Make no mistake, keywords and keyword targeting are incredibly important to your SEO efforts. In fact, they are the backbone of any effective SEO strategy.
You still need to do keyword research to establish what your audience is searching for, set goals for your overall SEO efforts and set priorities for your SEO campaigns.
All of these activities require keywords. To report on your ongoing campaign’s successes (and possible failures), you need to tie your results to keywords that are performing well (and not so well).
What’s more, your SEO company’s contract is likely made up of keywords that you agreed on when you began the project.
But why must you, as a non-SEO practitioner, care about the keywords you are targeting? Let us explain.
They Help You Establish User Intent behind Search Queries
Keywords are crucial for establishing user intent behind search queries. They can be either transactional, informational (i.e. research-based), or navigational.
You want to establish the correct user intent if you want to identify how users are going to get to your site.
And by targeting the right type of user intent, you can establish how you’re going to craft an SEO strategy that caters to these consumers.
For transactional queries, you may want to take a more e-commerce based approach, with online shops, product pages and other types of e-commerce-related digital assets.
For informational queries, then you might desire to instead create more in-depth and content-based digital assets.
For navigational queries, users are trying to get to a certain site, so they may be typing in more branded queries in order to arrive at their destination.
Figuring out the user intent behind your keywords is one of the first steps towards understanding your overall SEO strategy and why your SEO professional is doing what they are doing.
Did you know that there are many different types of keywords? They help you narrow down your target market and zero in more precisely on your SEO strategy. When you have a list of versatile keywords, you can expand your content strategy to limitless possibilities. The versatility of your keyword strategy plays directly into the expansiveness of your content strategy.
But make no mistake: your keyword strategy and content strategy are inherently linked, but they are not the same thing. While you can have a relatively loose content strategy without a keyword strategy, having both increases the effectiveness of your overall SEO strategy. Using your keyword strategy to build versatility and targets into your content strategy can only lead to significant increases in your results across the board as you move forward.
The types of keywords available to you as an SEO pro include the following:
Types of Target Keywords
Finding target keywords is not a huge challenge. Although the task itself may be deep, and can spill over into topic research and content research, you must have a target as part of your strategy in place in order to hit it.
While there are many different types of keywords, for the purposes of our discussion, we are maintaining our focus on the following types of target keywords:
These are key phrases and other words that relate to your industry, brand or service offerings.
While there are sub-types and more complex keyword targets, they include the following types of keywords:
Keywords for Segments in the Market
All of these are generic keywords that align with a brand or even a specific industry. Your audience uses them to perform research for information within your niche. They may be either broadly defined or more specific, especially when it comes to more niche marketing reasons.
Keyword type example: George Foreman Grill
These are all locally-based keywords. The majority of the time, users are looking for locations that are close to them when they are searching for these keywords.
Keyword type example: Buy George Foreman Grill at Sears Los Angeles
All of these keywords target the brand names of your competitors who own similar businesses and sell competing services or products. A brand should do some research on competing brands to see how the competitor is targeting their audience. This can give some insight into how you may want to execute your own campaign.
Keyword type example: Hamilton Beach Products
These include any searches containing a brand name and brand-related terms. They may also include other variations, but all are associated with the brand in one form or another. They are also narrow in focus, meaning that they do not include broader keywords without branded terms.
Keyword type example: Hamilton Beach grills
These are all keywords that directly include a product name, or are directly related to that product. They explicitly reference the name of that product or the company’s services. Each specific product or service should have its own keyword strategy. Customers are all just as different as companies’ offerings, so why shouldn’t you maximize your strategies in order to obtain the maximum number of customers?
Keyword type example: Sony LED TVs
These are keywords that explicitly define your targeted customers. They are typically used by your customers in order to search for particular products and services.
Keyword type example: men’s t-shirts
They Help You Level-Set Your Project from the Beginning
Identifying the keywords you are already ranking for can help you assess exactly what’s going on with your product from the beginning. This means that you can figure out what’s happening with traffic, what’s going on with leads and the health of your project overall. By level-setting in this manner, you can determine where to go next.
If you have not been doing any optimization whatsoever for any of these keyword phrases, you may be in for a surprise. Your project may just be in its infancy stages, and you may not always realize the types of results you can achieve if given the chance.
This is where keywords become powerful for any business: They help you establish and set the current value of your project. Once you set its current value, then you can identify what to expect as you move forward with SEO on your site.
Keyword Targeting Allows You to Examine Your Project’s Progress
Keywords allow you to see exactly how your project is progressing. Keywords can take your traffic from zero to over 100,000 in traffic, or send your SERP listing from position #97 to position #07.
While you may care about rankings less and less as you continue to gain results and online visibility, they are still a good method of gauging how effective your SEO professional is.
They Help You Identify Your Target Audience
At the beginning of your project, you are seldom informed as to who your target audience may be unless you have done the research yourself. Even then, you may not know all the subtleties involved in optimizing for your target audience.
For example, say that you figure out that your target audience searches for grilling hamburgers on a Hamilton Beach grill more than any other term. This phrase translates to significantly higher search volume than others.
But, you find that a service-oriented term gets a higher CTR (click-through rate). What do you do? You could go after both keywords as part of your SEO efforts. Getting a keyword with a higher search volume and a higher CTR is a good idea for many reasons. The first is, that you may get a higher CTR as a result of these efforts. The next reason being, that your higher search volume will lead to higher traffic.
This is why, as a business professional, it pays to know about your targeted keyword phrases and how they translate into what your audience is searching for.
Keyword Targeting Lets You Make Adjustments as Needed
You can also tweak your campaign to your heart’s content. If you find that a keyword is not performing well, you may want to adjust your campaign accordingly. Armed with this critical information at your fingertips, you will be able to do just that.
Think that the keyword you were writing content for is not performing? Then you may want to adjust your content SEO, your content quantity or other attributes of that content. Making sure that you have this information at the ready gives you the ability to be nimble with your campaigns and quickly adapt to any situation.
They Make It Possible to Gauge the Effectiveness of Your SEO Professional
As a business professional, you are likely in charge of all campaigns on the SEO side of things. As such, you are also being held accountable for their results. Using keywords, you can gauge exactly how well your SEO professional is performing. Everything from rankings, to traffic, to conversions, you will be able to track with the aid of keywords.
While Google’s (not provided) changed the landscape permanently between 2011–2012, it’s still possible to use tools like Keyword Hero to combine data sources in order to identify exactly how your keywords are performing.
Keyword Targeting Results in More Conversions
When you target the right keywords and they are used by your customers to find you online, they will help you improve both your CTR and overall conversion rate. It’s important to note at this juncture that your CTR is entirely different than your conversion rate.
Your CTR is the rate at which people click on your website from the Google search results. Your conversion rate, on the other hand, is the percentage of people who convert into paying customers, whether it’s by making a phone call or clicking a submit button on your actual site.
By targeting the appropriate customer-centric keywords, you can nail down exactly what people are searching for, and what causes people to take action when they arrive on your landing page.
They Improve Audience Engagement
Nailing down your keywords results in better audience engagement because they are now tied into what your customers are actually looking for.
When they find the right results for their query, that’s when the magic happens. They’re more likely to stay on your site and read your articles, and they may even subscribe to your newsletter.
Don’t forget that your ultimate goal is improved audience engagement. Your audience includes:
- all potential subscribers;
- anyone that you may want to become a subscriber; and
- any person who stumbles upon your website in the SERPs.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that you’re shooting for better engagement, and keywords can be so effective at doing so.
They Help You Build Authority in Your Niche
When you choose the right keywords, you also help tell Google that you know what you’re talking about and are an authority on your chosen topic.
The more topics and subtopics that you include on your website, the better this can establish your authority. Here’s why:
Say you are writing a post about widgets, but you aren’t quite as knowledgeable about widgets as you may like. So you do some research, and you find that people are talking more about technical widgets, layman widgets and gold widgets. They may also be talking about silver and platinum widgets. This is where you can build your authority by talking about the topic in more detail than you would have otherwise.
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to talking about your chosen topic. This is where keywords, entities and combinations of these come in. They can help you establish to Google that you really do know exactly what you are talking about.
Don’t confuse keywords with topics, though. To tell them apart, think of keywords as specific, targeted words that you use to find your topics in the SERPs. They are also more likely to be broader than the topic you chose to write about.
In this case, you would be targeting the broader version of those keywords, while leaving the specifics to your topic. Drilling down even further, the topic would be exactly what your website is about. If your keyword is SEO, for instance, then your topic may be How to Do On-Page SEO or How to Do Off-Page SEO (link building).
They Benefit Local Brick and Mortar Businesses
Local businesses utilize region-specific versions of SEO, i.e. local SEO, in order to achieve results in the Google SERPs. Local SEO is exactly what its name implies: a localized version of SEO that takes into account location attributes such as geographical coordinates, cities, counties, postal codes and the like.
Creating local keywords includes doing so along the lines of “personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles” or “Los Angeles shoe stores.” These types of local keywords are highly localized, making them ideal for targeting people searching for “near me” products and services.
So if you specialize in selling things that are entirely local in nature, then you may want to consider using localized keywords. These could help you find nearby customers who are willing to purchase things from your local business.
How Can You Tell If Your SEO Pro Is Using Keywords Correctly?
When it comes to optimizing pages for keywords, there are several rules that SEO practitioners tend to follow. While they can differ from person to person, the following is a good guide to ensuring that you have a solid understanding of at least the basics to look out for.
Evaluating an SEO professional’s work is challenging for the non-SEO-savvy business professional. This is especially true if you don’t know much about the techniques they are using.
First, you will want to ask them how they are optimizing your page. It could be that they are using very different techniques than those discussed here. This, however, is a good baseline to follow:
- one page per main targeted keyword;
- one keyword in the title tag;
- one keyword in the meta description tag;
- at least one keyword in the heading tags;
- at least one keyword in the supporting heading tags;
- at least one variation of the main keyword sprinkled throughout the content where appropriate;
- image alt text populated with at least one variation of the keyword describing the image;
- image title text populated with a minimum of one variation of the keyword providing supplemental image information; and
- pages including at least two to three internal links to other pages within the content where relevant and natural.
You can also check the optimization plugins within WordPress to see whether or not the page has been optimized for a targeted keyword phrase at all. Many SEO pros worth their salt will use the following plugins, although your specific situation can always vary:
Don’t forget that you can also perform a deep dive SEO audit with our Ultimate SEO Audit template, which can help you identify the why and the how behind your keyword strategy.
This is but one set of guidelines that anyone on the business side can use to determine whether or not their SEO pro is doing what they should be.
Keyword Targeting Can Make or Break Your SEO Success
Just as your choice of SEO professional can make or break the success of your website, the right keyword targeting can make or break the success of your SEO efforts.
If an SEO professional’s keyword targeting and optimization falls short, they may fall short of performing to your expectations. This is why it’s important at the beginning of every contract to outline your expectations and discuss how you will measure goals, performance and task completion. If any of your expectations are misplaced, this should be discussed with your SEO professional.
As one of the most important elements of any successful SEO endeavor, discussing keyword targeting at the outset can help mitigate any headaches later on.