the meta description you provide and sometimes does not display the exact text you write.
However, if your meta description meets the criteria for an appropriate and informative summary, Google is more likely to display it.
You can leverage the meta description space to include your target keyword(s) while maintaining a natural and compelling description.
What are the best keyword tools?
The best tools related to keywords are:
Google Keyword Planner
This tool provides keyword ideas for your content and offers insights into the search volume and cost for each keyword, especially useful when planning a paid campaign.
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is a powerful keyword research tool that helps you discover valuable keyword ideas, analyze their search volume, and understand their competitiveness.
It generates a list of related keyword ideas based on your seed keyword or phrase and helps you discover potential long-tail keywords or other variations that may be relevant to your niche.
Google Search Console
This tool helps you understand the performance of your website or web pages by tracking impressions for specific keywords. This information enables you to prioritize keywords based on their performance.
This tool generates long-tail keyword ideas, which can be helpful for targeting less competitive search terms and attracting more focused traffic.
Although Google Trends does not provide search volume data for keywords, it does indicate the popularity of keywords over time, allowing you to identify trending topics and capitalize on emerging trends.
In terms of SEO, a keyword is a word or phrase for which you want to rank your website, keeping in mind what a user can search for that relates to your website's niche.
Keywords are important because they attract users and search engines to your website, and can be classified into various types.
To optimize your content for keywords, you need to consider the relevance and users' intent, do keyword research, and identify the areas to place them appropriately.