A keyword is one of the essential parts of modern search engine optimization.
While keywords are not quite as impactful as they used to be, search engines like Google still rely on them to help identify content and determine whether it matches a user’s query.
Keyword usage evolves every year, so here’s what you should know about keywords in 2022.
- An Overview of Keywords
- Different Types of Keywords
- Do Keywords Affect SEO?
- Process of Finding Keywords
- How To Find Keywords
- Keyword Best Practices
- Keyword Tools To Save Time and Money
- Other Related SEO Terms To Know
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
An Overview of Keywords
Using a keyword in your content is vital if you want to maximize your performance on search engines, but what is a keyword, and how does it work?
What Is a Keyword?
A keyword is a single word or short phrase that’s central to a webpage’s content.
Keywords typically appear several times throughout the text and help clarify the topic.
Many keywords appear in variations on pages, too.
For example, the word “keywords” is a variation on the word “keyword,” as it transforms the base term into its plural form.
The difference between keywords and other text is that keywords are usually nouns or verbs and are relevant to the page’s central topic or idea.
Difference Between a Keyword and Search Results
A keyword is a specific word or short phrase that appears in your content.
Search results are what appear when users make a query to a search engine.
Keywords are an essential part of the results, but they’re just one of many factors that search results consider.
How Does a Keyword Work?
Keywords work by appearing in the text to help search engines understand the content on a page.
Generally, search engines assume that any term repeated several times is relevant to the content.
What Is the Purpose of a Keyword?
The primary purpose of keywords is to help search engines determine if a specific page is likely to be relevant to a user’s query.
Search engines always want to give the best result to users, so the more they understand a page’s content, the easier it is to decide if it’s a match.
Learning how to use keywords correctly is an essential part of figuring out how to improve SEO results on your website.
Different Types of Keywords
There are three common types of keywords that most sites use these days.
You should familiarize yourself with them when launching your website.
Primary keywords are the main words and phrases people want to rank for on the internet.
These keywords are usually short and competitive, so it’s hard to rank them now, but they’re still central to helping search engines understand the page’s content.
Secondary keywords are additional terms related to the primary keyword that appear throughout the text.
These aren’t quite as popular as primary keywords, so it’s easier to rank well for them.
Long-tail keywords are much longer, specific phrases that people might search for.
Long-tail keywords have much lower traffic than primary or secondary keywords, but they’re also easier to rank well.
With enough success here, content can get boosted for primary and secondary keywords in search results.
Example of a Keyword
Keywords are on practically every website with text, even though they’re not obvious unless you know how to search for them.
For example, on this very page, the keyword is simply “keyword”.
If we wanted to do a long-tail keyword, we could add something like “keyword use for WordPress SEO in 2022”.
Now that we’ve written that, it has become a keyword.
Do Keywords Affect SEO?
Keywords affect SEO, as they have since almost the creation of search engines.
Without performing extensive keyword research, you will not be able to affect the SEO standing of your content.
Why Are Keywords Important for SEO?
Keywords are essential for SEO because search engines must understand the content on a page before they can rank it.
Pictures and videos have become more popular with the development of technology, but the text is still a significant part of the internet.
Without a way to understand that text, search engines couldn’t function.
Remember, performance can differ depending on the sort of site you have.
For example, WordPress SEO isn’t the same as Amazon SEO.
Is Keyword Research Necessary?
Yes, but keyword research is more complicated than you might think.
Google can detect when people are trying to use too many keywords in a single article, which comes across as spammy or low-quality.
The research can help you figure out what terms are worth including and which ones you can leave out.
How Long Does It Take for a Keyword To Work?
According to Ahrefs (more on them below), most sites start seeing a real performance in two to six months after using keywords.
This is because Google doesn’t just measure the use of keywords.
It also measures traffic to websites, and it can take a few months to get enough traffic to matter.
Process of Finding Keywords
Here are the things to consider when finding keyword categories.
We’ll get to the specifics in a moment.
Step 1: Find Terms Relevant To Your Site
Any term that’s relevant to your website is a potential keyword.
It can also serve as a point of inspiration for your other content.
Step 2: Consider Your Website Design
Websites can have widely different designs.
A business website with three pages has different objectives than a blog with hundreds or thousands of potential pages.
The right keywords to use for each site will vary.
Step 3: Consider Your Audience
Consider what anyone who visits your website is likely to do and which keywords they might realistically use to find you.
The less relevant a term is, the lower the priority it should be for your content.
Step 4: Check the Length of Your Content
Websites have different lengths for content.
This article is slightly over two thousand words (the ideal length for SEO performance), but some websites have much shorter content.
The longer your content is, the more secondary and long-tail keywords you can fit.
How To Find Keywords
If you did the four steps above, you should have a list of keywords, prioritized based on what’s most relevant to your site design, visitors, and overall content length.
However, that doesn’t mean you should use your keywords from top to bottom.
Step 1: Research Your List
Now that you have a starting list, it’s time to research the keywords and figure out which of them are worth trying to rank with.
We have some great tools below, so use those as a starting point.
Step 2: Pick Content For Each Keyword
Once you know which keywords to use, it’s time to pick a form of content to use them in.
Many companies use blog posts and informational articles, but you can also use them on About pages, in FAQs or customer guides, and with almost any other kind of content.
The thing to remember is that the content should always be relevant.
Step 3: Find Semantic Keywords
Finding semantic, or related, keywords and phrases can help you further focus your content ideas before you create them.
Having a clear idea of what content you’re making is essential to ensuring its overall quality.
Step 4: Find a Writer
Most website owners don’t have the time to write the content themselves.
Creating a single article can take hours.
If this is an issue for you, consider contracting out the work to a professional writer by clearly explaining what content you’re looking for.
Keyword Best Practices
Now that you know how to find and use keywords better, let’s look at some of the best practices for using them.
Think Like Your Customers
Why should anyone visit your website?
Your content should always reflect the visitor’s interests, not yours.
Emphasize keywords that help give people what they want and use that to guide your content.
For example, we’re using the word “keyword” itself as the keyword for this article, and all of this content is about how you can use keywords better.
It’s about what you need, and that’s why you’re here reading this sentence.
Don’t Overdo It
Adding too many keywords to your content produces a phenomenon called distortion.
Distortion happens when a writer is forced to use too many keywords for the length of their content, and to do so, they have to reduce the overall quality of their writing.
Also, search engines can detect this and they penalize sites for it.
True story: I once had someone ask about writing an article that was 40% keywords by volume.
That is one out of every two and a half words as a keyword.
I refused because it was an impossible request and instead gave them a well-written article that only used a few of the keywords.
After reading my explanation, they accepted my decision.
Overdoing it is a serious problem.
Know Your Niche
Using niche-specific keywords can help you stand out from competitors.
If you’re running a store selling rugs, you don’t necessarily want to compete with a store selling furniture, even though they’re both things that go on the floor in your house.
Competing in a niche is much easier than trying to compete for a primary keyword.
Keyword Tools To Save Time and Money
Creating keywords all by yourself can be hard, even if you have a lot of experience.
Keyword research tools make this job significantly easier.
If possible, try to use a tool that works for your type of website.
For example, SEO for WordPress sites usually focuses on blog-style content, though smaller sites also exist.
What Is a Keyword Tool?
A keyword tool is an online option that can help identify good keywords for your content.
Some work by scanning existing pages, while others can generate additional keywords from a base input.
Regardless of how they work, they typically save you a lot of time and money.
Our Favorite Keyword Tools
Let’s look at our favorite keyword tools.
Google Keyword Planner
Is it any surprise that Google would have a system for this?
Google Keyword Planner is a free, in-depth tool that provides information on exact keyword use and what kind of competition you have.
Google dominates the search market, so it is a phenomenally powerful tool.
However, note that you will need a Google Ads account to use it.
Ahrefs is one of the oldest and most powerful marketing suites, emphasizing better performance in Google search results.
It has a robust system for checking keywords and getting results, though it’s most effective for marketing professionals.
Semrush is another major keyword research platform, boasting information on more than twenty-two billion possible keywords.
Like Ahrefs, it’s one of the largest platforms on the internet, and that shows in the quality of its research results.
Ahrefs is best for marketing professionals, while Semrush may be easier for people without that background to use. That said, both are excellent tools.
Other Related SEO Terms To Know
When discussing SEO, some terms you need to consider are tracking, search engine results pages, and anchor text.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
Keyword tracking is the process of monitoring a keyword’s performance for your website.
This helps you determine whether it’s performing as expected in your SEO or is counterproductive for your business.
Search Engine Results Pages (SERP)
SERPs are what users see when they make a query to a search engine.
Appearing on these is how you get traffic to your site, so you should aim to include SEO that boosts your ranking on these pages.
Anchor text refers to any words in an article that you use to link to another webpage (as each of the terms in this section does).
Anchor text is usually important to search engine results because it signals a particularly important term.
When writing with SEO in mind, always do your research on the best anchor text you can use to improve your standing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about keywords, their importance in SEO, and their best practices.
Can a keyword be two words?
Yes, a keyword can be two or more words.
Long-tail keywords can be up to five words and are ideal for highly specific, targeted content.
What is a primary keyword?
A primary keyword is the single main keyword for your content.
Finding the right keyword for your content is an essential part of getting noticed and doing well on the modern internet.
The important things to remember now are doing research with the tools available, creating high-quality content to put those keywords in, and giving that content time to work.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be on the path to success.