What is a keyword?

It all begins with typing words or strings of words in the search box of a search engine. These words or strings of word which users enter in search boxes to find information on search engines are called keyword.

Why is keyword important?

Let us take an example, suppose if we want to book a flight for New York how would a search start for it. Some may start with words like flight ticket, book flight, flight booking, air ticket, etc. Some will be specific while performing searches like flight ticket in New York, book flight ticket for New York, air ticket to New York and son on. Some may be even more specific like flight ticket from London to New York, flight booking from London to New York, air ticket to New York, Cheap air ticket to New York, Cheap economy class air ticket from London to New York and so on.

So you see there could be various combinations of keyword used to find the same information. Some key words may be used by log of people, resulting in high volume of searcher preformed using those key words and some keywords may have less volume of searches. If we get this data that what keyword are being used to preform a specific search and what is the volume of search preformed using that keyword, it will help us to develop a content using that content or content around that keyword so that we can rank higher in the search result for that keyword.

After all, this is what is the ultimate goal of an SEO professional or a Webmaster to rank higher in search engine for a keyword.

Now how do we find what is the relevant keyword for us and what is the volume of search for that keyword. If this is your question then let me welcome you to the world of keyword research.

What is keyword research?

It is a practice to find and research about a keyword on various parameters to optimize your website for a given keyword or sets of keyword.

To me it is science and art both. Science because it involves research using data and statistics and art because it involves you skill and practice to get better result and how to use them effectively in your content.

If you have read an old SEO book or if you have been in this field for quite some time you would know that earlier keyword research and implementation was a simple task. It was like finding a keyword with high search volume and create content with lots of this keyword and watch your website climbing the search result.

All this has changed now with recent updates in google algorithm. The reason Google was forced to bring this change was the abuse of keyword. To rank higher in google search result, people used to stuff their content with a keyword which were irrelevant to their content and website. This later came to be known as keyword stuffing. These content was mostly for search engine high ranking and where most of the time irrelevant to the information which users were searching for. Some even came up with a more intelligent idea. They would create a page for search engines which would be filled with keywords only and there would be a different page for users.  This was known as Cloaking. This page which was meant for users may or may not contain relevant information which users were looking for.

This resulted in high user dissatisfaction and Google noticed it. In its wisdom it decided to fight it. Soon it came up with new algorithm which band  these low quality websites and they were removed from google searches.

These techniques are now called black hat SEO. By the way, just to explain here. There are three SEO techniques for SEO, white hat SEO, black hat SEO and gray hat SEO.

White hat SEO – These are techniques which are best practices followed to optimize your site and are approved and encouraged by Search engines.

Black hat SEO – These are techniques which use the tricks and trade of exploiting the loopholes of search engine to rank better in search results. I would highly recommend that if you know or happen to know any such techniques I would recommend to avoid using it as Google and other search engines are catching up with black hat SEO and there have been frequent updates to algorithms which has put penalties on several websites.

Gray hat SEO – It uses a mix and match of white hat an black hat SEO technique again, I would again avoid using it as you would still be putting effort  to bring your website up in ranking. If you use any black hat SEO technique you may someday get penalized wasting all your effort.

Coming back to keyword research. It is done to select right keyword or keywords which will be used in your content or around which your content will be based.  Now where do we start. We have various tools available which helps us to find the keyword demand and referral.  Some are free and some are paid. Below are some common keyword research tools.

Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool

Google Trends

Microsoft Advertising Intelligence

Wordtracker’s Free Basic Keyword Deman

Above tools will give you the required data about search volume and competitiveness or difficulty of a keyword. The Next step will be how you analyze and use the data.( I am putting up this chapter an an introductory chapter to the keyword and keyword research where I am introducing you to these terms and giving a basic overview of it. There will be a series of blog with more detail information on how to do keyword research and how to use it.)

When we analyze these data we need to keep our goal clear. We need to ask a few questions to determine while picking up keywords.

Are these keyword relevant to my niche or subject?

Does these keyword reflect my audience or customer of my website or will they be using it?

What keyword are my competitors using to rank?

Do I optimize for traffic or conversion?

The first two questions are very situation specific which you need to answer yourself according to your need and requirements. To answer Second last question I have new chapter will be for competition analysis. I will answer the last question here. To answer the question, let us discuss about the types of keyword.

Keywords can broadly be divided in three categories.

  1. Head or short keywords – e.g. Shirt
  2. Body or medium keyword – e.g. black shirt
  3. Long tail keyword – e.g. XL size black shirt

The difference in these categories is not only its length, but also on how much search volume they have and how much chance do they have for conversion.

Usually if you use the keyword tool to find the search volume for head an body keyword you will usually find a high search volume for it as compared to long tail keyword. These numbers would be something around 3000 or 300 a day for head and body keyword as compared to 100 to 30 searches for long tail keyword.

The huge number of searchers for the head and body are compelling to choose them. So if you are only looking for traffic you may use them however they are very competitive as well. It may not be easy to rank for as many people would like to get traffic for it. So if your site is new it would be a difficult task to get to a top rank. In technical terms these keyword are difficult and some keyword tool also uses difficulty matrix to tell how difficult it is to rank for the given keyword.

While it is tempting to rank for head and body keyword, but the reality is that in spite of high search volume they amount to 30% of total searches preformed as compared to 70% of searches performed for different long tail keyword.

Moreover person who is searching for the head and body keyword like ‘shirt’ is may be surfing the net to see shirts with no intent for buying it, however the person who is more specific about search with the log tail keywords in this case XL size black shirt may have his money on the table to buy it. Thus the long tail keyword has usually high conversion rate. Also, it is easy to rank for long tail keyword than it is for head or body keyword.

I have given you an idea about what could suit you best in a given situation. It is now up to you to find what situation you are in.

Now let us talk about what are the best the place to put keyword in your website. Although it is no more relevant for ranking, but these are some best practices to follow.

Keywords in the <title> tag(s).

Keywords in the <meta name=”description”>

Keywords in <h1> or other headline tags.

Keywords in the body. (Avoid over use or you may get penalized)

Keywords in ALT tags.

Keywords contained in the URL or site address, e.g., http://www.keyword.com/keywordkeyword.html.

Keywords in the <a href=”http://yourwebsite.com”>keywords</a> link tags. (Avoid over use or you may get penalized)

Most of you would think that if I am saying to avoid overuse of keyword in the body then what is the safe limit. There is no particular limit, but it should be used in a way that your content should sound natural, not like someone has written content for search engine and has only keywords with no meaning.

There used to be a concept of keyword density, but that is irrelevant nows. I would suggest reading your content and see if it sounds ok to you. If you are an expert of your niche or have good knowledge your content would automatically be free from keyword abuse.