Keyword spelled out in blocks. Keywords are the main building block for your SEO.

​If you are just getting started learning about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you have probably seen "keywords" referred to frequently. Learning to effectively use keywords may seem challenging at first, but it is an ongoing process. Over time, you will understand how your customers use keywords, and be able to adjust the keywords for your business or organization to get more people to your website. 

Today we are only concerned with the basics. 

What is a keyword?

Getting your webpage found through a search can be as simple as using the right word or phrase. A keyword is a word or phrase people use while searching the internet using their favorite search engine. Keywords signal both the search engine and the reader that the desired information is on this page. Keywords used in your SEO titles and meta descriptions are most effective, but you should use keywords in your page headings, copy, and image descriptions as well. 

"Long-tail keywords" are phrases — specific combinations of words — that have been used in searches. A bakery, for example, might find that "Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes" is a popular search phrase. "Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes" would be a long-tail keyword in SEO.

Start your list of keywords

Start with what you know. You know your customers and your business. Begin your keyword list with words and phrases that you know will attract your potential customers. Do research to see which keywords your competitors are using and add to your list of keywords. 

  1. Your keywords need to appeal to your potential customers, and be effective for search engines: Use analytics and talk with an SEO strategist to determined which keywords show the best results. 
  2. Take advantage of knowing which keywords are most effective by adding new content utilizing these words and phrases.
  3. Over time, it is best to get statistics and evaluate how people are responding to your keywords. This process can be invaluable for your ongoing success online.

"Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes" might be a popular search, but does it give you the desired results?

The key to identifying your best keywords

​Finding your best keywords requires understanding that people and machines are involved in this process. 

  1. People search
  2. The machine analyzes the search and potential results, determines the "best" results and displays them on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
  3. People select from the results offered by the machine

Search engines are complicated algorithms — a deep learning artificial intelligence — that analyze huge amounts of data, and display best guess results for the search based on criteria. The process is complicated, but the goal is to present a list of webpages with information that will best answer the question of the person searching. It is less important now that keywords are exact matches to what is typed in the search bar, and more important that the keywords used are indicating what information can be found in the content on the page.

Effective keywords signal the search engine that this page is a good fit for the search, and communicate with the people looking at a list of search results that your page holds the desired information. When you choose a keyword for your webpage, it needs to be an honest representation of the information found on the page. Do not use "Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes" for a blog post that has nothing to do with Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes. You will lose the trust of your website visitors and they will leave your website.

By researching your market's keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.

It's not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind of visitors.

Rand Fishkin and Moz staff, Beginners Guide to SEO Chapter 5

Keyword research needs to be an ongoing piece of your online marketing strategy

People use searches in unexpected ways, and results shift over time.​ It is important to continually monitor your keywords and be open to updating which keywords you are using. Are your keywords helping people to find your webpage​, and are there verifiable results? Analytics provide statistics for how many people find your webpage through a search, but that is only half of the story. If they are the right people, they will stay and respond by contacting you, purchasing a product, reading and sharing your blog posts on Facebook, or some other verifiable action you want them to take while on your website. 

How to use SEO titles effectively to improve traffic to your website.

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