What are SEO ‘keywords’? What do you do with them?

Getting people to your site: Five questions to ask yourself

We’ve written before: SEO starts with content — and you could almost say it ends with content, too. Not quite, but almost. So, as you start writing content for your site, or as you take a fresh look at content that already exists on your site, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What particular kind of person do I want to land on my site?
  2. What sort of things would a person be looking for that would make a visit to my site desirable?
  3. What are the words these people might type into Google’s search box?
  4. Do I have content on my site that actually contains those keywords and phrases?
  5. Is that content something that would be genuinely helpful to that person? (Be brutally honest with yourself when you answer this last one.)

OK, so we’re going to talk today about SEO “keywords” and “key phrases”.

I need pause a second to tell you I’m not a big fan of the term “SEO.” We actually try not to use the term very much. It always makes it seem to me that all this is some secret, mysterious thing that only “experts” understand. It’s not that complicated, but it does take work and time. It’s mostly about coming up with a smart plan to have good stuff on your site, to promote it as well as you can, and to keep at it.

So, back to those keywords: There are two steps here: first, research; then applying what you learned from the research.

Researching SEO keywords

Let’s just start making a list.

  • Pretend you are that person we mentioned in questions 1 & 2. Write down 10 or 20 possible words and phrases that person might type into Google — words and phrases you’d like your site to turn up for in the results.
  • Go to Google and start typing some of those terms in.
  • Take notice of what Google tries to auto-complete as you do this: There may be some terms that pop up that you realize should apply to you too. Add those to your list as well.
  • Follow through with the searches and see what comes up. First, this will give you a sense of what you are up against. But also take note at the bottom of the search results page, the list of what Google calls “Searches related to [whatever you entered].” There might be other useful keyword/keyphrase ideas here to add to your list.
  • You can also use a tool like https://yoast.com/suggest/ to help with this research.
  • Once you have a good healthy list, divide them into topical groups. You may have a site that has to appeal to vastly different audiences. For example, we recently were working on a site for a physicians group that specializes in women’s health care. Their patients include women who are pregnant for the first time, and women who are past menopause and concerned about bone health. In this case, you would have at least two different sets of keywords (maybe more) related to two different audiences and two different sets of content.

OK, now we are ready to start applying this list.

Applying our list of SEO keywords

Let’s start by picking one of the topical groups of keywords you just created. You don’t need to tackle all of them at once. Creating better content and doing better in search is a process that takes time, not a switch you flip.

  • With that first group of keywords, return to the earlier questions we asked ourselves: “Do I have content on my site that actually contains these keywords and phrases?”
  • If not, start writing (or editing).
  • Is that content something that would be genuinely helpful to that person?
  • If not, start writing (or editing).

Remember: It won’t do you a lot good to just stuff the keywords onto existing pages if that content is not genuinely useful to someone who was searching on those terms. Don’t try to fool people. Don’t try to fool search engines. Don’t force it. Don’t overdo it. That will hurt you in the end.

Simply try to write well and clearly about the topic. You’re an expert on whatever it is you do, so show people you can help them. Why else would someone want to come to your site? And, hey, look! The keywords that are appropriate to the content find their way naturally onto the page, right? They naturally have a place in page headlines and accurately reflect what the page is about. Yes, see, this is not that complicated.

Keywords, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight

Here is the point: Taking the time to research and craft a keyword list will help you be intentional and strategic about what new content you write and how old content can be improved — with the goal of bringing more of the right kind of people to your website.

Take the example of the doctors that we mentioned earlier. In doing some initial keyword research, we noticed a “related search” that was: “pregnancy symptoms first weeks.” While the site we were working on had lots of great content about pregnancy, it didn’t have much of anything to help someone who entered that particular search.

But if we can assume this is a related search because it is a common search (and if we can assume many of those people are women interested in becoming pregnant), perhaps this is an opportunity to provide another bit of good, authoritative content that could bring new people to the website — people who just might be potential new patients.

Be sure the content is helpful, so that it makes a visitor happy if they click to your site. If it answers the question they had when they entered the search query, they may spend more time on the page. They may link to your page from some other site. They may share it on social media. They may return to it later. While we don’t understand all of the things Google measures in determining search rankings, any and all of those are probably going to help you.

Look, there are not tricks in all this. Nothing magic. Just some work, some thinking, some planning. And don’t think you’ll get all this done in a week. Good content takes time. SEO takes time. Make it part of your routine. Make it part of your marketing plan.

Bob Passaro

Bob specializes in web design and development and copywriting. Before joining Figoli Quinn, he was a freelance web developer, a copywriter at the Eugene marketing agency Cawood, and back in the distant past he was a newspaper editor and reporter. In another life, Bob might have been a bicycle courier – but he settles for occasionally hopping on his bike to deliver boxes of brochures or other items from the printer to a client. He serves on the board of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation (aka BEST) and the Events Committee of GreenLane Sustainable Business Network.

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