Why do keywords matter?

If you are new to internet marketing or writing for money on the internet, than you will want to understand the concept of keywords because it is one of the biggest keys to success online.

What is a Keyword Actually?

In internet marketing parlance, a keyword, or more accurately a keyword phrase or group of words, is:

  • what the search engines decide a webpage or article is about 
  • a search term an ad is targeting
  • a search term an article or website is targeting
  • how you tag your article or webpage

Keywords Drive Search Engines

The point of the modern search engine is to return relevent results based on the words the user types into the search box.  To carry out this difficult task the search engine must evaluate billions of web pages to decide what they are about and match those pages to the billions of possible combinations of words used in searches.  Fortunately internet searchers tend to use some search phrases more often than others and this is measurable.

Regional variations in language give a good example.  In the UK the search term "furnished flats in London" would be quite popular.  In Canada, where there is also a London, the search term "furnished apartments in London" would be more popular since the word "apartment" is more common than the word "flat".  If someone were marketing flats in London, England they should be using the most appropriate keywords for that market to match what the target searchers are typing into the search engines. 

Keywords Drive Contextual Ads

Contextual Advertising relies on little programs called bots or spiders that crawl over websites and deduce what keywords a website is using.  The ad network than assigns ads to be shown on the site based on those keywords.

This article is about keywords, so it will attract ads related to internet marketing.  If, however, the article keeps using Vancouver apartments as an example, it may also attract ads for Vancouver real estate. Getting the correct keywords into an article and avoiding words that will trigger the wrong ads is part of writing an article that will attract appropriate ads and the money that flows from them.   

How to Research Keywords

There are a number of paid keyword tools, but for the beginner all you really need is the free tool provided by Google at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

On the keyword tool input a phrase you guess is a good keyword for the topic you want to write.  The tool will suggest related keywords and show approximate search volume (you may need to add columns to the display).  Look for an appropriate phrase that has a smaller but meaningful search volume.

Next go to Google.com and search the keyword phrase with the search engine. Look at both the number of results and the quality of the results. Millions of results are going to be hard to compete with, but low quality results are a good sign because your article can be more targeted than the current results.  

The more general the search term the larger the estimated number of searches and the wider the number of results. The narrower the search term the easier it will be to get search traffic to the article based on the keywords selected.   These sweet spot keywords are often called "long tail keywords" because they fall in the long tail of searches.  

An Example of Long Tail

Lots of people will search for "vancouver english school" or "Vancouver ESL" and there will be a lot of sites competing for visitors using these keywords. However, far fewer people will search for "key english test vancouver".  While it will be very hard to write an article that will actually be found about the very general topic of ESL, it will be much easier to get to the top of the search results for the long tail topic.  It may seem counterintuitive that a topic few people are looking for is more valuable than a topic of interest to everyone, but that is the nature of the very competitive world of internet marketing.

Where to Use Keywords

URLs, titles, subheadings, bolded words, opening paragraphs and conclusions are all good places to include keywords because  the search engines place more weight on words in these key locations.  Tags are also useful, but not as much as they used to be.  When building links to the website using the target keywords as the link's anchor text signals to the search engine what your article or website is about. 

How Not to Use Keywords

Getting to the top of the search engine results for a highly searched keyword phrase can be very lucrative.  The search engines weed out sites that just stuff too many of the same keyword to game the search engines.  For example, if this article just repeated Vancouver Apartment over and over that would not help the article rank in the search engine for Vancouver Apartment.  Rather, too many keywords is called keyword stuffing and it gets the writer nowhere.

Like wine, keywords are good in moderation.  Don't engage in keyword stuffing - unnaturally repeating words and phrases to try to trick the search engines into ranking your page higher.  The search engines got wise and started penalizing sites after some webmasters tried to cheat by stuffed in excessive numbers of the the words they wanted to rank for in places like:

  • the actual text
  • headings and subheadings
  • invisible text (white on white or black text on a black background)
  • meta tags and meta data
  • page footers 

Natural writing that uses a reasonable number of repeats on the targeted keyword are better. Using natural variations, like saying "apartments in Vancouver" and "central Vancouver highrise apartment buildings" will help the article rank better in the search results and make the article more readable to humans.

These are only the basics of using keywords in internet writing and marketing, so keep reading and continuing to learn about keywords so that you can become a more effective internet marketer or passive income web writer.