January 22, 2014 | Emily Winsauer

5 Basic Keyword Questions Answered

5 Basic Keyword Questions

Keywords sound more complicated than they are, sometimes even more so when you start doing keyword research and SEO (search engine optimization).

Here are 5 basic keyword questions that everyone has when they start out with SEO - and sometimes even after they've been doing it a while!

Q: What does “keyword” mean, really?

A: Simply, keywords are words or phrases that describe your content. In practice, they are the words or phrases that people use to search for content. By including, or “targeting,” specific keywords in your blog posts or website pages, you’re trying to do two things: 1) attract those people to click on your link by offering them what they’re looking for, and 2) tell search engines what your content is about so they can offer it up as search results.

Q: Is this a keyword?

A: Is someone searching for it? Then yes. There’s no master list anywhere; you’re only accountable to your audience and how they’re searching for content.

Q: What’s a long tail keyword?

A: While long tail keywords are usually longer, their name actually comes from a graph of search term distribution – this post from Moz explains it nicely. In effect, the term “long tail keyword” refers to words that are searched for less often than the top keywords, but are more specific – therefore, by targeting them, you’re more likely to rank for them in search results.

For example, if you have a blog post called “how do I do keyword research,” you’re more likely to rank for that full phrase than for simply “keyword.” Put another way, if I search for “keyword,” I’ll find a much wider range of things than if I search for “how do I do keyword research.” Thus, it’s easier for you to rank more highly for a long tail keyword, because you’ll appear in a smaller group of results.

Long tail keywords boil down to attempting to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. However, it’s important to point out that long-tail keywords make up by far the majority of search traffic, so here’s another metaphor: everyone wants to be on the beach, but there are more fish in the ocean.

Q: Why am I seeing “Keyword (Not Provided)”?

A: Recently, Google and a number of other browsers have stopped providing keyword information on most keywords by redirecting logged-in users to encrypted search sites. If you regularly check your analytics, you’ve almost certainly seen “Keyword (Not Provided)” among your results. Unfortunately, there’s not much to say – we’re all in the same boat.

However, while this affects your reporting, it doesn’t have to affect your results. The best thing you can do is continue to do keyword research based on your buyer personas and look at how people would be searching for your products and services, then consistently target those things. If you’re seeing increased traffic, especially to certain pages, then you’ll know it’s working, whether Google Analytics is providing keywords or not.

Q: How do I find keywords?

A: There are lots of very sophisticated paid keyword tools, including ones like HubSpot that track your keywords as a part of your overall marketing strategy, but let’s focus on free tools.

Free Keyword Tools

If you have a Google account, you can use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to do research. You can also use SEO Book’s Keyword List Generator and Keyword Tool, which offer lots of options (you have to create a free account to use the tools), and Ubersuggest, which has a more simple user interface but lets you sort and tag results (one caveat: PG-13 ads may appear).

For a little bit more detail, read How to Do Keyword Research for Your Next Blog Post!

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Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer is responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients. She works with the content team to create a wide range of compelling content designed to help our clients better connect with their customers.

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