SEO keywords and key phrases are like the screaming hairy armadillo. Enticing at first, fascinating to hear about, but elusive. They sound like a great idea, but who has the time to trek to Patagonia? My illustration just got weird. Bloggers and online content writers know about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and think it’s a fantastic theory; but many just don’t have the time or, quite frankly, the mental strength, to go much further than installing the Yoast plug-in and holding thumbs for the green dots.
What are SEO keywords and key phrases?
They are the words and phrases that make it possible for users to find your site, thanks to the search engines that find them. Put (very) simply, they’re the words and phrases that you hope your audience enters into the Google bar. So, as an example, let’s say you’re offering accommodation in Cape Town. More specifically, you have a guesthouse in Fresnaye. You could expect the major keywords and phrases to be:
- accommodation in Cape Town
- where to stay in Cape Town
- Seapoint accommodation
- Green Point accommodation
- Fresnaye accommodation
- guesthouses Cape Town
- Cape Town hotels
- bed & breakfast in Cape Town
- accommodation in Cape Town CBD
- cheap accommodation Cape Town
…and so on
More specific keywords and phrases that will have less competition (but also be less likely to be entered) are:
- Fresnaye guesthouses
- Accommodation in Fresnaye
- Self-catering accommodation in Fresnaye
So, how do you choose the right SEO keywords and key phrases?
Aha, herein lies the art; nay, the wizardry of SEO. Well, this is what I tell myself to make my job seem more magical. In reality, it’s actually veering toward the simple end of the spectrum. Still, SEO can’t be forced. So, do what you can and leave the rest up to good, original content. Some tips:
Focus on good key phrases
These are even more important than keywords in many cases. Keywords can be entered in a number of variations. Key phrases are more specific. Still, it’s good to balance your use of strategic key phrases with the keywords that will support them. For the accommodation example listed above, those would be key phrases, while your keywords would be “guesthouse”, ” Fresnaye”, “CBD”, and so on.
Mix it up
Combine popular (or obvious) SEO keywords and phrases with less obvious ones to balance the competition for each. For example, “accommodation in Cape Town” yields about 3 440 000 results on a simple Google search, while “guesthouse in Fresnaye” yields only 195 000. Spend time, do the research, and get educated.
Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner
This SEO planning tool is free, easy to use, and gives you some excellent specifics on which keywords and phrases are relevant, and how much competition they present.
Keep it organic
There are few things as jarring to a reader than trying to get value out of content that has been jam-packed with keywords and phrases in the hopes of manipulating the SEO. It’s obvious. We feel it. We hate it. And, it’s a misconception that this is the answer. The search engines actually trawl through your content to find original, quality stuff. It’s not like the old days (you know, 10 years ago), when they simply picked up on the number of times keywords appeared and ranked the site accordingly. Steer clear of trying to govern the process. It doesn’t sound good and, if done incorrectly, it can get your site penalised.
Stuck on repeat
There’s a time and place for repetition when it comes to key phrases. The essence of each phrase needs to be different. So, “accommodation cape town” and “online accommodation in cape town” are the same thing. But, “accommodation cape town” and “guest house in cape town” are not the same, because the content you’d expect to find for each would be a little different.
SEO starts when formulating the content
Your content strategy should include your keywords and phrases; rather than choosing these SEO tools after the content has been produced. Work together with your content writer to come up with a well-researched plan so that you can get better results.