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Can SEO Keywords Be Phrases?

The answer is a resounding “yes”! Phrases (or sentences) are great for both SEO and PPC.

In the past, optimising your website content for search engines meant focusing on simple keywords or combinations of words, such as “lawyer”, “jewellery”, “lighting shop”, “Xbox console”, etc. These simple keywords still have a place in search, but as the internet has grown over the last two decades, they have become incredibly competitive, with so many other businesses vying for the same search terms.

There has been a rise in optimising for what we call “long-tail” keywords in recent years. These are detailed phrases of several words that can often be in the form of a sentence or question. They are less competitive so you are more likely to rank well for them in search engines.

How Keywords Are Grouped

Keywords lengths used for SEO and PPC are grouped into three very funny named categories:

  • “Fat Head” – these are one or two words like “lawyer”, “plumber”, “jewellery shop”, or “PlayStation” that are searched for a lot, but they are also very competitive. In SEO, it’s hard to target these keywords as you are up against so many other businesses trying to optimise for the same words. They are also much more expensive to bid for in PPC.
  • “Chunky Middle” – these are groups of three or four words like “silver jewellery shop”, “luxury landscape gardener”, or “Women’s Adidas Superstar Originals”. They are still reasonably competitive, but as they are more specific, you have a better chance of ranking well for them in search engines.
  • “Long Tail” – these are phrases of several words. They can be in the form of a detailed product or service search such as “Nike air max pink on sale” or “second-hand specialist record shop in Oxford”. They can also be in the form of questions or sentences like “How do I wire a plug?”, “What is the best printer to buy?”, or “Best trainers for flat feet”.

The names of these categories were created from how they appear on a graph of search volume per number of words (see image below). The “Fat Head” is big and tall as those simple keywords are searched for a lot but are also competitive, down to the “Long Tail” phrases with lower search volumes but less competition.

Keyword Length in Search Engines graph

Although there are not as many searches for each long-tail keyword, they are less competitive to optimise your website for, and so you are more likely to be seen and convert the person to a sale.

How to optimise your website for long-tail keyphrases

Optimising for phrases on your site can be done in several ways:

  • If the phrase you want to optimise for is about a product you sell, you can try and see if the phrase will fit on the product page. Often creating an FAQ at the bottom of your product page will help with those question-based phrases. For example, if you were selling a Close Caboo baby carrier, and people asked about what age it was suitable for, then an FAQ at the bottom of the page along the lines of “What age is the Close Caboo suitable for?” and then the answer would work. If the question needs an in-depth explanation, such as “How do put on a Close Caboo?” then it might be better to create a separate page or blog to do this.
  • You could create a page on your website for each phrase you want to optimise for, for example, if you are a heating engineer and a popular question was “How often should I get my boiler serviced?”, creating a page on your website to answer this question would be great for SEO
  • Another option is to house some of your “long tail” SEO in a blog. For example, if you were a marketing business, you could optimise for the phrase “How does PPC work?” by creating a blog using the phrase as a title and then using the blog post to answer the question.

Where possible, use the keyword/phrases you are optimising for in:

  • The H1 title of the page
  • The URL (e.g. business.yell.com/knowledge/ppc/how-do-ppc-ads-work)
  • Page copy
  • Meta tags
  • Image alt text

So the search engines understand your whole page/blog post is about the same topic.

Answer The Public is a great site to find out what questions people ask about a topic. You get a couple of free searches per day, so you can keep coming back and finding new questions to answer.

I searched for the word ‘divorce’ as that might be a valuable topic for solicitors that specialise in family law. The image below is what came back.

Answer the Public - SEO questions for the word "divorce"

Not every question that comes back will be relevant to you, but you’ll find some real gems in there. Here’s an image of what Answer the Public returned for my search: For example, in my search, I think these would make excellent blog posts for a solicitor:

  • “Which divorce papers do I file?”
  • “Which divorce is better?”
  • “How is a divorce settlement calculated?
  • “How divorce works in the UK?”
  • “Will a divorce affect my credit file?”
  • “Divorce – Where do I start?”
  • “When divorced, what happens to the house?”

Quick note: You may need to tweak the questions slightly from Answer the Public for better grammar; for example, in my search, I tweaked “when divorce what happens to the house” to “When divorced, what happens to the house?”.

Now it’s time to get going. Firstly, think about your product or service and what areas you’d like to focus on for SEO. Next, search on Answer the Public to see what questions people are asking about your product, service, or just your industry in general. Once you have some phrases or questions, see where you could house them on your website – product page, web page, or blog? Then create a schedule to write the content.

Once your pages are up, keep checking to see how well you’re performing using a program like Google Analytics to track page visits. Don’t forget to use this useful content on social media too – if your audience in the search engines is interested in the topic, then no doubt your social followers will be too!