Keyword research is a valuable tool for digital marketers and an area of SEO that is core to digital marketing strategies. Predominantly for website content and blogs, keyword research gives quantitative information on certain keywords that users are searching for. It provides the number of results, volume of searches, competitiveness, cost per click and so on.
A keyword doesn’t necessarily have to be a single word either. Keyphrases, an alternative name for keywords, may be of better description. There are short tail, middle tail and long tail keyphrases; short to long is indicative of the keyphrase length, as in how many words. As well as this, the specificity of the keyphrase increases from short to long tail.
For example, a short tail keyphrase could be ‘current trends’, which is not specific at all and only 2 words. The middle tail version could become ‘current trends in consumer behaviour’, with the long tail version being ‘current trends in consumer behaviour for electric vehicle manufacturers’, which is much longer and more specific.
Once a keyword is selected, the content can be written based around that topic. The idea is to use the keyword within the text naturally and without compromising on the readability or quality of the text. The length of the text will determine how many times the keyword should be used. Most SEO checkers will identify whether the keyword density is suitable for the text. There are no exact rules for many keywords per length of text, however a general rule of thumb is to aim for no more than one keyword per 200-300 words.
SEO checkers may calculate the TF-IDF (term frequency and inverse document frequency) for you, which is used to gauge how important a given term or keyword is to the rest of the content. This is particularly useful as Google crawls pages and analyses them using this technique, to determine how relevant the content is and in turns affects rankings for the page.
How keyword research evolved
SEO has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. In the late 90s and early 2000s, keywords could be used repeatedly in texts to trick search engines into ranking their content (known as keyword stuffing). Essentially, the target keyword could be overused and densely packed into paragraphs, even making no sense to read, and Google would still rank the page highly as it only considered the quantity.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, Google released numerous algorithm updates, including FLORIDA, Jagger and Big Daddy. These significantly changed the ability of Google to crawl pages and determine its relevance. It was no longer possible to fill text to the brim with keywords, as the search engine could now identify suspicious and manipulative SEO. These days, Google can fully recognise context, readability and relevance, meaning SEO tactics are entirely different.
For digital marketers, it’s now all about creating high quality content for users to read. No matter the search term, Google will always aim to provide the best results; any content that genuinely answers or provides useful information from the search term. Therefore the keywords used need to be implemented within strong content.
Choosing a keyword
When deciding on which keyword to target there are numerous factors to consider, however firstly it’s important to draft a list of seed keywords. These are keywords relevant to the topic of the content, which can be inputted into a keyword research tool, where it uses the inputted keyword and provides broad matches that are relevant to the seed.
Keyword research tools give certain metrics that can be used in order to choose which keywords are most suitable for use. The first of these metrics is search volume; not to be confused with search results, search volume is the amount of times that keyword has been searched in Google over a specific period (commonly per month). Search volume is one of the most important metrics, as there isn’t any point in choosing a keyword that nobody is searching for.
Competition, keyword difficulty and click potential are all metrics that are used with search volume. They essentially tell you how difficult it would be to rank for using that keyword; if competition and keyword difficulty is high and click potential is low, the keyword may not be a good choice due to the number of other pieces of content and websites already competing for it.
Ideally, the keyword chosen would have a respectable search volume each month, with lower competition and a higher click potential. At Inflowing, we carry out keyword research often and find it easiest to visualise the most suitable keywords. Exporting the saved keywords to a spreadsheet, and using conditional formatting to set up a colour scale for each of the metrics allows us to clearly see which keywords are better choices than others. For example cells can be shaded green for low competition, and red for high with yellow as a middle-ground.
Why are they so important in digital marketing?
Digital marketing is so competitive, as there are billions of web pages and every business is posting some form of digital content online. A very high percentage of users won’t move past the initial page result page in Google. Each page will have 10 organic results by default, so in order for the content to be seen, it would ideally be ranking in the top 10 organic search results out of potentially millions. Of course, the majority of the millions being shown won’t be of value and loosely related to the original search term, however it still highlights just how competitive rankings are in Google.
Even ranking on the first page might not be enough sometimes, with people often wanting to be provided the solution to their search instantly, perhaps not even looking past the first couple of results. This competition means the content being produced has to be of excellent quality and relevant to the keyword being searched. Therefore keyword research is such a powerful tool for determining a successful ranking. It is easy to be outranked, so the keyword chosen needs to be researched properly to have a chance. Without keyword research, content would be produced and often never clicked, leading to less traffic, less engagement and less conversions.
Keyword research is core to any digital marketing strategy. It is the first step to producing content online and requires careful attention. The competition for ranking in search engines is incredibly high, so content needs to be of the highest standard, focusing on relevant and suitable keywords. In digital marketing, relevant traffic to websites is key and without keyword research, content wouldn’t be found effectively.
It has changed drastically over the years, from overstuffing keywords into content with poor readability and making little sense, to now using keywords wisely and sensibly. Search engine algorithms will continue to update and improve, becoming smarter and more efficient. Only the most relevant and well-written content will be ranking on the first page in Google, and the trend of continuously improving page crawling will continue into the future.
Inflowing is a B2B marketing agency. We help B2B organisations do meaningful things with marketing. Whether that’s getting more leads, more visibility, or supporting their sales teams.
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