Creating an SEO keyword strategy forces you to think more about your personas (targets) and the search terms they might enter.

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase that a person enters into a search engine like Google or Bing, or a social network such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. Keyword phrases of three or more words or truncated sentences (usually without non-essential words like articles or prepositions) are known as long tail keywords.

You should incorporate both long- and short tail keywords into your website and content. Long tail (and natural language – see below) keywords, because they focus on more narrow areas or business niches and so are less competitive, a key advantage of such keywords. Short tail (one to a few words long), because their search volumes are greater.

Keywords also take you beyond search engines, as an ever-increasing number of platforms either account for keywords or provide you avenues to increase your search exposure for those all important phrases. Keywords also play a significant role when creating Search Engine Optimized (SEO) content or implementing an SEO strategy for your website.

Just think of the difference between the crucial SEO page title “home” vs. “mechanical engineering school London”. How likely is anyone to find your home page with the former title and what kind of competition would “home” face: 15 billion results, yet still used for titling many home pages.

We are mainly concerned here with keywords and SEO for organic search. As far as SEO for advertising, be aware that Google has changed the use of keywords for Dynamic Search Ads on July 27th, 2015, which is a whole other ball of wax concerning AdWords, their form of PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising and not relevant for organic search (for which search engines get no revenue).

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Versio2 appears in the top three spots of page 1 in an organic Google search for the search terms above without using a brand name and with a high search volume and low competition

Why Build a Keyword Strategy?

Consumers are now commonly researching brands online via search engines with 64% of consumers using search engines in a retail store producing results based on unique keyword algorithms. Take advantage of this by optimizing your website for the most relevant keywords (so-called on-page SEO) more likely to lead to your website, especially for mobile use.

The higher your chances of being found, the better your organic traffic results (visitors from non-paid results). Mobile has had a major impact on search for two reasons: first, due to its wide and explosive adoption, second because Google updated its search algorithms in April to make mobile an important factor in results (read more on the business impact of a responsive design website).

While it’’s difficult to pin down exactly which keywords will attract the most potential customers, there are ways to determine the popularity and competitiveness of any keyword phrase using a variety of tools from the Google alternative keywordtool.io to Wordtracker and others. You can and should test, analyze and refine keyword effectiveness on an on-going basis since user habits and search algorithms change constantly.

Keyword research is a process that should be monitored closely. It gives valuable insights into industry trends and product demand. Comprehensive keyword research can help a business increase traffic organically before exploring Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaigns, which, though widely used, are becoming more and more expensive and, in contrast to inbound marketing, represesnt no lasting assets. And by the way, 94% of users click on organic search results not on paid search, so you are not alone in your user habits!

Consider Mobile and Responsive Websites

A quickly increasing number of users worldwide are searching on mobile devices now. Not only that, they are using the internet to research brands, get local and best price, and are making (sometimes large) purchase decisions on the go.

With the use of the spoken word as input through Apple OS Siri or Android OK Google we are using so-called Natural Language phrases in which, as an example, the high competition and almost useless single keyword “inbound” becomes “inbound marketing software USA” on the desktop (we can type!) and “…what’s the best inbound marketing tool and agencies that use it near Vancouver” in a spoken phrase into your smartphone on a commute.

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Natural language phrases are driving keywords on responsive sites and mobile devices

Not only does your company have to offer a responsive website design, the SEO keyword strategy needs to leverage the countless long tail and natural language keyword phrases or strings that will yield qualified visitors to relevant and engaging content on your site.

The longer the string, the higher the qualification of your visitor will be since they are already focusing in on a very specific result in their search, which is way more beneficial than huge volumes of poorly or non-qualified visitors. Such visitors are closely matched to your personas and are more likely to convert to leads and customers shown in higher than average conversion rates in your online marketing analytics (Google Analytics is not suitable for this, since it only shows anonymous website data).

How to Create a Keyword Strategy

1. Create a list of 5-10 keyword phrases relevant to your business

Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. You’’re searching online for a product or service to meet your needs:– what terms are you using? If you’’re a representative of a small to medium-sized business (SME), your brand name should not be high up in your keyword list because it’’s unlikely someone will know your company and search for it by name (such as they would Nike or BMW).

Instead, think of words and short phrases that get to the core of what your products or services are about and what your customer might use to find your industry, services and highly specific products.

2. Choose Keywords based on Difficulty and Relevance

The keywords you choose should be based on difficulty and relevance. General terms are incredibly competitive, making it nearly impossible to rank well for them in search engine results. SMEs need to choose less competitive keywords more relevant to your business (long-tail keywords). This is clearly easier in the niche B2B world.

In general, the greater the search volumes for a particular keyword, the more competitive it is (though not always). There are a number of different tools you can use to determine the competitiveness of a specific keyword, as well as help you to brainstorm new ideas. These tools including the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Wordstream or the others mentioned above.

Find a balance between relevance, search volumes and competitiveness. Choose five keywords that match your business well. Your starter list won’’t be perfect, so– try out different keywords and their cobinations to see which work best for you. Remember that neither their order  (unless placed in parantheses) nor fillers such as articles, prepositions or plural endings matter in search.

3. Design & Optimize your Website around Your Keywords

Now that you’’ve chosen your keywords, you should incorporate them across your website as well as in all your content (off-page SEO). Do it and see the difference in your results. as mentioned above, while Google Analytics will show the visitor data, page views, bounce rates and other useful data, only marketing software such as HubSpot can give you detailed metrics on named leads based on their user journey across your site.

Keyword Take-Aways:

  • Start off with a list of five keywords for your main website and each product and/or service.
  • Make sure your keywords are relevant to your business without focusing on your brand name.
  • Strike a balance between competitiveness, relevance and search volumes. Short keywords mean more traffic, but long-tails are easier to rank for.

Now do your homework and get going!

Written by
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Stephan Burckhardt

This marketing vet is based in Greater Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in B2B marketing in Silicon Valley and Europe, was CEO of a large agency serving B2B startups, trans-nationals, and everything in between. Focus: technology, healthcare, professional services.
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