What Are Keywords? Why Are Keywords Important to SEO? And How Do You Do Keyword Research?

Woman with magnifying glass examining keywords.

Can you do SEO without knowing about keywords? Probably not successfully.

So here I’ll explain this foundational concept as we explore:

What Are Keywords?

SEO keywords: are single words or short phrases that represent the search queries that people use in a search engine. Website owners or marketers select keywords and use them to guide content creation and optimize their webpages as part of their SEO strategy.

When you align your content creation and optimization with the words, topics, products and services your target audience is looking for, you have a better chance of showing up in the search results.

One reason keyword optimization is important is that using keywords properly helps communicate to the search engines what a webpage is about. And that can improve the chances that a search engine will find a webpage relevant for a particular query.

It’s important to note that Google uses many signals to determine if a page is relevant for a query, not just keywords. But they are a factor, and I’ll share data around that later.

What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

Long-tail keywords string together three or more words to create a more specific keyword phrase. Searchers perform long-tail queries in the following situations:

  • To narrow down what they are looking for as they search for products, services or information. When people are on a buying or knowledge journey, they often start with very broad or general keywords, maybe two-word phrases. As they begin to refine their research, search queries become much more specific and usually longer. So long-tail queries often have a higher conversion rate than the broad terms do.
  • When using voice search, for example on a mobile device. Data shows that 48% of consumers are using voice assistants for general web searches. Voice queries tend to be much more conversational because people are speaking and not typing.

In a nutshell, long-tail keywords allow you to target very specific queries during every step of the searcher’s journey. So even though they have less search volume than the more competitive broad keywords do, these phrases are valuable to rank for.

What You Shouldn’t Do with Keywords

When you’re creating content for the web:

  • Don’t use keywords to trick or mislead. One example is keyword stuffing. Another would be trying to use keywords that are off-topic for your page and site. Google does not respond well to keyword abuse. To be rewarded in the search results, your site’s SEO needs to stay within Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Don’t target keywords that do not exactly describe the contents of your page.
  • Don’t use keywords awkwardly in your content. Keywords should be incorporated into the body text and meta information in a way that is natural and subtle.

Why Are Keywords Important to SEO (and Marketing)?

Keywords help you as a website owner to:

  • Identify and speak the language of the target market
  • Create useful content for your target audience
  • Communicate to Google that a webpage is a relevant match for a query
  • Improve search engine rankings by helping Google understand what the webpage content is about
  • Get content in front of the right people at the right time
  • Drive more qualified traffic to appropriate webpages
  • Increase time on site by directing more qualified traffic to webpages
  • Increase conversions by helping consumers find you rather than your competitors

All of these matter for SEO. To elaborate, keyword research helps you understand the way your target audience might describe and look for your products or services. It also shows you how people ask for more information on your topics when using a search engine.

Armed with these words and phrases, you can come up with ideas for new content. You can also optimize your webpages to match a searcher’s intent and answer a searcher’s questions.

Keyword research and optimization can improve your chances of showing up on Page 1 of the search results. In fact, data from 2020 shows that most title tags on Google’s first page contained keywords that were an exact or partial match of that search query.

Aside from rankings, keyword research has other benefits that can help you better serve your consumer.

For instance, say you’re a bread company researching the keyword phrase “organic bread.” During your research, you find that there is a high search volume for the term “organic bread flour.” Could this be a new product opportunity?

When is keyword research done? If you’re wise, you make it an ongoing exercise. Trends fluctuate, search intent evolves, and even the names of things change over time. So keep at it, always looking for opportunities to meet customer needs and rank better in search.

How Do You Do Keyword Research?

There’s a lot to keyword research, but here is the process in four basic steps:

  1. Start with a “brainstorm” list, also known as a “seed” list. Document anything you can think of that would describe your product, service or the information you have to share.
  2. Use a keyword research tool. Use an analysis tool that gives you data on the ideas in your seed list. (Check out our SEOToolSet as an option.)
  3. Expand and refine your list. Discover suggested keyword phrases from the keyword research tool. Find out the actual words people use as they search for your products, services or information. Find out how often the queries are used, which can help you prioritize the work.
  4. Verify keyword phrases. Analyze the competition in the search results that show up for the target keywords. Do you see webpages that offer products, services or information like yours? If so, it means you’re in the right space.

Here’s more on how to research and use keywords:

Keyword research is integral to successful SEO and something we do on an ongoing basis for our clients. If you’d like expert assistance with your website, I invite you to request a free consultation and quote.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (71)
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71 Replies to “What Are Keywords? Why Are Keywords Important to SEO? And How Do You Do Keyword Research?”

It seems like you have given some good overview about keyword research in this article. I would like to add one more important step in keyword research. And that is actually categorizing the keywords on the basis of their intent like informative, location, and buyer intent keywords. It is very critical to choose keywords by understanding the audience & objective of the brand which we are promoting

Well explained, Thanks a lot!

Keyword research helps in understanding the competition, what people are searching for on the internet, and what keywords to target. Hence, it is an essential part of online marketing.

am really excited after reading this article. Now I knew lots of great thing about keywords that I didn’t know before. It also gave me some ideas on how to use these in my site by suggesting different ways to optimize my posts for better ranking and performance. I also like a lot of small secrets that helped me to make my blog even more attractive, not only for me but also for my visitors.

When you do Keyword research, please do keep in mind that you are researching for search intent that is related to your website.

Keywords are very important to do SEO. this article provides a good amount of knowledge and clarity.

Its informative for beginners. clear information about keywords.

Clearly explained what are keywords, whereas these information are rarely found, where they talk about one niche topic. thank you

i always confused about keyword and key phrases , i did lots of wrong thing .. but after all today all things are going good

Thanks for the useful post, I’m glad to read it. continue this.

How can i research the keyword for Electrical and Electronics Engineering website? Can you give me any guideline?

Robert Stefanski

Hi Voltage,

Thanks for your question! The Keyword Research section of our SEO Guide will help you research the keywords for your website. Check it out here: https://www.bruceclay.com/seo/keyword-research/

Great article. Well explains SEO to newbies, Thanks for sharing to newbies.

I have been looking for information on this topic. Thank you!

KW’s are the central structure square of search. It’s a striking piece of writing for all web clients. The article gives a decent comprehension of what watchwords are and their importance in SEO.

One reason keyword optimization is important is that using keywords properly helps communicate to the search engines what a webpage is about. And that can improve the chances that a search engine will find a webpage relevant for a particular query.

A much-appreciated and comprehensive perspective. Grateful that the era of the algo that “appreciates” natural language keyword incorporation is upon us and that we can focus on UX/CX as the key priority.

Clearly explained what are keywords, whereas these information are rarely found, where they talk about one niche topic.

Thank you for your question! My suggestion would be to try some of the different content writing tools that are available online. This will help you to develop a good writing style and to keep your content engaging for your readers

After reading this piece, I am ecstatic. Now I had a lot of useful information about keywords that I could use in my SEO plan. The purpose of SEO is to improve the visibility of your website in search engine results pages. Thank you for giving this useful information regarding SEO keywords.

This is gold, especially for SEO beginners as I am.
Thank you very much.

Long gone are the days when keywords were the only SEO technique that mattered, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still crucial. The difference is that today, keywords must be well-researched, carefully chosen, and judiciously used in your content in order to be effective.

Each and every word is a keyword, it may be one word, two words or maybe a phrase, in simple you can say any no of which exactly defines what you want to search.

Nice Explanation! Thank you

Thank you for writing such an excellent article. I appreciate the work and effort you put into putting it all together. This site has been quite beneficial to me as a web designer with extensive experience. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in SEO will find this extremely useful.

Thank you for this excellent information; it is quite helpful to me as I am yet a novice in the field of SEO. Also, I’d like it if you could provide a few things regarding image-related keywords, because image search is another wonderful way to acquire a lot of traffic.

Keywords are crucial since they inform search engines about the content of a page on your website. The term “keyword” is also used to describe the words and phrases that individuals type into a search engine to get the content they’re looking for.

Great & important post. Correct selection and usage of keywords play a major role in the popularity of your website.

Thanks for sharing beneficial information about keywords in SEO.

Excelente información para optimizar con Keywords una pagina web.

I am really excited after reading this article. Now I knew lots of great thing about keywords that I didn’t know before. It also gave me some ideas on how to use these in my site by suggesting different ways to optimize my posts for better ranking and performance. I also like a lot of small secrets that helped me to make my blog even more attractive, not only for me but also for my visitors. This article is really useful and fun to read!

Thank you for this great article, it’s very useful for me because I’m still a SEO beginner.
Also, I would be very grateful if you would post a few words more about keywords related to images because images search is another great way to get some massive traffic.

Very nice article. Great explaining for people that are new to SEO

One of the great posts for SEO learners.

Keywords are a backbone for any business growth.
Looking forward having more from your desk.

The perfect way to do keyword research is Google itself. Search terms then make the list of people also asked and other search queries. After that, research about it and create better content than top ranking websites.

By the way, thank you for this article.

I appreciate the time you’ve taken out to show me the ropes and ensure that I have the required knowledge to do a great job. Thank you.

the keyword is a very important part of SEO. It is very critical to choose keywords by understanding the audience & objective of the brand which we are promoting. But you solve this problem.

knowledgeable content

Do you think with the new google updates with voice searches this will affect SEO keyword searches? I would love to know your thoughts on the changing world of SEO on google.

Robert Stefanski

Hi Danielle,

Thank you for your question! Keyword research is commonly focused on terms based upon user queries. Usually, users are not considering voice search.

We find that searches tend to be questions instead of phrases on voice searches. “Who,” “where,” “why,” and “when” questions are common. “How” questions are not as common, but when used, a video is often presented in search results.

Keyword research can occur as always, but optimizations should include the words common to questions.

Having read this article, I am incredibly excited. As a result, I was able to understand many great things about keywords that would help my SEO strategy. Search engine optimization relies heavily on keywords. It is very important to understand the audience & objectives of the brand we are promoting before selecting keywords. This problem is solved by you.

It’s a complete knowledge pack on finding keywords.
Looking forward to having more from you.

Thanks for sharing this amazing article, it will help beginners like me. Thank You.

Hello! It is true that in order to make SEO it is important to start with the keywords but I think the most important aspect is the content you are going to generate and how authentic it is.

This is an excellent post. It contains valuable information, especially for beginners. I appreciate you sharing it. It is very useful.

At our place, the team often use paid tool & manual technique to do keyword research. In paid tool, we use Ahrefs, SEMrush & Google Keyword Planner. For the exact & accurate result, we rely on Google Keyword Planner.

I am finding keyword research to be an almost ever learning activity (although I am still relatively new to this space). So many tools and methods don’t seem to make it easy.

You techically has 3 keywords for crawing, more than that, google just ignored it.

When you do Keyword research, please do keep in mind that you are researching for search intent that is related to your website.

How do you do keyword research?
Many people have conflicts regarding this question. Because As per their point of view Keyword research is not that easy without the help of SEO Group Buy Tools. I think Ahrefs, Majestic, & other SEO Group Buy Tool will help you a lot in keyword research.

Anyone who has written about this site or even knows the site that is providing the tools.

Your discussion in this article is informative but what you think about the KGR. Is it really matters for good ranking. Should we use or not this method for targeting Good Keywords.

Long gone are the days when keywords were the only SEO technique that mattered, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still crucial. The difference is that today, keywords must be well-researched, carefully chosen, and judiciously used in your content in order to be effective.

I’ve found some effective solutions for choosing the right keywords in this post. Thanks for this post.

Hey Bruce, you’ve written an important article. In digital marketing knowing about the keyword is necessary. Elegant keywords are needed for blogs, titles, search engines, etc. But most of the SEO workers are worried about finding a relevant keyword. In this article you have given useful tips for choose the best keyword for the blog.

Thank you so much. It provides very useful information especially for beginner. We also provide professional Seo Group Buy tools that help to boost your online business.

Regards,
esolution.center

KW’s are the fundamental building block of search. It’s an remarkable piece of writing in favour of all the internet users. Article provides a good understanding of what keywords are and its significance in SEO.

I am really excited after reading this article. Now I knew lots of great thing about keywords which I would include in my SEO strategy. Thanks for sharing!

Keywords are basically the foundation of your website. If you want to be discovered through search engines and referrals, make sure that your content is tailored through keywords. It is very critical to choose keywords by understanding the audience & objective your brand. The brainstorming process can be tedious but it benefits you in the long run

You are right @ TIS India, but what drives more traffic to a website and what attracts search engines are long tail keywords. These keywords really describes what users are looking for. To stay on the safer side, it is better you go with long tail keywords rather than one word keywords.

Hey Bruce,

I am really excited after reading this article. Now I knew lots of great thing about keywords which I would include in my SEO strategy. Thanks for sharing!

Great read Bruce! My most daunting challenge as a beginner was integrating keywords in long-form content. I was caught between making my keywords read naturally in paragraphs and how many times it had to appear to suggest to search algorithms what my content was about.

The Algo has become so intelligent that it understands context, just as the human would. Keyword stuffing in this day and age, is almost criminal!

You are right @ TIS India, but what drives more traffic to a website and what attracts search engines are long tail keywords. These keywords really describes what users are looking for. To stay on the safer side, it is better you go with long tail keywords rather than one word keywords.

Very nice article. Great explaining for people that are new to SEO. :)

A great post indeed. It is very informative, especially for beginners. Thanks for sharing. I found it extremely helpful.

the keyword is a very important part of SEO. It is very critical to choose keywords by understanding the audience & objective of the brand which we are promoting. But you solve this problem.

Each and every word is a keyword, it may be one word, two words or maybe a phrase, in simple you can say any no of which exactly defines what you want to search.

Nice Explanation! Thank you

It seems like you have given some good overview about keyword research in this article. I would like to add one more important step in keyword research. And that is actually categorizing the keywords on the basis of their intent like informative, location, and buyer intent keywords. It is very critical to choose keywords by understanding the audience & objective of the brand which we are promoting

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