So what’s a Keyword, Anyway?

what's a keywordThere are plenty of misconceptions regarding keywords and search engine optimization (SEO), from simply understanding what a keyword is to how to identify appropriate primary keywords for a given website. In this post and the next few to follow, let’s examine the fundamentals behind SEO keyword research.

In the practice of SEO, the term “keyword” is used in to identify the main topic of a page or post. A website can have many “keywords” which range from generic, one-word terms to longer phrases similar to those a user might enter in a search engine query.

Keywords as they relate to search results

The most common misconception related to keywords is left over from a bygone era of SEO. Meta Keywords were used until the mid-2000s as a way to list what a webpage was about. The term “meta” refers to them being “hidden” from the standard page content and embedded into the HTML code, visible only to search engine crawler bots.

Today it is no longer common practice to use them, but you can still add Meta Keywords to your web pages. Most search engines – specifically Google, which has the largest market share of all search engines – no longer use them for classification. It is important to note, however, that Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions are still sometimes used by search engines, and are often critical to a search engine strategy.

Websites often have multiple keywords

Any given website likely has a handful of keywords related to the products and services it features. An eCommerce site selling men’s and women’s clothing, for example, might have product keywords based on the items it offers:

Men’s Black Sweater Vests

Women’s Khaki Capris

A simple way to look at a SEO keyword strategy is to apply one primary keyword per page.

To go back to the clothing store example, the keyword will likely get longer as the user gets deeper into the product pages:

 Winter Clothes => Men’s Clothing => Men’s Sweaters => Men’s Black Wool Sweaters

⇐ Generic | Long Tail ⇒

A good rule of thumb is to select only one primary keyword for each page and post of your website. With this keyword, optimize the page content to emphasize that this keyword describes what the page is about.

Handling Home Page Keywords

Some SEO experts feel that home pages do not play a part in SEO keyword strategy. I agree on some levels, but think it is important to consider at least one generic top-level primary keyword and one branded term for the home page.

For example, on this site, my primary generic keyword for my home page is “Chicago SEO,” since this is the keyword that best describes my products and services. I also know that my homepage should index well in the branded term “LoopRank.”

Generic Keyword Branded Keyword
A keyword that does not consist of my brand’s name but is related to my industry or products.A keyword this is representative of my brand. If someone searches for my brand name, I want this site to appear.
Chicago SEOLoopRank SEO

 

Select primary keywords that correlate to actual search terms

The important aspect of selecting an appropriate keyword for a page or post on your site is to find keywords that correspond with queries that searchers are actually making. One common pitfall I see among my clients is using their trademarked terms or industry jargon as a page keyword such as:

“Power to the People™”.

Would anyone actually search for this term when they are looking for products and services that help them fulfill a specific need? There are some positives behind optimizing for trademark terms, but it is unlikely that searchers are looking for a specific industry term. A better strategy would be to select a keyword that someone might actually use when searching for products and services. So rather than the trademarked company name, a better keyword phrase might be

“portable iPhone chargers.”

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