What Are Keywords in SEO – A Complete Guide (2024)

Learn what are keywords in SEO and why they are important with our guide. Get tips on how to find the right keywords to boost your website's ranking & traffic.
What are keywords in seo
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Managing Director Benjamin Paine at Digital Nomads HQ

Benjamin Paine

Managing Director at Digital Nomads HQ

So, What are Keywords?

Have you ever wondered how websites get to the top of search results?

It’s all about keywords!

Consider this scenario:

You have a question and want an answer quickly.

What do you do?

If you’re like most of us, you open a browser on your laptop or phone and go straight to the search bar.

You type a few words, hit “search,” and scroll through the results until you find a page that answers your question.

Well, the words you type into the search engine are nothing but “keywords.” They help you find blogs or web pages easily. This is how people find your website, too.

To make sure people find your site, you need to know –

  • What are keywords?
  • Why are SEO keywords important?
  • How to find the right keywords?

 

And that’s what I am going to discuss today!

Let’s roll!

What Are Keywords?

Keywords have two meanings –

  • They are the ideas and topics that describe what your content is about.
  • In SEO, keywords are words or phrases people type into search engines to find content.

They are also called “search queries.”

Since keywords come from search queries, using them in your content has two major advantages:

  • They help search engines rank your pages
  • And help users find your site.

Basically, everything on your page—images, text, videos—are your main keywords.

As a website owner, you want the keywords on your page to match what people are searching for.

This way, they have a better chance of finding your content in the search engine results page (SERP).

And that’s why “keyword research” is important! Knowing how to do keyword research is essential for good SEO.

 

Fun Fact: Did you know? Almost 75.5% of marketers make keyword research a top priority when creating content.

Now that you have a good idea about what keywords are, let’s get more clarity with the help of an example.

Let’s say you’re planning a trip to New York City and want to find a good hotel.

You open a search engine and type “best hotels in New York City” into the search bar.

As a result, you’ll see a list of web pages related to the best hotels in New York City.

The words “best hotels in New York City” are the keywords that help the search engine understand what you’re looking for.

Let’s continue with the example to see how, as a website owner, you start your keyword research.

If you own a hotel in New York City, using keywords effectively can help improve your website’s ranking and visibility.

Identify relevant keywords like,

  • “Luxury hotels in New York City”
  • “Affordable hotels in NYC”
  • “Boutique hotels near Times Square”

 

Use these keywords strategically in your website’s content, including your,

  • Homepage
  • Individual hotel pages
  • Blog posts
  • Meta tags

 

For example, include phrases like “Welcome to our luxury hotel in the heart of New York City” or “Explore our affordable hotel options near popular NYC attractions.”

By optimising your website with relevant keywords, you can increase your chances of appearing higher in search engine results, leading to more traffic and bookings for your hotel.

Types of Keywords

Simply understanding – “what are keywords” is not enough. To actually use them, you need to know about the different types of keywords.

Keyword Types

Seed Keywords

Seed keywords are the starting point in the keyword research process.  These are words or phrases used to unlock more keywords. For example, “cake” could be a seed keyword generating millions of keyword ideas like –

  • “Chocolate cake”
  • “Tiramisu cake”
  • “Birthday cake”
  • “Wedding cake”

Primary and Secondary Keywords

Primary keywords are the main focus of a webpage, representing its central topic. Secondary keywords are closely associated with the primary keyword, providing additional context or related topics.

For example, if the primary keyword is “digital marketing,” secondary keywords could include,

  • “Social media marketing”
  • “Content marketing”
  • “Email marketing”

Keywords by Search Intent

Search intent refers to the reason behind a search query. There are four basic types of intent keywords:

  • Informational: The user wants information, e.g., “history of desserts.”
  • Navigational: The intent is to find a specific website, e.g., “YouTube login.”
  • Commercial Investigation: The user wants to buy a specific product but needs more information, e.g., “iPhone reviews.”
  • Transactional: Directly related to purchasing, e.g., “buy MacBook Air.”

Competitors' Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords that your competitors are targeting in their content. Understanding your competitors’ keywords can provide valuable ideas for your own site.

You can choose to target the same keywords as your competitors or use their keywords as a starting point for your own research.

Low-Competition Keywords

Low-competition keywords are typically easier to rank for. They can give faster results in the short term, making them ideal for new websites without a strong link profile.

Niche Keywords

Niche keywords are specific topics that are tailored to smaller, specialised parts of a market. They’re easier to rank for and often show strong intent from users.

Example – “Organic, gluten-free, vegan desserts.”

Branded and Unbranded Keywords

Branded keywords include the name of a specific brand or company, while non-branded keywords do not.

  • Ranking for branded keywords helps you attract people who are directly searching for information about your company. Example – “Nike shoes.”
  • Non-branded keywords help you reach people looking for products or services related to your business, even if they don’t know your brand. Example – “Running shoes.”

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer and get a small number of searches per month. There are two types:

  • Topical Long-Tail Keywords: They are topics in themselves. Example – “Best vegan chocolate cake recipe.”
  • Supporting Long-Tail Keywords: Fewer popular ways of searching for topical ones. Example – “How to make a vegan chocolate cake without eggs.”

Why Are SEO Keywords Important?

Did you know? Articles that include target keywords in the URL get a 45% higher click-through rate than those that don’t.

Still wondering why are SEO keywords important? Here are some points highlighting their importance:

●      Higher Ranking

When you use words and phrases that people often search for in your content, your site can appear higher in search results for those terms.

●      Better Visibility

Getting a higher rank in the search results can bring more specific visitors to your website. That’s why finding keywords that people search for is the first step in any SEO campaign.

●      Organic Traffic

Keywords drive organic traffic to your website, helping you to attract more visitors naturally through search engines. This means you can increase the number of people who find your site without any paid promotions.

●      Relevant Content

Using the right keywords guarantees that your content matches what people are looking for. This increases the chances of attracting the right audience to your website.

●      Healthy Competition

Keywords allow you to compete effectively with other websites. You can optimize your content to rank higher in search results, helping you stand out from the competition.

●      Understanding Users

Analyzing keywords provides insights into what your target audience is searching for. This helps you tailor your content to their needs more effectively.

●      Higher ROI

With properly optimized keywords, you can achieve higher conversion rates. This improves the return on investment (ROI) for your website.

How to Find the Right Keywords?

Did you know? Finding the right keywords is the first step in SEO!

It is the starting point for all the other marketing and SEO activities.

When you have a list of the right keywords, you can begin important SEO tasks such as:

  • Organizing your website structure
  • Deciding on product and category pages
  • Creating content for blog posts
  • Improving landing pages and sales pages

Now, let’s see how to start your keyword research.

 

Clearly Define Your Target Audience

When you start your keyword research, it’s important to understand what your ideal customers are looking for. Think broadly about the questions or issues they might have.

For example, if you run a gardening supplies business, your audience might want tips on growing tomatoes in a small garden.

 

Get Specific and Check Competition

Once you’ve identified the main question or problem, it’s time to focus. This helps you target your audience better and find less competitive keywords.

Use keyword tools to generate related search terms quickly and easily. For instance, if you’re a travel blogger writing about the “best places to visit in Europe,” you might find related keywords like “top European destinations for families.”

 

Analyze and Improve

As you create content around specific keywords, keep an eye on how your website is performing. Tools like Google Search Console can show you if your traffic is increasing for unexpected keywords. This data helps you refine your keyword strategy and find new opportunities to attract customers.

Keyword planner

Tips to Find the Right Keywords for SEO

Apart from following the three-step process to start your keyword research, you also need to dig deeper to get the best results. Here are some proven and useful tips you can follow to find the right keywords for SEO:

 

Start with Google Suggest

Finding the right keywords doesn’t have to be difficult! You can start with a simple Google search.

Yes, it is true! The best keywords are always suggested by Google. All you need to do is open the search engine, go to the search bar and do some research.

For example – if your website is about makeup products, all you need to do is enter “makeup” in the search results and see what Google suggests next to it. The common results that often come up are,

  • “Makeup kit”
  • “Makeup products”
  • “Makeup video”
  • “Makeup box”
  • “Makeup bridal”

 

That’s it! These are the top keywords Google suggested. You can use them strategically in your content to get a higher ranking.

Now, you might be wondering – Is it doable for single-word SEO keywords to rank like that? Yes, it is.

But it is best to focus on long-tail keywords.

They are longer (4+ word) phrases that people use in Google and other search engines. Long-tails are usually the best keywords to start with.

And finding these terms is easy thanks to Google Suggest (also known as Google Autocomplete).

Let’s take the same example – This time, let’s enter “makeup products” in Google and see what results we will get.

  • “Makeup products name list”
  • “Makeup products shop near me”
  • “Makeup products brand name”
  • “Makeup products for beginners”

 

These keywords have low competition and are easier to rank. And you can find them for free on Google! Isn’t it amazing?

 

Find Popular Keywords with Google Trends

When it comes to keywords, we often focus on – monthly search volume!

And it is understandable because ranking for a keyword that nobody searches for isn’t helpful.

However, search volume alone doesn’t indicate how a keyword is trending over time, which is important for long-term success.

Thankfully, you can smoothly track a keyword’s trend employing Google Trends.

For example, 

I wrote a blog on “electric vehicles (EV)” a while ago. 

Why I chose this topic? 

Well, the keyword had good monthly search volume and there were quite a few blogs that were already ranking on Google. But I also found that many people were still searching for it using the term “electric cars.”

So, I gave it a try, and guess what? 

Upon checking Google Trends, I noticed a significant difference in trends between the two terms.

This example highlights that while monthly search volume provides a snapshot of a keyword’s popularity, it doesn’t reveal if the keyword is gaining traction or declining.

That’s why I invest a lot of time and effort on finding keywords that are actually trending to make my blogs get traffic for years. I focus on terms that are experiencing a rise in popularity.

 

Look for Question-Based Keywords

If you truly want to take advantage of long-tail keywords, it’s best to use quest-based ones in your content.

These keywords are particularly useful for creating SEO content that provides valuable answers to users’ inquiries.

The advantage of using question-based keywords is that they are often long-tail keywords. This means they have less competition on Google’s first page, making it easier for your content to rank higher in search results.

To find these question-based keywords, you can take a look at “People Also Ask” section on Google. Simply enter the main keyword or the seed keyword on Google and look at what people also ask.

You can add these questions in the form of FAQs in your blog to get a better ranking. Alternatively, you can also use free tools like AnswerThePublic.com and Question DB. These tools gather questions that your target audience is asking about your topic online.

 

Go to Amazon and Find Ecommerce Keywords

Conducting keyword research for eCommerce follows a similar process to blog keyword research. However, the main difference lies in the need to find keywords for product and category pages, and there are usually a lot of them.

A useful strategy to find excellent product keywords is to use Amazon Suggest. It functions similarly to Google Suggest. Simply enter a product or product category into Amazon’s search bar and take note of the terms that appear.

 

Find Unique Keywords

One common issue with most keyword research tools is that they often generate words and phrases closely related to the seed keyword you entered.

For example, when I use tools like WordStream and enter a seed keyword like “digital marketing” – the results that come up are always similar to the main keyword:

  • “Digital marketing”
  • “Marketing digital marketing”
  • “Marketing and digital marketing”
  • “Online marketing and advertising”
  • “Digital marketing agency”

While these are good keywords, they lack creativity. You will hardly find any unique keywords. That’s why you have to go out of the way to look for keywords that are unique. As most of your competitors ignore these keywords, you can get an edge when using them.

 

Find Keywords Your Competitors Rank For

Simply getting random keywords from tools is not enough to beat your competitors. Instead, a more effective approach is to analyze the keywords that they already rank for.

By checking your competitors’ domains, you can quickly generate a list of thousands of keywords. It will save you a lot of time and help you get better rankings. Tools like SEMrush offer this feature, although most are paid.

 

Use Google Keyword Planner to Get Search Volume and CPC Data

Nothing beats the OG keyword tool!

When I first got into SEO and content writing, I mostly used Google Keyword Planner and it is still my favourite among all the other tools.

Google Keyword Planner provides valuable data sourced directly from Google, making it an excellent resource for keyword information.

However, there’s one drawback to using the Keyword Planner.

You need to create a Google Ads account to access it.

Luckily, there’s an easy workaround for this issue.

Although a Google Ads account is necessary to use the Keyword Planner, you don’t have to run any ads. Once your account is fully set up, you can access the tool without any problems.

Google Trends

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to use SEO keywords in your content effectively:

Choose Your Main Keyword

Select one primary keyword to optimize your content around. Avoid targeting multiple terms, as it’s rarely effective. For instance, if your content is about writing a news article, your main keyword could be “how to write a news article.”

Integrate Your Main Keyword

Use your main keyword a few times throughout your content. There’s no need to overuse it. Just ensure it naturally fits into your writing. This signals to Google that your page is focused on that keyword.

Add Your Keyword in the Title and URL

Make sure your main keyword appears in your title tag and URL. For example, if your main keyword is “SEO best practices,” include it in your title tag and URL.

Include Keyword in Meta Description

While Google doesn’t directly use the meta description for SEO, adding your keyword to it can help your search snippet stand out. Bold keywords in the meta description can increase your organic click-through rate.

Use Keyword Variations

Sprinkle in a few variations of your main keyword throughout your content. For instance, if your main keyword is “SEO best practices,” include variations like “SEO techniques” and “search engine optimization.”

Use Internal Links

Use internal links to connect your new page with existing authoritative pages on your site. Internal linking provides instant link authority to the new page. Make sure that the anchor text of your internal links includes your target keyword.

How to Use Keywords in Your Content?

How Many Keywords Should You Use and How Often?

Focus on one main keyword per page, but also include related keywords that are relevant to the main topic.

Use the keywords naturally a few times throughout the content, particularly in the first paragraph. Avoid overusing the keyword, as this can lead to keyword stuffing, which violates search engine guidelines and can result in penalties.

Aim for a balanced use of keywords that enhances the readability and relevance of your content.

Wrapping Up

And that’s a wrap!

Now you know – what are keywords, why they matter, and how to find them and use them in your content. 

While keywords are the heart of SEO, simply using them is not enough if you need long-term online growth. That’s why top-performing websites focus on a holistic approach when it comes to digital marketing.

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