In the SEO community, we have a tendency to utter the—sometimes dreaded yet often repeated—phrase, “It depends.”
With the temperamental nature of organic search (thank you, Google), those two words are frequently the answer to questions like, “When will I start ranking on the first page for this keyword?” or “When will I start seeing results from the changes you made to the third paragraph of my home page yesterday?” In fact, the main thrust of this article—choosing meaningful keywords—also depends on several variables, including:
- Your website visitor’s search intent
- Their location
- Your industry
- The competitive landscape in your area
- And even how well your chosen keywords are organically worked into your web content or metadata
When optimizing your website for maximum success on search engine results pages (SERPs), you must take all of these “it depends” factors into account.
Now let’s look at some actionable steps to help you identify meaningful keywords for your business, how you can implement those keywords on your website (and elsewhere) and other tips and tricks we’ve gathered by weathering the Google ranking storms.
What’s in a Keyword?
Before choosing meaningful keywords for your website, it’s important to lay out the major types of keyword options in your toolbox. When used correctly, each of these keyword types can make your content more valuable. In many cases, most of these keyword groups can be combined to form meaningful keywords and phrases that can help propel your business past your competition.
Branded keywords are the words and phrases that incorporate your company’s name. For example, Campaignium’s branded keywords could include:
- “Campaignium digital marketing agency”
- “Campaignium agency”
- “Campaignium Springfield”
Commerce & Product-Focused Keywords
If your business sells or promotes the sale of products online, commerce-minded keywords could encompass:
- General products and their respective qualifiers (“red sneakers,” “fitness equipment,” “Halloween costumes for dogs,” etc.)
- Specific product names (for example, “Guy Fieri’s Old Skool Original Salsa”)
- The brand-name products your business sells (if you supply multiple brands)
Like our product-focused keywords, service-based keywords apply directly to the services your business offers. These are often the most competitive keywords small or local businesses should try to rank for, depending on the industry saturation in your service area.
- For lawyers, you might want to target keywords such as, “personal injury attorney,” “bankruptcy lawyer” or “product liability law,” depending on your specific practice areas.
- For home remodeling contractors, consider highlighting your most popular services (and expanding as necessary). If your clients typically ask for “basement remodeling,” “bathroom renovations” or “room expansions,” those keywords should be somewhere on your website where they aren’t competing with each other for rankings (i.e., on separate service pages, if possible).
Localized or Locational Keywords
Locational keywords are often used in conjunction with the keyword groups above. These types of keywords further qualify your brand, product or service in your local business or service area.
- If your business is trying to break into a specific geographic market, these locational keywords should occur naturally throughout your website.
- For example, if you’re an insurance broker, you might consider implementing localized keyword phrases such as, “home insurance agents in Springfield, MO” or “renters insurance options in Springfield, MO” on applicable service pages.
Secondary & Semantically Related Keywords
Secondary keywords are additional signals that help search understand how relevant your content, service, product or overall business is to the phrases being typed in search bars. Secondary keywords often comprise the search terms you’re not necessarily trying to rank high for on Google SERPs.
- For example, if you’re a plumber, your local business might not rank on the first page for the super basic search term “toilet” or “garbage disposal,” but if you do perform related services or repairs, these words should still be included as naturally as possible within your content (and potentially used as topics for blog posts). By including semantically related keywords like “toilet” and “garbage disposal” throughout your plumbing-focused site, Google and other search engines will discern that your business category is—more likely than not—a genuine plumbing service. Since keywords on your website correspond with similar terms on other established plumbing websites, your business will likely be presented to searchers in your area looking for plumbing services.
Additional Keyword Groups
- Competitor Keywords – Being more competitive in the digital age means even more competitive research. If competitors are ranking higher for searches than you are, look at the keywords on your website. Are they truly relevant to your business, products or services? Moreover, are your competitors targeting any keywords that you should be, too?
- Long-Tailed Keywords – As search engines and voice assistants improve in their natural language processing capabilities, the use of long-tailed keywords has become more valuable in optimization efforts. Long-tailed keywords often include more complex questions or commands such as, “What is the best ice cream shop in town?” or “Find late-night restaurants open near me.” Conversely, short-tailed keywords can be more vague like “ice cream shop” or “open restaurants.”
‘Less Is More’ & Other Considerations for Getting Started
Now that you’ve been introduced to a few of the keyword tools at your disposal, it’s time to start implementing those meaningful keywords throughout your website.
Before overhauling the content across your entire site with keywords galore, there are a few ground rules to follow. These rules ensure that your website will have the best chance at ranking favorably on Google without being labeled “shady” or “spammy.”
- No keyword stuffing – If a sentence is strung together with six high-value keywords one right after another, it most likely doesn’t sound natural. And if it doesn’t sound natural, it probably won’t sound natural to Google either. That alone could affect your chances of ranking well on competitive SERPs.
- Write for people, not for search engines – Google and many other search engines reward websites that provide relevant information that makes sense and is natural for the average person—not for machines and algorithms. Search engines try their hardest to penalize sites that are obviously trying to cheat the system or keyword stuff their way to victory.
- Do your research (thoroughly) – Once you’ve found a good list of keywords, you might be faced with hundreds of possibilities for implementation. Start narrowing this list down by doing your research with tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz, SEMrush or even a manual Google search. Note which keywords have the highest number of average monthly searches (in your area), take advantage of Moz’s difficulty score and average click-through-rate percentages and see for yourself what the first-page results look like for your business type in your area.
- Less is more – It’s not possible (or advised) to try and account for every single variation of keyword or keyword phrase related to your business in your website content. Choose the most relevant main keywords and secondary keywords to highlight on your forward-facing service and product pages. You can use other valuable and related keywords as topics for blog posts or even as ideas for new webpages.
- Don’t be afraid to take one giant leap for keyword-kind – As the internet becomes saturated with more of the world’s information, don’t be afraid to step out of the shuttle and onto the moon. Here are a few suggestions for mixing it up:
- Try implementing keywords with smaller average monthly search volumes (these could add up over time).
- Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what keywords end up being most effective in your content or metadata.
- Look to query results outside of the hallowed “first page” on Google to find popular ideas and phrases trending in your industry; think Reddit, Quora and other industry-specific websites or forums.
So What Makes a Keyword Meaningful?
In short, it depends. 🙂
A sometimes-frustrating but wholly truthful answer, we know.
It depends on your industry, local search area, competitiveness of the products you sell or services you provide and relevancy of your site to what searchers are looking for. It depends on Google algorithm changes and the state of the world and your brand’s reputation and presence online. Meaningful keywords for your business are a product of all of these things—and all the insights above.
Keep in mind that keyword optimization is only one facet of the SEO process. Your site speed, quality of external links pointing to your site, your site’s overall structure and user experience, and whether or not your site is truly accessible are all important factors that search engines like Google use to determine who ranks supreme.
Keyword optimization is far from an exact science, and choosing the most meaningful keywords is a fluid process. Doing it right demands time and a willingness to revisit and revise. So stay on it and use the practices and tools we’ve included in this article to help your website climb the ranks and connect with your audience.