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What Are Keywords & Why Are They Important?

· SEO

If you've had ANY exposure to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or digital marketing in general, then you will have probably come across the concept of "keywords".

Many business owners' first exposure to keywords is when getting a site built. The developer/agency might ask you what sorts of keywords you want to target (and then they will probably sell you an SEO/keyword package to find out on your behalf ... not that this approach is necessarily a bad thing).

So what are keywords, and why are they so important? This is a "101 Guide" but might be useful for some in here.

A keyword is a word or a phrase that someone puts into a search engine like Google, in order to find what they are looking for.

An example of a keyword might be "car insurance", or "cafes near me".

You use a keyword to find an answer, basically.

From an SEO perspective, you want two things to happen with keywords:

1) You want to target the right keywords (i.e. get in front of people who are searching for your product/service or a solution you provide)

2) You want to rank high in Google for those keywords, so people are more likely to click through to your website and buy from you.

Fundamentally, the same rule applies for paid advertising on Google Adwords as well! You want the right keywords + right position.

There are two main types of keywords: Short tail, and long tail. It's long tail that is far more important.

A short tail keyword is made up of 1-2 individual words. "Builder", "plumber", "cafe" - these are short tail keywords.

A long tail keyword is a phrase with 3+ words that is used by a searcher to find information or a product or service.

With a long tail keyword it’s usually very easy to work out the searcher’s intent.

Broad/short tail keywords are the opposite - there’s not as much context to them.

Let's look at the example "builder". If someone searches that in Google it's hard to work out exactly what they are looking for. Are they looking to hire a builder? Maybe they want to get work as a builder? Maybe they want to look up reviews of a specific builder ... who really knows beyond that high-level topic.

On the other hand, if someone searches "new home builder Auckland" (a long tail keyword) then it's immediately apparent what that person is looking for.

They are looking for a builder of new homes in Auckland.

So if that matches your business, wouldn't you want to show up for that keyword?

Long tail keywords are more specific with higher intent, and they also tend to be easier to rank for as well (which is a big bonus).

Basically, you should focus on long tail keywords. This applies for both SEO and PPC marketing (Adwords/Bing Ads).

If you wind up showing up for short tail keywords that's great, but the focus should be on finding and then ranking (through SEO and PPC) for relevant long tail keywords.

Take a look at the image I've posted - that neatly shows the "long tail curve". As you get more specific (longer tail) the number of searches drops off ... but the relevancy increases.

What sorts of keywords are you targeting for your business? Do you know how to research what keywords people are searching?

As always, leave a comment below and I'll do my best to help you out.

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