Are “Keywords” Really the Key?
First, let’s start with the most obvious question: What are “keywords”? By definition, “keywords” are the words that one would use in search boxes, such as Google, when looking for information pertaining to that search. Traditional (or short tail) keywords are one or two word searches, like “photography” or “photography tips”, and tend to encompass more general information. Long tail keywords are phrases of multiple words strung together for search, such as “family photographer San Diego”. These are usually specific searches and often times look for information incorporating the W’s (who, what, where, when, why) and H (how).
The next logical questions is: Why are keywords important? When someone searches in Google, they are looking for information. If that desired information is related to a product or service you provide- and every business has “information” to provide- then you absolutely want to be listed as close to the top of the first page of search results as possible, to be found first by the searcher.
So, how do you get on the first page of Google? It’s a simple question with a very complicated (and secret) algorithm answer. What we do know is that Google’s intent is bring the most relevant and current information in its search results. This tells you two very important things: be relevant and be publishing information often to be considered current (most experts recommend at least one new blog post a week). And how do you make yourself relevant? By using the keywords and keyword phrases often in the content you create and publish. This premise is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO can be much more involved, but for purposes of simple yet effective marketing for small businesses, this is an easy and necessary tactic.
How do you find keywords? There are many ways, but here are three of the easiest to get your started. First, go with what you think your ideal customer would search (it is usually wise to avoid industry specific “insider” jargon). Second, start typing just the first word into the search box and make note of Google’s suggested search terms. Third, spend a little time getting to know Google’s Keyword Tool (it’s free). The object here is to find relevant and similar terms that are commonly being searched but have medium to low competition to increase your chances of being found with those keywords. There are many short but helpful keyword tutorials out there on YouTube as well, if you need to see it in action to understand how it works.
What do you do with keywords? Incorporate them into titles, content, links, images, tags and anything else you can. Do note, however, that Google will penalize sites for gross overuse of keywords, so make sure they occur naturally in the conversation. Also, keep in mind that it can (and probably will) take months of consistently publishing good, relevant content to see your site increase in the rankings for those key words.
And, back to my original question: Are keywords really the key? Theoretically speaking, if the search engine is the lock which houses the information the searcher (your potential customer) is looking for, and has the power to display your site as an answer to the search, then in many ways, yes- keywords are the key. But they aren’t the only key on the proverbial marketing keychain. They are, however, arguably one of the most important keys for your marketing strategy.
One final thought: finding you does not guarantee that the searcher will take the time to click on your website or interact, let alone become a customer. That is up to you. What are you offering that is valuable, different, unique, interesting, or entertaining? In other words, why would someone want to give you their business, and not your competitor?
Of course, if your competitor is optimized for keywords and you aren’t, then there is a good chance it will be because the searcher found your competitor first. So, remember, be relevant and publish often with keywords.
What success stories do you have to share about keywords?