We wrote at the top that it all begins when a person types their search into a search engine. And it's true. There would be no SEO without those keywords and phrases.
The process of discovering what keywords and phrases your target audience is looking for may seem challenging, but hopefully it will become more clear as you read this guide.
In short, the best way we know of to get started with keyword and phrase research is to start thinking like your customer or target audience.
Remember, it is not about what you want to sell them or the topic you want to draw their attention to. The questions you need to ask are:
- What are they looking for?
- What do they want?
- What are all the ways they might ask for information?
- What words are they are going to use to find what they are looking for?
If you start by answering those questions, you will not only draw people to your website, but the better you can answer those questions (and the more specific you can be) will help you draw a more qualified visitor to your website.
When you think about keywords for search engine optimization, it's important to know that there are two types: short tail and long tail.
What is a short tail keyword?
Short tail keywords live up to their name - they are short. They are 3 words or less.
Some examples of a short tail keyword are: "high school curriculum," "defense contractor," "Indian restaurant," "shoe store," and "law firm," and "dentist."
These words also are known in SEO circles as "head" terms. They are consider the first thing you often think about for a specific category. You decide to do something fun one weekend, you look for "train museum" or "amusement park." You're driving and notice that your gas is low, so you ask someone to look up "gas stations."
This brings us to "long tail keywords," which are more than 3 words, and add a level of specificity to your search that will help to narrow the results.
For example: "high school math curriculum," "top 10 defense contractor," or "Indian restaurant near me."
You also can think of long tail keywords as part of your customer's journey that has gotten more specific. And as a result, they are farther along in the buying process.
For example, a person looking for "mountain climbing" advances their interest and then searches for "mountain climbing tours." After some thought, they get closer to buying by searching for "mountain climbing tours in California." Lastly, they finalize their search by typing "beginner mountain climber tours in california." Now - they are ready to buy.
The other thing to remember about long tail keywords is that they are - generally speaking - much easier to rank for.
Granted, the audience may be smaller in total number, but because the search phrase is now so specific, the higher the likelihood that few people / businesses are optimized around that keyword or phrase. In fact, long tail search traffic is the larger percentage of total search traffic by people on the Internet.
Another benefit is that with long tail keywords, your audience from search is going to be even more qualified. In other words, the person searching for "beginner mountain climber tours in california" is going to be a more qualified buyer than someone who searched for "mountain climbing."
Well, the honest answer is that it will depend on your business and your goals. There is value for many business to try and rank well for both. An education provider or school that sells curriculum or classes may want to rank well for "high school curriculum" and "high school math curriculum," as well as "high school algebra 1 practice test."
The value you assign to a keyword will be based on your business goals, the amount of traffic each keyword or phrase can generate, and how competitive of a word it is. For example, you may open the only "train store" or "hobby shop" within a 100 mile radius.
Hence, you will probably not need to focus on a lot of long tail keywords, unless it could benefit your online business. However, your pizza restaurant is going to face more local competition for keywords. You may want to focus on the fact that you are a "fire brick oven" pizzeria or "deep dish" pizzeria.
At the end of the day, this is where other aspects of SEO program management and marketing come into play.
From our end - this is why we focus on business goals first, and then gather customer and competitor data. These steps help us to identify the right keywords. And they can do the same for you.
Once the list of short tail and long tail keywords has been developed, the process of mapping those back to your business goals, content marketing strategy, and advertising can begin.