So you’re excited about getting more traffic to your website through SEO? Great! One of the most fundamental steps that so many people get hung up on is choosing the right SEO keywords. If you feel the pressure to find home-run keywords and write pixel-perfect content to rank higher in search engines, you can breathe easy. SEO is a marathon and requires a comprehensive strategy, not to mention a lot of patience. 

Choosing the right SEO keywords for your business doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing, or intimidating. In this article we’ll dive into the world of SEO keyword strategy and examine some practical ways to prioritize the right keywords.

The Key To Keyword Strategy

At the end of the day, the bottom line of keyword strategy is choosing the kind of keywords that will grant your content the most impressions and visibility in search engines. 

Keywords Ain’t What They Used To Be

OptinMonster points out that today’s keyword strategy looks different than it did even just a few years ago. As Google’s search algorithms have evolved, SEO strategists have adapted to the changing factors. Keyword density isn’t widely regarded as an essential ranking factor by SEO experts nowadays. In fact, overusing your target keywords in your content is called “keyword stuffing” and it negatively impacts your ranking in Google.

Does this mean that keyword strategy is no longer important for today’s SEO? Absolutely not! It just means that choosing the right SEO keywords isn’t about filling your content with a generic keyword. It’s about understanding which keywords will naturally connect your content with the people looking for it.

Understanding User Intent

A large part of this process is understanding why people use the search terms they do. This is called user intent and it refers to the actual purpose of search queries in search engines like Google. People use Google for a number of reasons: finding desired products or services, learning new information, and locating nearby establishments for an in-person visit. (An easy way to remember these different categories is the common “Do-Know-Go” phrase.) 

For example, you can clearly determine the different user intent between the following two searches: “hardwood floor installation guide” and “hardwood floor installation service”. One word makes a world of difference. In the first keyword example the searcher seems to be looking for information on installing their own hardwood floor. In the second example, the searcher is looking for a local business that could install their hardwood floor. One is seeking to “know” while the other is seeking to “do”.

Understanding user intent is essential to choosing the right SEO keywords. If you run an ecommerce website, you’ll want to aim for “do” keywords. On the other hand, if you are targeting your content to people looking for information, you’ll probably experience the best results with a “know” keyword.

The Keyword Sweet Spot

SEO keyword researchers use a number of metrics to determine the value of certain keywords in their strategy. Two of these metrics are volume and difficulty. Volume simply refers to how many times the keyword is coming up in searches. For example, if a keyword has a volume of 300-500 that means that between 300 to 500 search queries include that keyword monthly. Difficulty refers to the amount of competition that keyword generates. The keyword “plumber in Richmond” will probably attract only a handful of SEO-driven businesses intentionally seeking a great ranking. On the other hand, a search for “winter scarves” will appeal to a much wider number of both searchers and businesses. 

Generally, there is a sweet spot that balances these two metrics. Some of the best keywords have volume that isn’t too low but isn’t too high to face greater difficulty. The general rule of thumb is: the more specific a keyword, the lower volume and lower difficulty it will have. Finding the keyword with low enough difficulty and high enough volume is part of the adventure of SEO keyword planning!

The Moz Keyword Planner is a helpful tool when it comes to researching these metrics.

Getting Specific With Long-Tail Keywords

We’ve already established that the more specific keyword is, the lower the volume will be (in most cases). When we combine this knowledge with our understanding of user intent we find something very fundamental to SEO keyword planning. We find that click-through rates (number of clicks divided by number of impressions/views) are usually higher on more specific keywords. This makes sense. If someone is searching for something very specific, they’ll be more likely to click on results that actually promise to satisfy their search query.

Long-tail keywords are highly specific key words or phrases that appeal to a very specific user with specific intent. Using long-tail keywords can help your click-through rates, all other things equal.

With the rise of mobile searches, you should certainly incorporate long-tail keywords into your SEO keyword strategy.

Utilizing Latent Semantic Indexing

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is a long, complicated name for a fairly simple concept. It refers to the practice of search engines recognizing the relationships between the exact keywords that searchers use and the user’s intent. LSI helps Google develop synonyms for keywords and display them on relevant searches. For example, if a user searches for “bohemian” LSI keywords can help build context around the search and determine if the user wants to see results for the historic region in Central Europe or the interior design style. You can almost think of LSI keywords as alternative keywords that help search engines to clarify the context of user queries.

Utilizing these keywords and including them in your content can help to direct the right traffic to your website and avoid irrelevant content.

The Tools of the Trade

So now you have a general understanding of what concepts should shape your keyword planning. But what tools are available to make this process simple? Fortunately, there are a number of great tools that help SEO keyword planners identify the perfect keywords for their content strategy. Here are just a couple of them:

Google Search Suggestions

One easy (and completely free) way to do some quality keyword research is to use the Google search bar to find out what people are searching for. Start typing in your search keyword and Google will automatically populate several related keyword suggestions. Paying attention to these popular suggestions can provide insight on the types of searches that people make.

Google Keyword Planner

You’ll need a Google Adwords account for this one. This tool from Google allows you to enter search keywords and view specific data like search volume and competition metrics. You can also use it to find new keywords that Google thinks will be relevant to your content based on your current keywords.

Moz Keyword Planner

The Moz Keyword Planner is available with a Moz Pro account. It displays metrics like search volume, difficulty (competition) and an overall priority score. Like Google’s keyword planner, it also provides suggested keywords so you can expand your strategy!

Choosing the Right SEO Keywords Can Be Simple

It doesn’t take a massively complex formula to determine whether your keywords are right for your SEO strategy. Using the tools at your disposal and understanding user intent are great ways to get started. Whatever your business does or sells, you can start using SEO keywords to enhance your content and drive the right relevant traffic to your website.

IX Publishing is particularly qualified to help you develop a strong SEO strategy and use SEO keywords to increase your website traffic. Our inbound marketing services help businesses tell their story clearly and compellingly online.