So what are keywords in SEO? They’re simply just words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for.
For example, if you were shopping for slippers, you might search for ‘keywords’ like “men’s slippers 10” or “leather slippers”.
In this free SEO tutorial, we’re going to talk about what keywords are and how to choose them using a simple 4-point checklist.
Keywords are super-important in SEO because it sets the entire foundation for search engine optimisation. The basic goal of SEO is to rank your pages for keywords that your target audience or customers are searching for.
And if you’re not ranking for keywords that actually get searched, then your SEO efforts are kind of pointless.
For example, we rank #1 for the query “plymouth seo” and this keyword is responsible for driving visitors from Google to our site.
So keyword research is the process of finding keywords that people are inputting into search engines (we’ll get into this process later on in the SEO Basics series).
How do you actually choose keywords that are worth targeting? Let’s run through a checklist that should help you choose keywords effectively.
The first thing to check is if your keyword has search demand. Search demand represents the volume of monthly searches made for a keyword, and this is measurable with a keyword metric that we call “search volume.”
You can find the search volume for a keyword by using a keyword research tool. For example, the query “km to miles” gets searched around 500,000 times per month, but 79% of searches go without a click to a page.
And that’s because Google has a handy calculator right on the search results that’ll solve the searcher’s problem for them.
So search volume alone can be a bit misleading, which is why it’s worth looking at the second checkpoint: which is to check the traffic potential of the topic.
Traffic potential represents the total search traffic you could get if you were to rank at the top of Google for your keyword.
Let’s look at the stats for “plymouth seo” (which we’re #1 for). Our keyword tool says we get 220 searches every month, but if we look at the total organic traffic to our home page, we get much more monthly visits from Google every single month because our home page ranks for over 50 keywords.
In our study of 2 million keywords, we found that on average, the top ranking page ranks for nearly a thousand other keywords, so while you may be optimising your pages for a main keyword, your page will likely rank for dozens or even hundreds of other related keywords.
And because of that, the monthly search traffic potential of the topic “plymouth seo” is actually higher than its monthly search volume.
This is what makes traffic potential a much more reliable metric than search volume, and the way you determine traffic potential is by looking at how much traffic the top-ranking pages are getting.
For example, if we go to our keyword tool and search for “submit website to search engines,” it has a search volume of 1,100 monthly searches.
But in the real world the #1 ranked site in SERP (Search Engine Results Page) actually gets about 5000 monthly search visits, as it ranks for over 1,300 keywords making traffic potential of this keyword higher than its search volume.
It doesn’t always work out this way. The search phrase “keyword cannibalisation” has a search volume of 150 monthly searches, but the traffic potential is well under 100.
So it becomes more of a business decision as to whether you want to tackle the topic or not.
But choosing keywords based on metrics alone is not a good idea, which is why the rest of the checkpoints are there to ground you.
The next point on our checklist is to assess the business potential of the keyword or topic. Business potential simply represents the value a keyword has to your business.
And “value” really comes down to your niche, as well as your business model. An easy way to do this is by assigning scores between 1-3 to keywords you’re researching. The higher the number, the more important the topic is to your business.
Let’s say you have a site about tennis, and the way you make money is by selling used tennis racquets. Bringing this back to business potential, that means topics where you can organically recommend products to visitors would hold the highest business value.
For example, people searching for something like “buy used tennis racquets” are likely ready to make a purchase now, so this would have a business value of 3.
A keyword like “best tennis racquets” would also be relevant to your site. These are people likely ready to make a purchase soon but just don’t know which racquet to buy.
But it’s easy to promote your products, as you just link back to your product pages funneling visitors closer to making a purchase.
So I’d give this a business value of 2.
Now, a keyword like “what is the best tennis racquet size” would be tougher to organically recommend your products, but it’s still a way to attract relevant traffic to your site.
So I’d give this a business value of 1.
These would hold the lowest priority, and anything that has a score of 0 is probably worth ignoring because it’s not going to impact your bottom line.
So something like “Borg vs McEnroe review” would have a business value of 0 because it has nothing much to do with your business other than it’s movie about tennis.
So the next point on this checklist is to see if you can match searcher intent. This is a concept that we covered in the Part 1 of this SEO Basics course, but it’s something that I’m going to keep talking about because it’s so important.
Search intent represents the reason behind a searcher’s query, and the way we determine that is by looking at the top-ranking pages for the keyword we want to rank for.
For example, let’s say you have a recipes blog and you wanted to rank for “panini press”. Looking at the top-ranking pages, you’ll see that almost all of the pages are eCommerce type pages.
This tells us that the intent of the searcher is likely to buy or at least to shop around for different panini presses, so unless you can actually satisfy the intent of the searcher, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to rank high for this query.
And we’ll dig even deeper into search intent in Part 3 of this SEO Basics course.
The last point on this checklist is to determine whether you can actually rank for your keyword. Search volume, traffic potential, and business potential mean absolutely nothing if you can’t rank for your keyword.
Understanding the level of difficulty to rank for a given keyword takes a bit of analysis and practice, so we’ll look at that in details in a later lesson.
Assessing ranking difficulty will help you get much more predictable results in SEO.
Actually choosing keywords for your website comes down to finding a balance in this checklist. You have to ask yourself does the topic drive enough traffic and have business value to make it worth the effort?
This is the question you should ask yourself before you create every page on your website if you want it to rank in SERP.
We’ll look at searcher intent in more detail in Part 3 of this free SEO course: SEO Keyword Research.
See you in the next post 🙂
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Pete Skuse (The SEO Guy)
Plymouth SEO Services – Let’s put your website to work for your business