Keyword research — on its own — isn’t always enough. A good keyword needs to tick several boxes, which common sense and editorial skill can help you uncover. In order to develop effective SEO practices, a good keyword needs to tick the following five boxes:
1. A good keyword should be a word or phrase that people are actually searching for.
Researching keywords is a crucial step towards delivering great content. Some keywords may look exactly right for what you have to offer. Maybe you like to describe your toilet-roll business as ‘paper-based sanitary solutions provision’, but if no one else is searching for this phrase, there’s not much point optimising for it.
Or maybe your SEO team is optimizing for ‘budget air fares to Helsinki’ because you think ‘budget fares’ is more your tone of voice than ‘cheap flights’. But if the whole world is searching for ‘cheap flights to Helsinki’ when they want a modestly priced trip to Finland, no one will ever find your company website in order to appreciate your lovely tone.
2. A good keyword or phrase should support useful or relevant content.
For example, a rail passenger watchdog website found that many people came to their site in search of train times. This was a popular keyword in search traffic, but they had no content to develop around it, and train times formed no part of their service. For this organization, and despite the keyword’s popularity, it would have been foolish to write content around this keyword (other than to direct people to the correct site).
3. A good keyword should be mapped to your business goals.
If you sell cat food online, it might be tempting to optimize your copy for ‘cute cats’, lolcatz’ or ‘cats playing piano’. That’s because, bizarrely, these are some of the most popular terms that people search for online. But you’re unlikely to get found in heavy competition, and the people who do find you aren’t necessarily interested in buying cat food – which is, after all, what your business is about. So, you need a strategic plan in place, mapping out the content that would be relevant to your visitors and targeted audience.
4. A good keyword could be really quite long.
The average number of words that online searchers put into the Google letterbox goes up all the time, and is constantly evolving. In 2004, no one would have put 8 words or more into a single search phrase. By 2009, 4% of users were doing so – and the average is going up all the time. Also, studies indicate that user satisfaction goes up as search query length increases. As increasingly sophisticated Googlers, we understand that the more specific we can make our search, the better the quality of the results. So think about the niche, the specific, the long tail. This is the quality you are looking for, turning results more relevant for your targeted audience.
5. A good keyword is surrounded by quality content.
People often complain: “Why isn’t my page ranked number 1 for keyword ‘x’?” But to be honest, you should ask yourself if you really have the most useful or relevant content for a specific keyword on the Internet. If you don’t, then Google is doing its job well – and your task is to improve the quality of your content so you can be deserving of the number one spot. Google is increasingly looking for quality information and editorial rigour in today’s website content.
For example, one Google webmaster outlined the sort of questions that a search engine asks when assessing the quality of content:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert, or is it shallower in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping or redundant articles?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic or factual errors?
- Are topics driven by the genuine interests of readers of the site?
- Does the article provide original content or information?
- Does the page provide value compared to other pages in search results?
JonJon Yeung is a marketing executive at digital agency Tug and is a fanatic about digital marketing, exploring certain subjects in depth and preaching the importance of quality content. He regularly updates himself with the current search trends, follow him for more adventures. Connect with Tug on Twitter.