The biggest problem with most small businesses’ websites is they lack a keyword strategy. Unless you’ve read up on search engine optimization (SEO), you might not have a clue what is a keyword and what it’s not.
Without understanding how keywords work, you’ll fail to get meaningful organic search traffic. If the search engines don’t send you any traffic, you’ll either have to pay them (i.e. buying adverts) or pray people find your website (e.g. handing out business cards).
As a small business owner, you should know what is a keyword, why they’re important and how to use them on a page. These basics will enable you to take action and start making your website appear in the search engine’s results.
In this guide, I’ll help you answer these questions and give you practical advice that will enable you to tweak your website to start bringing in traffic from the search engines.
What is a keyword?
Surprisingly, a keyword doesn’t have to be a word. More often than not, it’s a short phrase. We all use keywords to find things online, on our computers, and in life.
In a grocery shop, you might ask where is the whole-wheat spaghetti. If you wanted to buy new shops, you might ask if they have any red Nike shoes in size 8.
These keywords: whole-wheat spaghetti and red Nike shoes in size 8 ensure we all understand the question and make it easy to answer.
Again we all use keywords every day without knowing! It’s not just for SEO!
Keywords help the search engine understand the intent of a web page, allowing them to match pages with the searcher’s query. Google and YouTube are the world’s biggest matchmakers, albeit they do it with content, not relationships!
tl;dr: Keywords are short phrases that describe an idea or item. Search engines use keywords to match the searcher with a page that best answers their query.
Why are keywords important to my business’s website?
Without targeting the right keywords Google, Bing, and other search engines won’t know how to match you with people looking for what you offer.
Imagine you run a cake shop. You’ll put your most appetizing cakes in the window as they’ll capture the attention of people who walk past your shop. You’ll also try and make your business name catchy and, if possible, include the word cake or bakery.
You’ve used keywords all over the place without realizing it.
Let’s call your shop: Kate’s Kake shop (pardon the pun!) and we’ll say it’s based in Manchester.
You’d want people to find you on Google for such terms as:
- Cakeshop in Manchester
- Cakeshop near Manchester town center
- Best cupcakes in Manchester
- Wedding cakes Manchester
- Double chocolate brownies
- Banoffee Pie
- Cinnamon Blondies
- And a long list of other keywords.
There are a ton of keywords you could target and it wouldn’t take you that long to create a comprehensive list.
But that’s only half the story.
You also need to target keywords that people are searching for.
Kate’s customers are likely Googling: where to buy Double chocolate brownies in Manchester.
However, it’s they are unlikely to be searching for: almond flour vegan chocolate brownies or DIY wedding cake kits.
tl;dr: Your website needs to target words and phrases that describe your business and that people are searching for.
How can ensure I’m targetting the right keywords?
There are a few ways you can ensure your website target the best keywords. The first step is to create a list of keywords you’d like to target based on your knowledge and typical customers questions.
With this list, you need to gather a few pieces of data to sort good ideas from the bad. We use a keyword research tool to validate if people are searching for the phrase. The tool will tell us how many people search for the term each month and the number of people competing to rank on the top spot.
Of course, keyword research tools show us far more data than we’ll ever need. But, these are the two we should focus on when deciding to target a keyword or not.
You only need two pieces of data
We have industry terms for these two metrics.
Average monthly searches (AMS): The estimated amount of people searching for that keyword each month. It ranges from 0 to 1 million.
Keyword Difficulty (KD): How many websites are competing for the top spot for that keyword. Usually expressed as a number out of 100.
Ideally, we want a fair amount of monthly searches, at least 20, and a low keyword difficulty of under 30. It becomes harder to rank on the first page of the search results, the higher the keyword’s difficulty score.
An impossible example
For example, Nike shoes has a difficulty score of 85/100, and a million people search for that keyword each month. Unless you’re an SEO wizard with a very large budget, it will be impossible to rank for Nike shoes.
I wouldn’t in a month of Sunday’s attempt to rank for such a keyword!
What keyword research tool is best?
Should I track my keywords?
Yes, you should be tracking your keyword positions each week or month. Most keyword research tools will allow you to set up keyword tracking with ease. You might want to read my guide to checking your keyword positions as this explores the topic in more detail.
tl;dr: Use a keyword research tool to find keywords with a low difficulty score. Track your keyword positions monthly
Basic guide to using keywords on your website
Non-SEO types aka the rest of the world, get unnecessarily stuck when trying to use keywords. Even if they understand what is a keyword, they’re scared to use them!
For Google and other search engines to understand what your page is about, you need to use the keyword a few times. Here’s a cheat sheet of where to use your keyword on a page:
- URL slug
- Opening paragraph and a few times during the page/article
- One subheading
- Main image alt text
- Meta description
However, there are a few rules you should follow.
When you use your keyword, it has to sound natural. Otherwise, the search engines will pick up on this and won’t include your page in the search results.
Do not keyword stuff
Adding your keyword into every paragraph is one way to ensure you never get a single website visitor from the search engines.
You might have heard of keyword density, which is the amount of time the keyword appears on a page, usually expressed as a percentage of total word count. There isn’t an ideal or magical keyword density. However, anything over 3% is considered keyword stuffing.
For example, if you have 1,000 words. If you used the keyword 30 times, your keyword density would be way too high. The opposite is true, if you only used it 2 times, your keyword density would be too low for the search engines to rank your page.
Use similar phrases
If you’re trying to target Yamaha baby grand pianos you might also want to talk about the best Yamaha pianos or baby vs full-size Yamaha grand piano. Both are part of the overarching topic and add further context to the page.
tl;dr: Ensure you use your keyword in key places (such as the title and on the page) but don’t overuse it.
Should I use an SEO plug-in to check my page?
Yes. I like to think of Yoast and Rank Math; both are free and popular WordPress SEO plug-ins as a fail-safe. They both use checklists that ensure you have used your keyword in the essential positions.
If you’ve forgotten to add your keyword to the title or meta description, the tool will remind you as you’ll see a red icon.
You can’t use these tools to validate keywords or help you build backlinks, which are the other essential piece of the puzzle. They won’t tell you if you’re using the keyword too much in comparison to other pages that are currently ranking.
However, they provide a checklist to ensure you’re doing your best when it comes to on-page SEO. And every little helps!
tl;dr: Using a WordPress SEO plug-in will ensure your on-page SEO is as good as possible
Can I learn to become a keyword ninja?
Nothing is stopping you from becoming a keyword wizard. However, as a small business owner, your time is better spent building your business. At a certain point, you’ll want to hire an agency to work on your keyword strategy.
At this stage, focus on understanding what is a keyword and how they impact your website. Being able to answer these questions will ensure you’re doing better than most of your competition who merely publish any old blog post.
tl;dr: Learning the basics of SEO will help you get to the next step
Start your keyword plan with one simple tip!
As you now have a better idea of what is a keyword, you should start to compile a list of potential keywords. Begin by writing down the questions your customers ask every week. These questions are a fantastic starting point for website content.
Last month Izabela saw her search traffic from Google increase by 400% using 3 SEO tips we taught her.
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