How to choose keywords for your content

If you want to attract lots of high-quality organic traffic to your website, there are two things you'll need to do:

  1. Choose the right keywords.
  2. Create great content to fit those keywords.

Both steps require careful consideration and a bit of hard work, but there are certain things you can do to make this process less stressful.

Today, we're going to focus on step one: finding the best keywords to target.

What are keywords?

Keywords - also called 'queries' or 'search terms' - are what people type in when using a search engine like Google or Bing.

(To be honest, 'keyword' is a slightly misleading name; most search terms consist of more than one word, so perhaps 'keyphrase' would be more accurate.)

Some keywords are extremely popular. Phrases like online food shopping and clothes for kids consistently clock up tens of thousands of Google searches every month.

But people are constantly searching, and many of them use keywords that nobody else has ever used before. Google themselves have stated that 15% of the queries their search engine processes are brand new.

There are all sorts of different phrases and questions an individual might enter when searching the web for the product or service that you provide. So how can you decide which keywords are worth targeting on your website?

Always begin with keyword research

Before you begin any keyword-driven task, there's one thing you need to do: research, research, research! This is what will lay the foundations for your keyword choices and the quality content that you're going to create - the content that will hopefully rank among the top Google results for those queries.

Companies with a sizeable marketing budget can hire an SEO agency (like us!) to conduct their keyword research for them. Specialist agencies carry out this type of work every day, using an assortment of tools to gain a deep insight into different keywords - how often they're used, how competitive they are, who currently ranks for them and why, etc.

If your business doesn't have the budget to hire an SEO expert, you can do some keyword research on your own - but be warned, this can quickly become a mammoth task!

Search intent: what is the user looking for?

One of the most important things to consider when choosing keywords is the intent behind each query. What question or need is the keyword expressing? What is the user's likely end goal?

As an example, imagine two Google users, Alice and Bob. Alice types in cheap car insurance, while Bob enters the longer query is car insurance cheaper for electric cars. These keyphrases are superficially similar, but they suggest very different end goals: Alice seems like she's ready to take out a new insurance policy, while the longer search string suggests that Bob is simply looking for information right now. Only one of these people has their credit card handy right now.

Learn more about search intent

Broadly speaking, keywords can be divided into three different 'intent' categories:

  • Navigational keywords are looking for a specific web page. They have one particular result in mind, and they're unlikely to click on any others. For example, wikipedia is a navigational keyword; the user is probably trying to reach Wikipedia's homepage.

  • Informational keywords are used to find answers and information. Example: you want to whip up a chocolate cake, but you don't have a recipe handy, so you search for how to bake a chocolate cake.

  • Commercial keywords are those that suggest you're looking to make a purchase. Queries that include the word buy are very strong indicators of commercial intent; for instance, a user who types buy playstation 4 into Google or Bing is pretty clearly looking to purchase a games console (and will almost certainly be shown a whole bunch of shopping results).

If you can match your content to the search intent, you will have a better chance of ranking for your chosen keyword, and a better chance of satisfying the people who visit your website.

Check out the competition

Another important factor to consider when choosing keywords is competition. Before you get your heart set on ranking for a particular search term, type it into Google and take a look at what you're up against.

First, look at the ads that appear (if there are any). For most Google searches, these appear at the top of the results page, and they should be marked as either 'Ad' or 'Sponsored'. The number and quality of ads displayed can give you a rough idea of how competitive a keyword is.

Next, look at the websites that rank organically underneath the ads. If the first page of results is dominated by big brands with enormous marketing budgets, you may find it hard to rank alongside them unless you're willing to spend a similar amount of money.

However, if you feel that you can create a piece of content (e.g. a blog post, infographic or video) that's better than anything that currently ranks for your chosen keyword - and which will do a better job of fulfilling the search intent - then it's worth giving it a try and seeing what results you're able to achieve.

Create the right content

Let's say you've written an excellent piece of content that offers lots of helpful information. It's far better - more relevant, more informative, easier to digest - than anything on the first page of Google results for your chosen keyword. But you're still not ranking. Why?

Ask yourself whether you've chosen the right format. For example, if you're in the landscaping industry and you design gardens for a living, a thousand-word blog post on different design concepts is unlikely to be as useful as a high-quality image (no matter how insightful or how well-written the blog is).

Think about different types of media, and try to determine which would most resonate with the search intent you pinned down earlier. Potential options include:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Charts

You may even be able to come up with something entirely unique that fits the search intent better than anything else currently on offer!

Map keywords to specific pages on your website

It's important to know which specific web page / piece of content you want search engines to rank for a given keyword. Targeting the same keyword on multiple pages can create keyword cannibalisation issues - read more about cannibalisation (and why it's a problem) here.

Remember, websites don't rank on search engines - web pages do. Instead of creating several pages that are all somewhat relevant to your chosen search term, create one outstanding page that ticks all the boxes, and this should have a higher chance of ranking.

Looking for help with keyword research and search engine optimisation? Designer Websites can help - get in touch to discuss your requirements!

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Long Tail Keywords 

Trying to rank on search engines, like Google, is becoming more and more difficult, especially with the ever-changing face of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and the growing competition online. Finding ways to capture traffic to your website is absolutely crucial to online success, and often this means attempting to get your website in a top position on the front page of Google, the holy grail of search engine traffic – but how can you achieve this?

We all want our websites to be found on page 1 for broad search terms that represent our business, but this can be extremely hard if your business faces significant competition online, especially where the competition is very large brands with deep pockets for marketing. However, all is not lost, in fact, this often means that you just have to work a little harder at long tail keywords, which more often than not can drive the most valuable traffic to your website.

In this article, we will be explaining what long tail key words are, and how targeting them can help to drive valuable traffic to your website.

What are long tail keywords?

A long tail keyword is a search term that is typically around 2-4 words long, albeit they can be longer. A long tail key word is mostly defined by how specific it is rather than its length.

Example broad search term: Exercise Class

Example Long-tail keyword: Boxercise Classes in Cardiff

So, unlike broad search terms, long-tailed keywords are far more specific, and therefore usually have substantially lower search traffic volumes. So why use them? We want MORE traffic not less, so why target phrases with substantially fewer searches?

Well, in the example above, the chances are that your business offers more than just Boxercise classes. So now the next step is to consider a page targeting each keyword term e.g. Spin Classes in Cardiff, Zumba Fitness Training, Hardcore Fitness Class, etc. Through this, you can start to build the volume of traffic up, and all you’ve done is negate the types of broad searches that may not have resulted in a buyer anyway.

Over the last decade, consumer searching habits have become more defined as users have become savvier with search engine result. This means that people tend to understand that a broad search for anything will not necessarily deliver what they are looking for, so they now naturally provide more specific search terms.

You can take advantage of this new method of search with long tail keywords. A lot of big companies rely heavily on the broad terms as they believe this provides them with a stronger position, but invariably it actually doesn’t. This is why long tail keywords will work in your favour as there is less competition from the larger companies. 

Why should we use long tail keywords?

The most important thing on your website is your call to action. So in this case, you want someone to sign-up for a class, right? Therefore, what you need is traffic that results in conversions, not just random visitors which makes long-tailed keywords very useful. Imagine you're a gym based in Cardiff and ask yourself this: will it be easier to convert someone who searched “Exercise Class” or “Boxercise Class in Cardiff”?

Long-tailed keywords are now natural searches for result-savvy consumers, but for the not so savvy searchers, they tend to come a little later. For example, a user might start by searching for “exercise class” and then realise that it’s not really what they were looking for, or the gyms advertised were national and not local, so they decide to search for “exercise classes in Cardiff”.  They then find gyms but not necessarily the classes they want, so next, they search for something even more specific, like “Zumba classes in Cardiff”, and finally they receive the results they were looking for. Either way, we all usually end up searching for what we want via long tail keywords when we are serious about buying or booking.

With that being said, in some cases, it may well be necessary to target obvious ‘broad’ search terms for your business. However, it is highly likely you will be faced with a high-budget battle against your competition. In this case, we recommend working on your long tail keyword opportunities first and then focusing on the broad terms for your business.

Long tail keywords also apply to PPC advertising

If you run pay per click (PPC) advertising for your website, then it would benefit your business to consider the same strategy. For example, setup your campaigns to focus on the long tail keywords first, and then work backwards to include some of the broader search terms for your industry in tightly budgeted campaigns. This usually results in much better conversions on the long tail keywords, and a mopping effect on the broad terms, which tend to be more expensive.

Long-tail keyword focus will reduce your bounce rate

The bounce rate on your web pages essentially tells you how many people search for a term, or hit a link to your website, and only read one page before leaving. High bounce rates are generally-speaking very bad because it likely means someone who found your website left before navigating around - although, of course, there are instances where this is acceptable behaviour.

A typical example of a searcher who bounces is where a consumer has searched for, say “exercise class”, and they hit a page showing a gym not local to them, or doesn’t have the specific class they are looking for, and so they leave within seconds. This will happen a lot if you focus heavily on broad search terms.

If your website focusses heavily on long tail keywords instead, then you will attract searchers who are looking more specifically for that product or service and are therefore less likely to bounce, and more likely to buy.

How to choose the right long tail keywords?

Do your research

You need to spend time doing valuable keyword research. You may assume that your customers think about your brand, products or services in the same way that you do, but that doesn't mean they will search for you in the same way. Although you may be an expert in your industry, it is still vital to research what is actually generating search traffic to figure out what keywords you should target.

Tools such as Google's Keyword Planner allow you to see statistics concerning search volume and estimated bid costs for different keywords. This provides you with an opportunity to weigh up your options and make a logical keyword plan.  There are other keyword research tools out there, but these are beyond the scope of this article.

Identify niches

As discussed, long tail keywords allow you to better target consumers who are more focused in terms of what they are looking for. This often occurs once the person has done their product/service research and have a better idea of what they are looking for, and will naturally narrow their search term.

So, we talked about exercise class types and using the niche terms for these, but colours are often a good niche in certain markets too. For example, someone who may be interested in buying decking may have looked through various websites and information. Following this research, that customer has learned more about the product that best suits their requirements. Through this product research, the customer has arrived at the conclusion that they would like “grey composite decking”, which is now the term they search for, therefore targeting this niche term and bringing you closer to capturing a sale.    

Your keyword research should include as many niche terms as you can think of, as these often produce highly valuable search terms.

Keep it balanced

As discussed earlier, a wise place to start is to focus on the long-tail keywords first, and then later consider the broader terms, which should result in a balanced strategy.

Remember to focus on a small set of keywords per page, and do not contaminate other pages with the same keywords (read more about why you should avoid this here). Good luck! 

For expert advice on this subject, or any other online marketing subject, our team of friendly SEO Experts would be more than happy to assist, so if you need help please get in touch with us!

Keyword Cannibalisation

'Cannibalisation' is a very scary-sounding word, isn't it? It certainly conjures up some very grim mental images. While keyword cannibalisation isn't quite as grisly a concept as its name might suggest, it can cause big problems for your website, making it difficult for search engines to identify each page's purpose and potentially dragging down your rankings as a result.

If you're unfamiliar with the idea of keyword cannibalisation, fear not - in this article, we'll talk about what it is, how it happens, and how to rectify it.

What is keyword cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation is what happens when your website contains multiple pages that target the same keyword(s). Ideally, every search term you wish to rank for should be targeted on one page and one page only - otherwise, you're just forcing your own pages to compete with ('cannibalise') one another.

Here's an example of how this might happen. Imagine you own a second-hand furniture shop, and you want your website to be the #1 Google result for the popular keyphrase 'antique furniture'. In order to achieve this, you:

  • Use the phrase 'antique furniture' numerous times on your homepage
  • Dedicate one of your internal category pages to 'antique furniture'
  • Write a blog post all about antique furniture, sharing lots of helpful information for potential customers

This may seem like a strong strategy, but what you're actually doing is making it difficult for Google and other search engines to identify which of your three 'antique furniture' pages they should actually be listing as a result for that query.

Why is keyword cannibalisation a problem?

As mentioned above, the problem with keyword cannibalisation is that those pages with the same keywords will be competing against one another in the SERPs. As a result, some or all of those pages may not rank for your chosen keywords at all, or all may just rank lower than if just one page was targeted. That's an issue, because in spite of the keywords they share, each of the competing pages may actually serve a totally different purpose from its brethren.

Generally speaking, Google will not list 2 or more pages from the same website among its top 10 results for a given query UNLESS the algorithm is pretty certain that the user is looking for that specific website. (For instance, Googling 'eBay toys' will bring up a number of pages from eBay, whereas the top organic results for 'antique furniture' are gathered from a variety of different sites.) Google like to hedge their bets, and in most cases, they've got a better chance of satisfying the user if they show 10 results from 10 different sources rather than taking multiple pages from a single site.

This means that, when Google's crawlers look at your website, you want it to be absolutely crystal-clear which page is best suited to which search term. If you're presenting several different pages as possible responses to the query 'antique furniture', Google will get confused and may pick the wrong page to rank (e.g. a blog post rather than your main 'antique furniture' category, which might have had a better chance of driving clicks and conversions). Worse still, if none of the competing pages particularly stand out from the crowd, they may even decide not to rank any of your pages for that keyword at all.

Here are some other issues that may occur as a result of keyword cannibalisation:

  • Content Quality - It would be difficult to have a plethora of pages on the subject of  ‘antique oak furniture’ (for example) and ensure that each one was made up of interesting, useful and original content. Spreading your content too thinly across too many competing pages will inevitably reduce the overall quality of your website, and when it comes to ranking, unique high quality content beats quantity hands-down. Poor content not only leads to poor user experience, it also leads to high bounce rates and discourages people from sharing pages.

  • External Links - Even if you do manage to make your competing pages share-worthy, you risk splitting your link equity and diluting the search engine 'juice' you receive when other websites link to yours. It's far better to have a single page/resource for each subject you wish to cover, because that way, anyone who links to you will easily be able to identify which of your URLs they should send their users to. If 10 people want to link to a page about 'antique oak furniture', you ideally want all of them to link to the same part of your website - this will have a greater impact on your rankings than dividing those 10 links between multiple destinations.

  • Internal Links - The above applies to internal links, too. Internal links are a big ranking factor; in order to determine the hierarchy of your website (i.e. which pages are most important), Google and the other search engines pay close attention to which of your own pages you link to from other parts of your website, how often you link to each page, and what words you use when you do so. If you've got just 1 page about 'antique oak furniture', you can simply link to that one every time you mention that subject elsewhere on your site. If there are 30 'antique oak furniture' links on your website - 10 to a category page, 10 to a specific product, and 10 to a blog post you wrote - it will be difficult for the bots to ascertain which of those linked pages might make the best result when somebody types 'antique oak furniture' into a search engine.

What can I do about keyword cannibalisation?

If you’re over-using keywords on purpose because you believe it will boost your rankings, we would strongly recommend that you stop right now. Keyword cannibalism often happens by accident, but some site owners, and even some online marketing agencies, mistakenly think that using the same keyword in multiple titles and headings throughout a website will help that website rank better for the cannibalised keyword. As we've explained, though, that simply isn't the case.

Hopefully, you’re now in a position to avoid keyword cannibalisation from the get-go. When creating a website, you can avoid this error by making sure you have thoroughly planned the site architecture. Every page should be detailed, unique, and serve its own distinct purpose. If two of your pages are giving users more or less the same information on the same subject, then one of them is a waste, and likely damaging your rankings. Furthermore, all keywords, titles and header tags should be unique to their page. Once you know what pages you need and what each one's function is, it should be relatively easy to choose the keyword(s) for each page using a tool like Keyword Planner.

If you’ve already got a cannibalisation problem (not to be confused with a real-life cannibal problem, which we unfortunately cannot help with), then it’s time to clean up your pages. Start by going through your website and identifying groups of pages that are targeting the same keyword; then, review each group and pick the ONE page from each that you think best addresses the search term in question. (Tip: take a look at which page currently ranks highest for that keyword on Google - it's probably safe to assume that that page will have the best shot of climbing higher once the cannibalisation issue is resolved.)

Once you've selected one page for each keyword, you have 2 choices regarding what to do with the other cannibal pages:

  • Get rid of them. If the cannibal pages don't actually serve any purpose to the user, the best thing to do is delete them and use 301 redirects to send their URLs to the good-quality page you've chosen to keep. This will mean that any links to the cannibalised pages pass their ranking 'juice' to the good page instead. Anyone who attempts to visit any of the deleted pages in the future will be redirected to the page you kept.

  • Retarget them. If your cannibalised pages are important to the broader user experience on your website, then you can keep them, but what you'll need to do is de-optimise them and target different keywords instead. For instance, let's say that you've decided to use a category page as your landing page for the term 'antique furniture' - that keyword also appears heavily on your homepage, and since you obviously can't delete your homepage, you should instead do a bit of keyword research and identify a different search term to target there. (Perhaps a more generic term that covers your entire offering, rather than just your antique line.)

The golden rule when it comes to keyword cannibalisation is that every page of your website should offer something unique. If every page serves a different purpose, there's little risk of crossover between keywords, page copy, and meta tags because you'll need different words to describe each page's function. Keyword cannibalisation can be a pretty good indicator that you have multiple pages stepping on each other's toes and offering basically the same information/service to the end user - if that's the case, either strip those unnecessary pages out or justify their existence by giving them their own unique focus.

If you need help with your website’s SEO, our team of experts are more than happy to help. Contact Designer Websites now to discuss your requirements.