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How to understand keywords for SEO and why they may not be working for you...

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How to understand keywords for SEO and why they may not be working for you...

Whenever someone talks about SEO invariably the discussion will quickly proceed to keywords and how essential they are for getting your website seen by the search engines.
The problem is though that no one can ever clearly explain the what, why, where, how and who of keywords and even when you do add them into your pages it doesn’t seem to do much to your results... So what is the secret to keywords and why are they so important (and are they so important really or is it an urban myth?)
In this post we will explore:
  • What are keywords for SEO?
  • Are keywords important for SEO in 2020?
  • How do you find the right keywords for your website?
  • Where do you add keywords into your website?
  • How to be more successful with keywords than your competitors.
The whole concept of keywords needs turning on its head somewhat and the purpose of this article is to refresh your thinking with keywords and your overall approach to SEO to put your customers at the heart of your decision making process.

“Pretty websites do not sell. Words sell.” Donald Miller

Now you would be surprised at me using this quote being a website designer and all that, but it is actually true.
No matter how beautiful your website if you do not have content that is useful, engaging and solves a problem, then you are not going to sell your stuff. This is a concept that wedding photographers often struggle with for example because they think that their images will do the talking; when in fact it is more important for them to build a virtual relationship through their words as well as images to engage with their potential customers so that they will trust them with capturing the most important day of the couples life. Only using Pictures just won’t cut it with achieving that. You need compelling content that does one of two things:
  1. Solves a problem
  2. Satisfies a desire
Keywords for SEO are basically the search terms which are derived from people wanting to satisfy a desire or solve a problem. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? If you are a wedding photographer then your ultimate keyword is wedding photographer surely?! The problem with this is that many small businesses will look too literally at keywords and will focus on generic terms or short tail keywords like this which are saturated and will get them little results. Why? Because everyone is using them, and unless you have the highest domain authority you will unlikely be ranked higher than your competitors for those keywords.

Google has changed its approach which means you need to change your approach too.

The Google core algorithm update in June 2019 and the BERT update later in the year have seen a fundamental shift in the way Google crawls for information and provides results to users. The sophisticated robots are now looking for the most thorough, descriptive, expert, accurate and trustworthy answers to search terms and they also look to understand the intent behind a search. This changes the way that businesses need to approach keywords - and it represents an opportunity too!

So what are keywords for SEO in 2020?

Think long tail. Think about the questions being used in the search bar rather than a couple of key words that may be used. Sticking with the wedding photographer theme, think of how a bride would search... So would she just put “wedding photographer” into a search bar? Possibly. Is she more likely to add something to that search to make it more relevant for her? Yes! So for example she may type “Best wedding photographer in Manchester” or even “2021 wedding photographer Manchester area”. So rather than trying to rank for wedding photographer, having the longer search terms as your keywords you are more likely to rank higher in the results pages.

Are keywords important for SEO in 2020?

If you look at my description above then asking if keywords are important for SEO in 2020 then yes thye are but not in the traditional sense! Keywords are important but only in the context of thinking long tail (long tail simply means a sentence or more than a couple of words) and also by thinking topics! Brainstorming what topics your users will be searching for and then cross referencing those with the content on your pages will let you know whether you have work to do on making your website more relevant to users searches.
google keywords research 2020

Why might my keywords not be working for me?

The mistake business owners often make is that they put style over substance when making decisions about their website, or they don’t consider the user experience enough, and then they wonder why keywords aren’t working. SEO is a much more dynamic activity than just adding some keywords and expecting to rank. If you consider SEO as an integral part of your marketing strategy where you are engaging with your audience then you are more likely to get results, because it literally is as simple as time + effort = results equation.
When working on the SEO plan for a luxury gin brand, the approach was taken to understand the trends of the market to know what users will be starting to search for more and then create a content plan that would use those search terms. Incorporating those topics and search terms into the content of the website has meant that the pages now rank in the top 10 for a number of topics around luxury gin, Manchester gin brands and other similar topics. This has resulted in the brand being seen by a new, potentially significant stockist because they used one of the search terms and the brand ranked in the top 5 for the results! This is a brilliant example of how keywords are important for SEO in 2020, but only when considered in the context of longer tail search terms.
So the possible reasons that your keywords may not be working in terms of improving your ranking or getting you clicks (which is what you should be focussing on really) are:
1. They are saturated keywords that have big competition (a big corporate will have copy writers, link builders and UX experience staff on their payroll so it is unlikely you can take them on and win in the short term)
2. No-one searches for those keywords! This is a big bug bear for me - SEO agencies tend to say they can get you ranking number one, but if noone searches for that term then it is simply pointless.
3. You haven't used the keyword enough in your content. I do not mean stuffing your content with keywords, but there is a knack to it.
4. You have a low domain authority which means Google will prioritise other content over yours.
5. You have duplicate content which means you are basically competing against yourself!

How do you find the right keywords for your website?

I get asked this question A LOT. I find it funny however because the answer is really simple. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER and you will know what they are searching for.
A lot of coaches and consultants will often talk about “Ideal Client Profiling” and corporate businesses spend a fortune on big data that will give them sophisticated information on what their customers exact demographics and behaviours are. As a small business you need to go deep on understanding your ideal customers and this will then provide you with the problems they solve and the desires you need to satisfy.
The other big tip with understanding keywords and topics is to look at trends - look at what is coming as well as what is currently being looked for as this will give you an advantage over your competitors.
In my SEO membership group we often discuss ideal clients and understanding what they are searching for and it is surprising how much people forget to think about the customer when they think of SEO. There needs to be a mindset shift away from optimising your website for search engines to optimising your website for your customers. When last did you profile your ideal client and think about what their pain points are and how you can help them? Think about this and bam - you have found the right keywords for your website.

How do you get my keywords ranking above your competitors?

Another question I get asked a lot is how do I get my website ranking ranking above others? What makes them rank higher? I wrote an article which talks about the very basics of what makes a website rank in the context of whether or not you need an SEO agency to get your website ranking which basically describes the World Wide Web as a gargantuan set of links which google has to both distinguish and prioritise. It does this by using an algorithm which has over 200 ranking factors, and which they update thousands of times a year. But before you think - well if that’s the case what’s the point? Or think it’s too complicated then think again.
Google’s core purpose is to give the right answers to someone’s search queries. You have an opportunity as much as anyone to get ranking for your keywords if you invest the time and the effort into it (I know I sound like a broken record with this old adage!). What you need to do to get your website ranking above your competitors is understand why they are ranking above you and then make a plan to overtake them. I’m pretty sure that when Lewis Hamilton finds himself in the situation that he’s second or third in a Grand Prix that he doesn’t just sit there and tell himself that he can’t beat the others. He will assess the track, look at what his competitors are doing and then formulate a strategy for overtaking them. This is what you need to do with your website. Here are three things you can assess your competitor for:
  1. Does the competitor have a higher domain authority than you?
  2. Does the competitor have more backlinks than you?
  3. Does the competitor have better content than you (by this it could be longer, more thorough, more descriptive).
The first two questions can be answered by using a myriad of free tools available - ubersuggest is a popular one (not always accurate but it’s free and indicative). The third one is more subjective but you need to put a constructive cap on when assessing the content or ask someone to assess it for you. Content length is a sneaky one but easy for you to fix (I often see small business websites that are seriously lacking in content and they are the ones screaming about their website not being on the first page of google).
Once you know what you are up against then you can form a plan of attack to overtake them. This can be by adding in more content to your pages, it can be by building backlinks (this is where another website links in to yours) and investing in improving your domain authority (this is the measurement of your website from 0-100 based on the 200 ranking factors). It will not happen overnight - and it is not a given that once you rank number one you will stay there - if a competitor sees they have been outranked then they may makes changes to get their position back. As I state time and time again - SEO is a dynamic activity not a one off task. You are only optimised for that point in time, and depending on how quickly your market moves and how saturated it is, and how big the players are in that market you can find you need to invest a lot of time to get ahead and stay there.
The purpose of this article was to provide a fresh insight into the world of keywords and understanding how to use keywords for SEO to get your website ranking. Have you thought about taking a fresh look at your website as a result of this?
Pamela Rae-Welsh is a leading online visibility specialist with a boutique SEO management business in Manchester. Working with small businesses to create stylish brand identities and websites which convert, Pamela is passionate about providing ambitious entrepreneurs with a big business toolkit that allows them to operate at the top of their field.

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