When you think about how to use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to get your website higher up the Goole rankings, one of the first things that should spring to mind is keywords.

In our earlier blog we discussed in depth why keywords are important, how Google uses them and how you can find your ideal keywords.

In this article, we are going to explore why you should be continually researching your keywords, the range of keywords available to you and the conditions under which they should be used for your web content to attract attention from the right audience.

What Are Keywords?

Brass mortice-type key with WWW shaped at one end

Firstly, let’s be clear what we mean by keywords. Keywords are those words used by searchers to find content that meets their needs. Or, as Moz puts it

“Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. In terms of SEO, they’re the words and phrases that searchers enter into search engines, also called “search queries.”

Or, looking at it the opposite way, the more your use specific words and phrases that are genuinely related to your subject matter, then the more likely the searchers you are interested in attracting will be drawn to your content.

Why Are Keywords So Important?

a colourful humming bird in mid flight

Until 2013 when Google launched the Hummingbird algorithm, keywords (relevant or otherwise) were simply crammed into the keyword metadata and that was pretty much job done.

However, Hummingbird effectively made this practice of “keyword stuffing” redundant, and the emphasis moved on from simple word queries to more conversational and complex expressions.

For the first time searcher intent became a factor (which we examine later).

a white bust of a featureless head facing out of the page. The top right of the head is mapped into areas like a brain with specific functions labelled in each area.

The advent of NLP and AI (Google’s “Rankbrain”) meant that keywords became even more important and therefore so was the need to use them effectively and appropriately.

Only then can Google match your content to your ideal searcher. More information on why keywords are still very relevant today can be found in this article by The Search Engine Journal.

Top Places to Use Your Keywords in 2021

One of the main reasons keyword research is so important is that your keywords can be used in virtually all your online content. So where can you use your keywords?

  • Website Page Content
  • URLs (web page addresses)
  • Page Titles
  • Page Descriptions
  • Page Headings: H1, H2, H3 etc
  • Anchor Text
  • Image Filenames
  • Image Title Tag
  • Image Alt-Text
  • Image Descriptions
  • Video Closed Captions
  • Video Transcripts
  • Social Media Posts & Articles
  • Social Media Profiles

Traditionally we have been warned against keyword stuffing. These days however, quality beats quantity and provided keywords are used in the correct context, are free-flowing and natural-sounding (and of course relevant to the subject matter) this is no longer the issue it once was.

The general rule of thumb now is to write your content for humans and not Google bots.

What are the Main Keyword Types You Should be Using?

There are at least nine types of keywords, each with their own particular purpose, and how you implement them will influence how well your content ranks. Your keyword research should generate suggestions from many if not all of these types.

The nine keyword types are:

  1. Short-Tail
  2. Long-Tail
  3. Short-Term “Fresh”
  4. Long-Term “Evergreen”
  5. Product Defining
  6. Customer Defining
  7. Geo-Targeting
  8. Latent Semantic Intent (LSI)
  9. Customer Intent

Short-Tail Keywords

a clear perspex tray containing dozens of tiled words randomly positioned

These are the most frequently used yet usually least effective keywords when it comes to conversions (i.e. the point where a website visitor actively engages with you or your products).

They normally consist of three words or less and are less likely to match searcher intent (see below).

They will typically generate millions of results and will be highly competitive. Even so, they remain relevant and so should appear consistently throughout your website content.

Long-Tail Keywords

Unsurprisingly, long-tail keywords typically use more than three words, are much more specific and therefore more likely to match searcher intent.

A graph showing how search frequency & competition varies for different length keywords

According to Neil Patel long-tail keywords account for 70% of all search queries and have an average conversion rate of 36%.

These are especially important for your product pages and blog posts.

Long-tail keywords can often be found by combining one or more of the other keyword types discussed in this article.

For example:

Christmas themed face masks for event planners available for online order

can be broken down as

Short-Term + Product-Defining + Customer-Defining + Customer-Intent

If this describes you, then you could get yourself to the top of Google, ahead of 39 million other organic results – simply insert your own defined customer!

Clip of the top of a google search page showing how long tail keywords can result in getting your website to position one

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Short-Term “Fresh” Keywords

A grey block-style calendar set to the eighth of march

These keywords are only relevant over a very specific short period of time. They are characterised by rapidly increasing and then rapidly decreasing search volumes e.g. sporting occasions, calendar events (Valentine’s Day or Halloween) etc.

Because they closely match a specific searcher intent they tend to have a high conversion rate.

For example: The FIFA World Cup in 2018.

Graph showing explosive growth in search traffic followed by a rapid decline for the search term world cup 2018

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Long-Term “Evergreen” Keywords

view of river surrounded either side by evergreen trees as it winds its way towards the mountains

Long term keywords – as their name suggests – are those that remain relevant at any time. Although subject to occasional fluctuations they are otherwise generally consistent in terms of average search volumes.

They tend to have moderate search numbers, are moderately competitive and generally convert well.

For example: Let’s look at the average monthly search volumes over the last two years for the short tail keyword “lifestyle coach”.

Graph showing google trend data for searches fo lifestyle coach as consistent over a two year period

The trend line shows how overall the average searches per month has remained quite level. Not all trend lines follow this path, so when researching your Long-Term keywords it’s always a good idea to examine long-term trends. If the trend is steadily rising, then you may well see an increase in impressions over time and vice-versa if the trend Is declining.

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Product Defining Keywords

These are the words that accurately describe your product (or service) for searchers who are seeking specific products, so are already on the initial stages of the interest curve and are looking for more information to make a purchase.

A good starting point is to use your product name and the two keywords that best describe the product.

Looking down the centre of a supermarket aisle, with products arrayed on shelve either side

Product defining keywords tend to have low search volumes but also have high conversion rates.

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Customer Defining Keywords

Two desktop monitors facing each other. An arm appears from each, one holding a credit card and the other a bag containing purchases.

A key part of your marketing plan is to know who your target customers are in terms of:

  • Gender
  • Region
  • Income
  • Profession
  • Age
  • Education
  • Nationality
  • Interests

The more detailed the persona or customer avatar you define in terms of their needs and pain-points, then the more likely you will be able to find the keywords they are using.

As with product defining keywords these tend to have low search volumes but again, high conversion rates.

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Geo-Targeting Keywords

a creased google map and a red mapping pin pinpointing a location on the map.

These keywords will target specific areas from a neighbourhood to a town, city, county or even country.

Clearly, this will be especially useful for a smaller business that only operates locally or delivers to specific areas, or where you have bricks-and-mortar premises that your customers need to visit to buy your services.

Having geo-specific keywords not just in your headers and footers but also within your general content will boost your local SEO. Geo-targeting keywords usually have low search volumes but tend to closely match searcher intent resulting in a high conversion rate.

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Latent Semantic Intent (LSI) Keywords

Interestingly, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, has gone on record as saying LSI Keywords simply don’t exist!

a tweet from google stating there is no such thing as LSI keywords

This may just be semantics on John’s part as, LSI or otherwise, the principle is the same and it’s what most people have become used to describing them as. So what do we mean by LSI?

LSI keywords are where we have to think outside the box a bit; these are the other keywords that are most closely related to your main keyword.

The English language comprises of different words that can mean the same thing (synonyms) and many words that although spelt the same, can have more than one meaning (e.g. mouse, bank, apple).  

Google tries to determine the search intent to be able to present the best results. This is why when you start to type into the search bar your query is usually “auto-filled”. Google’s own website tells us

“Our systems understand that the words and intent are related, and so connect you with the right content”

The use of LSI keywords in your content, supported by other relevant content such as pictures and videos etc, will help Google understand page topic better and rank it appropriately.

So by mixing up target keywords with synonyms you’re making Google’s job easier.

Google’s autocomplete function in the search bar and the “Searches related to …” at the foot of the results is one place where you can find alternatives to your main keywords.

For example, searching for “coconut oil in coffee” we get:

Snapshot of bottom of a google search page showing alternative suggestions for searches related to coconut oil in coffee

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Customer Intent Keywords

Not to be confused with Customer Defining Keywords, Customer Intent Keywords address the motivation of the searcher. These fall into three broad categories:

  • Informational: For searches where general information on a specific object, product, person, place etc is needed and are typically framed in terms such as “truth about”, “how to”, “what are”, “best ways to” and so on.
  • Commercial: Are for searches which are close to making a purchase. These may include terms of business, availability, delivery, fees, etc
  • Transactional: Usually by now the searcher is ready to make a purchase and possibly looking for the best deal or is comparing products and/or suppliers. These keywords will more often relate to discounts, special offers, guarantees, authenticity, quality, warranties, after sales services, refunds etc

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Good keyword research remains the cornerstone of SEO. Google will continue to refine its search algorithm by correcting our spelling, recognising the jargon or slang words we use or even when we have simply typed (or spoken) the wrong word. That way Google can best guess what we are really looking for and deliver up the best answers.

Knowing your keywords, how they should be used, and where they belong, will keep you one step ahead of your competition.

CBL Copywriting & SEO have produced a free document summarising the Keyword Types, you can download a copy here.

If you need help with your keyword research or any other SEO matters, you can arrange a free 30-minute consultation with one of our Chartered SEO Marketers.