What Are Keywords And What Is Keyword Research? | 2016

An introduction to keywords in 2016: What are keywords?

Keywords are the foundation that successful search engine optimization (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM) strategies are built on. Websites that create content that is rich with relevant keywords and information will be rewarded by Google with more visibility online.

Keywords are an intention on the part of the searcher to find information on a specific topic. More specifically, keywords are a combination of words–or a phrase–that are typed into the Google search bar.

When a query is entered into Google, the search engine crawls through its vast index looking for the most relevant content containing the keyword(s) or phrase(s) that is/are specific to the search. Then, the results are presented on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) in ranking order of relevance.

To break it down a little further, there are two types of keywords: short tail keywords and long tail keywords.

What are short tail keywords?

A high volume of search traffic doesn’t always translate to qualified leads, conversions or relevant engagement. The reason for this can be a combination of gaps in the content strategy, gaps in keyword research (if there is any) and how the content attempts to engage consumers.

Not all searches are equal. All potential visitors are at different stages of the consumer engagement cycle.

When creating a keyword strategy a business must ask itself “What is the intent of the content we are creating?”, and consider which of the following phases the potential visitor is currently in:

  • Discovery Phase
  • Research Phase
  • Purchase Phase
  • Delight Phase

Short tail keywords don’t do a good job of prequalifying potential clients because they don’t address a specific need. When a consumer thinks about a topic or category in the beginning stages of engagement, the process almost always starts with a general search term that gives a broad snapshot about the topic.

Short tail keywords–also known as “head terms”–are made up of no more than one or two words. Short tail keywords provide broad reach for a general topic. They may address a category or niche. Due to their generic nature, they are highly competitive, offering the potential of driving high volumes of search traffic to a website. What this means is that many different websites and online businesses will be competing for a high ranking on this search term.

Let’s explore the universal term for local Search Engine Optimization–”Local SEO”. When someone types the keyword “local SEO” into the search bar, pages offering broad definitions about what local SEO “is” will populate the SERPs. However, few pages will take a deep dive into explaining the inner workings on how “SEO” operates.

The advantage of this short tail search is that it will provide the consumer with an overview of what local SEO is. Short tail keywords, more often than not, are entered by searchers who are in the early stages of an engagement cycle and are looking for general information.

Essentially, a short tail keyword is the first door they open in their research and decision-making process, and will likely drive them further into the engagement funnel.

What are long tail keywords?

Long tail keywords are word combinations or phrases that are generally three to seven words in length. They produce results which are more specific because the searcher is more explicit about the topic or category they want to research. Long tail keywords offer limitless opportunities for websites to create highly targeted content that is more likely to engage visitors. As this keyword format is more specific, another advantage is that it is less competitive and is easier to rank.

The largest benefit of long tail keywords is that they convert at a higher rate because searchers leveraging this keyword format are generally at the later stages of their research cycle or purchase decisions. Simply put, long tail keywords make a search more personal.

As an example, we can explore the search term “how can Local SEO help a local business in Toronto”. Because the query is much more specific than its short tail search counterpart “local SEO”, the search engine would display content that is far more targeted. Rather than just a basic overview of what “Local SEO” is, a long tail query like this is much more likely to provide the searcher–who is now further engaged with the topic–with exactly the information he or she is looking for.

Long tail keyword searches comprise 70% of all search traffic. As searchers become more confident in how Google returns results for their searches, they will become even more specific when they search for things they care about, instead of defaulting to a generic term and sifting through results to find what they’re looking for.


Search Curve (1)(Source)


An introduction to keyword research in 2016: What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of compiling data driven keywords that reflect the business, its products, services and objectives. These keywords can then be embedded into an SEO, SEM, or content strategy. Keywords that represent what a consumer might type into a search engine will attract more traffic.

Implementing a keyword strategy is now a fundamental tactic for any business or website that wants to be found online. Whether receiving organic search traffic from an effective SEO strategy, or getting pay-per-click results through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), keywords are what the search engine uses to find the most relevant content that is displayed to searchers. A business or website needs to implement a keyword strategy in order to increase its visibility online. Search engines use keywords to find websites relevant to a user’s search.

The keywords will then be incorporated into the website’s content strategy. Detailed SEO and SEM strategies will improve the likelihood of a user finding the website. Therefore, keywords, in conjunction with SEO and SEM will increase web traffic.

How is keyword research done?

It is a practical idea to create a Google Adwords account and utilize the free Keyword Planner. This tool will suggest keyword options, variants and alternatives, and will and estimate a probable search volume for each keyword. Additionally, this free service will forecast the potential cost of using these keywords in an SEM marketing strategy. Refer back to this tool throughout the entire keyword research process for idea generation and reference.

The next step of keyword research is to review engagement data to develop a better understanding of the target audience. Consider demographics and interests. Identify problems that they have and how they can be solved by the information, content, services or products the business offers. Learn how keyword research and local SEO can improve your business online.

This process will provide insight into what the target consumer thinks, wants, and is likely to search for at different stages of their engagement cycle. It will also help to identify new key performance indicators (KPI’s), discover new revenue funnels and refine the content that speaks to the visitor.

Keywords can be leveraged to identify the market categories of the  products and services offered by the business. Simultaneously, the keyword research helps to align consumer needs and business objectives.

To sum it up, Keyword research will help a business think like a consumer. The insights gathered from the data will let a business know what keywords potential visitors or customers are most likely to search when looking for specific products, services, or information.

Illustrated below is the evolution of a keyword as it evolves to engage different searchers at different stages of the engagement funnel:

  • Local SEO.
  • Local SEO for small business.
  • Local SEO service for small business.
  • Local SEO service for small business in Toronto.
  • The best local SEO service for small business in Toronto.
  • Hire the best local SEO service for small business in Toronto.
  • Hire the best local SEO service for small business in Downtown Toronto.
  • Hire the best local SEO service professional for small business in Downtown Toronto.

When a list is compiled, consider searching each keyword in Google. Below the results on the SERPs, there will be a listing of related searches. These can inspire additional keywords.

It is important that the list has a combination of both short tail keywords and long tail keywords.

It is useful to check if competitors are leveraging similar keywords, and how those keywords are ranking for them. Try to find ways to augment and differentiate from the keywords they’ve implemented in their strategy.

Evaluate all of this information to build the optimal keyword list to work into website content as well as SEO and SEM strategies.

An understanding of how keywords work in 2016 is essential to marketing a business online.

Receiving a high rank in an organic or paid search, with keywords relevant to what the consumer is searching, is an effective approach to reaching the target when they are looking to buy. Understanding how to properly implement short tail and long tail keywords in an SEO or SEM marketing strategy will increase website traffic, leads, and conversions.