Editor's note: this post is brought to you by Kristi Hines, a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. If you're interested in more content on doing keyword research the right way, check out SEO PowerSuite's manuals on 4 Steps to Efficient Keyword Research and Applying Keyword Difficulty Score.
Google has done several things in the last couple of years to make people wonder if keywords were still relevant when it comes to search optimization. They've removed keywords from organic search data in Google Analytics. They've punished websites that have overused keywords in anchor text when link building. They've even punished websites that used keywords in their domain.
But the fact remains that keywords are still relevant. The average person probably doesn't type, "I want to find books about gardening" into a search engine. They type gardening books or books about gardening. Google confirms this.
People seeking specific content on search are still using keyword phrases. Not paragraphs, not sentences, but keyword phrases. This is why keywords are still relevant when it comes to online marketing, and in particular, search and social media optimization.
We all know that you can verify the average usage of keywords and get ideas about related ones using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. We know that you can find search queries that people are using to get to your website using Google Webmaster Tools. We know that tools like Rank Tracker can guide you to the 10 suggested keywords that Google offers up in their search box when someone starts typing in a query.
But how do you choose the right keywords for your website? And how do you apply them to your homepage, your inner pages, your content, and your social media profiles? Let's find out.
First, you need to figure out the right keywords to choose. Aside from using one of the above-mentioned tools, here are some more ways to discover valuable keywords for your online marketing strategy.
There are lots of places on the web where you will run into related websites, businesses, profiles, and pages. For example, if you search for Redbox on Google…
If you like Toyota on Facebook…
If you look up Apple on LinkedIn…
Or if you follow Oracle on Twitter.
While not all "related" items are really related, some are. And they can be good keyword inspiration as they are likely your competitors. Look at the keywords they use in their website title, about descriptions, bios, and other detail areas. Chances are, you'll discover at least one or two good terms that you haven't thought about using for your business yet.
If you have a business, then the people you really want to discover your website are your potential customers. This is why you need to listen to the keywords that customers use when referring to your business, or your competitors. You might notice them in contact form submissions or hear them when people call you for the first time. The key is to pay attention to phrases like:
– We are looking for a _____.
– It didn't work out with the last _____ we chose.
– Can you help us with our _____ needs?
The words they fill in the blanks with are likely the ones they – and your other customers – use in search.
Keywords generally fall into two categories – commercial intent and non-commercial intent. Commercial intent keywords are the ones that people search for when they are ready to buy products or services. Non-commercial intent keywords are the ones people search for when they are just looking for information.
Does this mean you should only use commercial intent keywords? Not at all. Non-commercial keywords have the potential to lead to commercial intent, such as searching for logo design examples, finding those examples on a logo designer's website, and then contacting the designer for a quote.
The key is to use commercial intent keywords to optimize your main website's homepage, about page, products pages, services pages, and other main business pages. Then use non-commercial intent keywords to optimize your website's blog content, FAQ pages, gallery pages, showcase pages, and other informational pages.
The easiest way to match up your online marketing and the keywords you have discovered is to do a quick audit. This audit goes beyond your own website though. Here's what you should include.
– Key pages on your website (homepage, about page, products page, services page, contact page, case studies page, etc.).
– Top content on your website (use Google Analytics to find your most popular blog posts for the last year).
– Top content on other media sites (YouTube, SlideShare, etc.).
– Your main social profiles (Twitter, Facebook page, LinkedIn Company, Google+ page, Pinterest business account, Instagram, etc.).
– Your author bios on sites you frequently contribute to and regularly receive traffic from (use Google Analytics to determine the latter).
Take the URLs for these pages and put them in a spreadsheet or Word document. For each, document the following.
– For key pages and top content: the SEO title and meta description for each page.
– For content on other media sites: the title and description for top videos, presentations, etc.
– For social profiles and author bios: the text you use in your company pro personal description (Twitter bios, Facebook page short description, author bio text, etc.).
Next, you will do the following.
– Match key pages with the top commercial intent keywords.
– Match top content on your blog with the top non-commercial intent keywords.
– Match top media on other sites appropriately with the top commercial intent keywords for videos and presentations about products and services, and the top non-commercial intent keywords for videos and presentations with informational content.
– Match social profiles and author bios with the top commercial intent keywords.
And finally, you will implement. Your keywords should go in SEO titles, meta descriptions, social media bios, and author bios. Note that when it comes to author bios, you don't need to use the keyword as anchor text. But you do need to use the keyword close to the link to your website. For example, "John Smith is the lead developer of SEO PowerSuite Software…" This should keep you from getting dinged by Google for over-optimized anchor text while still telling people what your company is about.
Keywords are not only important for your website's search optimization, but also for your social profiles and off-site content as well. This way, people can discover your website in a variety of search engines beyond just Google. The more exposure you can get on various networks, the more customers you can drive to your business!