The most important aspect of search engine optimisation (SEO) is your use of keywords. But what are they, and how do they work?
A keyword, or keyword phrase, is a word or a series of words which have great importance or significance. When writing for the web, these keywords have two main functions: to show both your customers and the search engine crawlers what you and your business are all about. Keywords will typically be your business functions, or important products that you supply. They will appear in your website’s content, in the off-page meta data, in the titles and page descriptions, and possibly even in the domain name. A good way to consider if you have chosen the right keywords is to think about what your customers would type into Google if they wanted to find you. Your keywords should match your customers’ searches.
Short-tail or broad keywords are usually just one or two words long. This kind of keyword is often searched for, and the competition to rank highly with these keywords is often quite strong. For example, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool tells us that the search term ‘builders’ gets over 9 million searches every month. These short-tail keywords do receive a lot of searches, and so should widen your reach on the web. However, trying to get on the first page of Google using this term would be extremely difficult, because there are so many others also trying to rank with this keyword. Many of the results returned could also be irrelevant: searching for ‘builders’ could return results to customers that include website builders, house builders, commercial builders and many other variations.
Long-tail keywords add a little more information into search terms. These are usually three to five word phrases which give a little more detail about the service or product being searched for, and should produce more accurate results. Adding adjectives to searches can often reduce irrelevant results, and adding locations can reduce this even further. The Keyword Tool tells us that the term ‘commercial builders in London ‘ receives just 110 searches per month. While this keyword will reach far less customers that the broader ‘builders’ search, the chances are that any potential customer searching using this term will have a clear idea of what they want to find, and therefore their visit to your website is more likely to convert into business for you.
Which should I use in my website?
For best SEO practice, it is a good idea to use a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords in your website’s content. This will allow you to advertise to a large volume of customers via broad search terms, but it will also allow you to deliver direct information to customers and search engines using your long-tail keywords. With the right mix of highly competitive and highly detailed search terms bringing traffic to your website, your business should soon feel the effects and your site should start climbing those search engine ranks.