What Are Keywords And Why Are They Important

One of the things that I've been finding lately is that people are asking for more help with keywords and keyword tools.

But, when I ask them the questions that are going to help me determine which keywords and keyword tools would be best for them, they don't know what the motivations behind my questions are. They are asking for help with keywords because they know they need keywords; but they don’t know what good keywords do, why they are important, and how to best use them in their business. So let’s take a look at all of that and develop a better sense of what keywords are and why they are important.  

First things first, what are keywords?

The term keyword is, first of all, not exactly literal. A keyword isn’t always one word: it can be a phrase or almost a sentence essentially. Keywords help search engines identify relevant results that they can then deliver up to their users. 

What is a keyword in relation to your business?

The best way to think about it is that a keyword is what someone is typing into a search engine in order to find out your business and your product or service. 

So if you owned a soap store in Cleveland, and someone was searching for anything soap related, you would want to utilize keywords that would guarantee that you get served up in the search results.

We should all be thinking of keywords in terms of what someone is searching for.

Our keywords should essentially be the answer, or part of the answer, to the questions that people are asking when they search for anything related to our business. 

What makes keywords fantastic is that people search a variety of different ways. They think of things differently.

They come up with different phrases to actually express what they mean when they're trying to search for your business and what you do. As small business owners, our library of keywords should be driven by our customer’s motivation. Whatever the customer's motivations are...that’s what your keyword library is going to be built on.

The important thing to remember is to always try to make sure that you are actually creating keywords that are going to be directly related to your customer's motivation.  Because if you're describing what you do in a way that doesn't align with what you actually do or what people are searching for, then it's going to make it really hard for you to get found by someone that's doing a search.

What is it that they need? Why do they need it? When do they need it? All of those things (and more) are going to go into what your keywords are.  

After you’ve figured all of that out, there are tools out there that are going to help you to refine your keywords and develop alternative ways of saying things so that they fit within the way that a lot of people actually do search. 

If you're wondering what kind of tools you can start with; Google Trends is a good place to start. You can use Google Trends to find keywords, find out when they're trending, and good alternative keywords.

Ubersuggest is another great, free tool for keyword searching.

One that I love and use is called Keywords Everywhere. It is not free, but it's relatively cheap. It's $10 for one hundred thousand credits. You buy the credits and each keyword you research only costs one credit; so you won’t likely need more than that first $10 payment to do some very extensive research.

So let's talk about why keywords are important. 

The first big use of keywords is in search based advertising, such as Google, Bing or even Pinterest.

When you're targeting a keyword via advertising, it means that you are essentially buying placement in the search results when someone looks up that phrase. If you want to get found for a keyword, you should first research whether or not people are using it.

Once you have a great keyword, you place your keyword ad into an ads platform. Whenever someone searches that term there will be an auction where you’ve pre-placed a bid for the ability to be the first result that they see. The winner of that auction is whoever has the best ad, the best landing page (the page that they're sending people to), as well as a good bid (you can outbid other people and be outbid).

It's not just about who is spending more money. 

Having a better ad overall matters because what platforms care about, specifically Google, is that they're serving up good content. And because they want to make sure that someone's question is being answered; they're not going to serve up an ad that does not look like it's going to answer that person's question.

Your ad has to appear as though it's going to answer the searcher's question and also the landing page that you send them to needs to answer the question too.

And that brings up the second use of keywords:  you also use them throughout your website to prove your relevance to the search engines.

Every page should have some keywords that you're trying to be discovered for. If someone was looking for those keywords, they would be delivered to your page as an answer to their question.

There's a few pages that don’t need to be keyword optimized:  your privacy policy, your contact us page, your accessibility policy. Everything else should be optimized for being found for a specific phrase. You can try to optimize your entire site to be found for one specific phrase or you can optimize each individual page.  

And don’t try to cheat and use keywords on your pages that aren’t related to your actual business. 

Websites used to try and fool search engine by having crazy keywords stuffed into them. Don't do that. It does not work and you will be penalized. Every search engine is now smart enough to understand what you're doing. When they scan your page and see what looks like a bunch of keywords stuffed into the page, it will signal to the search engine to ignore this page because this page is trying to cheat. 

To sum it up, your keywords should be answering your customer’s questions. 

They should say “Hey, I'm the person who can help you with that.” or “Hey, I do that and I sell this”  If your keywords are not doing that for you, they're the wrong keywords.

Your keywords are serving to help people identify you as the answer to their question. 

Search engines are changing on a daily basis. Every single one of them is getting smarter and smarter, so it becomes really important that we are really putting our thoughts towards what our customer's motivations are and how we can solve for their motivations.

You'll develop your business’s keywords over time. People always get more sophisticated about what they're asking for in search engines. As your business grows and develops more offerings, keywords will change.  Adapt to these factors and keywords can truly help drive your business’s success. 

Want to learn more about how to pick the keywords that will resonate with your customer?  

Aligning your customer's story to your communication is the secret to all good marketing.  Check out these related articles for more details:  What's Holding Your Back -  A Quick Look Into Your Business Branding  or  Why You Should Be Spending More Time Developing Your Small Business Brand