What is a Keyword?: Introduction to Keyword Research in 202015 min read

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Table of Contents

What is a keyword? I mean what exactly is it? You have probably come across this term if you are a digital marketer, SEO expert, blogger, content writer or even a good internet surfer. But do you really understand it?

This article aims to remove all technical jargons and explain it to you so that you understand totally

This is the first part of a keyword research series so I hope you stay tune and subscribe to get notified.

What Are Keywords?

Keywords are simply words that represents your contents the best and matches what people are searching for on search engines. They are words that people search for and give your website and contents the chance and ability to show up on search engine result pages (SERPs). To explain this further let’s look at the two illustrations below:

Illustration I

Imagine you want to learn about the coronavirus or covid-19 epidemic; instinctively, what you probably do is go to a search engine like google and search for terms such as “coronavirus”, “Covid-19”, “news on coronavirus”, “what is covid-19” etc.

Read about coronavirus impact on business and digital marketing.

Take note that all these words are keywords and when you search, google looks through its database and through all websites it has indexed, then try to find those that have those websites that has those (key)words you searched for on them as keywords. It then brings you result in the Search Engine Result Page.

Illustration II

Let’s say you have a website or blog relating to mathematics: You offer mathematics tutorials online and offline. Now you also have created a page or posts about Quadratic equation titled: “Easiest way to solve Quadratic Equation”. I’m sure you want it such that whenever someone searches for quadratic equation, your post shows up on the search results on Google or other search engines. The word “Quadratic equation” can be said to be the keyword of that post or page. So, in the long run when I search for something such as “Quadratic Equation”, “Easiest way to solve Quadratic Equation” or related, your post/page shows up on the result page.

Easy right?! If it is that simple why make a fuss about it?

The reason is simple: All thing being equal, keywords increases or decreases your chances of showing up or ranking high on Google/Search Engines SERP.

Remember that I said “All things being equal…” because there are a whole lot of other different factors that can actually affect your ranking high on Search Engines

So, if you understood that illustration then you should understand that keyword is a very important thing to learn to rank high on search engines such as google.

Why Are Keywords Important in SEO?

There are various reasons why keywords are important but the major ones are:

For Search Engine Optimization

Lets a take a moment to remember the first illustration we have above on coronavirus. Let’s say we have an article written on coronavirus; how do you think a search engine such as Google know which exact words to show your website for when someone searches? It can’t and won’t show you for every word you use on the article but would look through and try and identify the keywords present in the article. If it then matches, it pulls up your website.

So, in summary: Keywords lets your website shows up in searches.

For User Understanding

Another important reason which is often overlooked is for user understanding. In-fact Google recommends (in paraphrased terms): Don’t try to do anything to impress the search engine but for the sake of your users because the search engine also tries to evaluate how user-oriented your contents are.

One thing to note is our brains are wired in such a way that if we see and notice words that are keywords, we tend to understand faster and better what the contents is about

So in summary: Keywords helps user understands what your content is about

Types of keywords

If you have been following carefully, you might have thought: Are there types of keywords?

And the answer is yes. In-fact there are various types of keywords and if you search, you’d see some self-defined keywords out there.

We would cover all the types of keywords in another article. However, for the scope of this article, we would only be looking at the three most important types and related to this series.

Short Tail Keywords

Short Tail keywords are keywords that consists of one or two words. Keywords such as “Keyword”, “Web Design”, “Digital Marketing”, “SEO”, “Content”, “Business”, “Graphics Design”, “UI Design”, “Software Development” etc are all examples of short tail keywords.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are keywords or phrases that consists of 3 or more words in it. Examples and derivations from the short tail keywords we have above includes: “Best Keyword research tools”, “Web Design Services and agency”, “Digital Marketing for beginners”, “how to do SEO”, “how to write Content”, “Best business empowerment program for 2020”, “Logo and Graphics Design”.

LSI Keywords

LSI stands for Latent semantic indexing and it is a system in which search engines use to analyze the other words people use surrounding a given topic. These are very important because you have come across them times without number on search engines without even know.

They are keywords that are closely related to your keywords and guess what? Search engines actually give it to you for free. On Google, you’d see a section with the heading: “People also search for”; on Bing you’d see a section for “Related searches”.

They are Search engines ways of letting you know related keyword searches and a great place to begin your keyword research.

Laws of keywords

There are some laws to take into using keywords which are very much important. Remember mathematical laws in fields like Chemistry, Physics or even Mathematics itself where the lower a something, the higher another thing? Well, some similar rules apply here which we can term as:

  • The law of keyword length which states that: The shorter the keyword length, the higher the search volume; and the longer the keyword, the lower the search volume.

This means that for a short tail keyword, there is usually more people searching for it and you stand a chance for more people to see your website. Unfortunately, this usually not the case sometimes due to the impact of another law:

  • The law of keyword competition states that: The shorter the keyword length, the higher the competition; and the longer the keyword the lesser the competition.

This means that for short tail keywords which have higher amount of search volumes, there is also a high number of websites competing for it, so it might not benefit you much if you/your website can’t stand the competition.

  • The law of keyword specificity states that: The shorter the keyword length, the lower the less specific the audience is; and the longer the keyword, the more specific the audience is.

Let me illustrate this:

If you are a Web Design Agency for example and you are targeting a keyword such as: “Web Design” which as of the time of writing this article as about 1,200,000 search volume. That’s a pretty large audience you are targeting, right? However, chances are only a fraction of those searching for it are actually in need of your service and would actually get converted (in layman’s terms: would actually pay for your services and become a customer).

This is not an issue if all you need is traffic on your website or blog or your marketing strategy is a long-term one, but if you really want to implement online/digital marketing you have to learn how to target your audience.

Now consider a keyword such as “Web Design in Nigeria” which as the time of writing this article actually has about 100 search volume. That’s low right? But believe me when I tell you that if you can get your website relevant and showing for 70% of the people searching for these keywords, you are at a closer stage down the sales funnel.

However, for optimum targeting, see the best practice section below

What makes a good keyword? (How to pick the right keywords)

If you have gotten the gist so far then you know that almost any and every word can be a keyword but not all can be a good keyword. So what are the criteria to know and choose a good keyword?

There are four main things to consider when choosing the right keywords, you’ve met three of them earlier in this article and they are:

  • Search Volume: This very important because anyone can search for anything in that instance make it a keyword; but a good keyword has significant amount of search volume. So make sure your keywords are what people/target audience are searching for.
  • Specificity: Make sure your keywords are specific and targets a specific set of people. And those people should be the people you are also looking for. That way you place yourself in a win-win situation.
  • Competition: Make sure the competition on the keywords you are aiming for not too high, else it might be difficult for you to rank high on SERPs. You can also try investing more on long tail keywords.

  • Conversion Value: This can be overlooked but make sure that the keywords you want to use would meet the goal for which you are using them for.

How to find the best keywords (Keyword Research)

Keyword research can prove to be a daunting task as it requires careful research and usually involves spending time and money. The next series of articles are aimed towards teaching you how to do your keyword research and analysis the cost-free and cost-effective way.

Nevertheless, let’s quickly go over the steps. We agree with keywordtool.io on their article: The Complete Guide to Find the Best Keywords.

The steps in summary is:

Identify and research your niche:

Identify the niche which you are in, whether it is “Web Design”, “Digital Marketing”, “Agriculture”, “Health”. There are usually keywords that when you look at first glance you can guess people use. You can make direct research from the following sources:

The Web – What people search for and write about

Your clients – What your clients and customers search for

Your competitors – What your competitors write about

These would give you the basic ideas necessary.

Plan your topics:

What are the topics you have in mind to create and what are they about? Is it to drive more traffic? Is it to educate your clients or a guide? Do you intend to generate more conversions? This would help you further.

Choose your seed keywords

Choose your seed keywords that would stand as the foundation for your keywords. Your seed keywords might later turn out to be your actual keywords once they meet the criteria for a good keyword we listed above.

Use good keyword research tools

Using good keyword research tools would give you far better results than if you don’t. Professional SEO/Digital marketing agencies make use of these professional tools a lot. However, they are pretty much expensive. For example, one of the best tools in the market which we recommend: Ahrefs have their subscription starting from $990 (appr. N363,000). These tools however expensive are worth it in the long run, but as a small business, blogger or a beginner digital marketer; these might be a bit too expensive. To solve that dilemma, we are preparing another article on “Free keyword research tools” in this Keyword Research series. Some of the basic ones you can get started with includes: Soolve, Jaaxy, Google Search Console.

Research your competition

This is really important as using good keyword research tools to research your competitors would give to insights into the keywords they are using so as to guide yourself in the right direction.

Specify your keywords variation and types

Once you have identified your keywords, arrange them in the order of importance and choose the right ones needed. You would probably get a whole lot of keyword ideas and suggestions depending on the type of tool you use, but as we said you can’t target all keywords you see. You have to choose the most important ones and you should target different variations of the seed/base keywords.

How to use keywords

So how do you use your keywords?

That’s is pretty much the easiest part. Let’s get started:

Use keywords in title

Ensure to optimize your posts and page title by using the keywords you have researched appropriately in them.

See a suggestion by Unamo

The title of the article defines its content, and as such, a keyword rich title holds greater weight with Google. In general, the closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the more weight it has with search engines. You can see this in action by searching for the competitive keyword in Google.

Use keywords in the first 100 words

Placing keywords in the first 100 words would enable both users and search engines to understand better the topic, relevance, categories and keywords present in the article. Placing your keywords farther could reduce the relevance by search engines drastically.

Use keywords strategically

You have to plan on how to use your keywords strategically in your contents. You might decide to place them in the first paragraph of every subsection; or even in your subheadings. How you do this without overstuffing them is totally up to you.

Use keyword in URI/Permalink

Ensure to use your target keywords in your urls/permalink depending on the website application/software/CMS you are using. Doing this ensures Google and other search engines find your content more relevant.

Best practices of using keywords

Below are some best practices of using keywords to optimize the for Search Engine Optimization.

Target short tail keywords and long tail keywords

The fact is your can rank high on google using just one keyword and especially competitive, short tail keywords. Remember the rules of keywords we discussed above? Well the best way to get optimum results is to target both short tail keywords and their long tail keyword variations. So if you have a keyword such as “Web Design”, you can target long tail variations such as “Web Design Agency”, “Best Web Design Agency”, “Getting the right Web Design Agency”. Doing these gives greater success in your keyword endeavours.

Do not overuse keywords

I’m sure through the course of this article, you might have thought: “Hey! Why don’t I just pick some keywords and keep repeating it over and over in my website and article?” Well, the answer is simple: Search Engines would penalize you when they see you overusing a particular keyword by stuffing them. The consequence of that is you might not even show up on search engines especially Google at all after all of your hard work. That would be bad, right?

Ensure you optimize your posts with keywords, but only where they make sense to your readers.

Use LSI keywords in body content

Ensure to use these LSI keywords in the body of your content; probably as subheadings. Remember how you can find them as related searches. You can also use some tools such as LSI Graph and Google Trends to help you get better result.


Don’t rely only on keywords

Most importantly, don’t rely only on keywords. There are a lot of other factors that can influence SEO and you have to make sure you are playing your game right in all of them.

However, if you feel stuck or don’t know what to do, you can let us help on SEO for an affordable price. Don’t forget to leave any comments or rate this post to let us know what you think.

Definition of Terms

  • Keywords: They words that represents your contents the best and matches what people are searching for on search engines.
  • Short Tail Keywords: These are keywords that have short length and consists of one or two words. They usually have high search volume and are highly competitive
  • Long tail keywords: These are keywords or phrases that consists of 3 or more words in it. They usually have low search volume, are less competitive and more specific.
  • LSI keywords: Latent Semantic Index keywords are keywords that are closely related to your keywords.
  • Search Volume: The amount of times people searches for a keyword. It is usually quantified per month.
  • Digital Marketing: Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of your company’s online marketing efforts which is why it could also be termed as online marketing.
  • Social Media Optimization (SEO): This refers to techniques and strategies to make your website rank higher on search engines.
  • Search Engine Result Page (SERP): This is the page displayed by search engines when you search for something.
  • Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Strings of characters to get access to a particular resource; the most common one is a web address such as https://www.foverotechnologies.com
  • Permalink: A permanent link to a page or post in a website or blog.
Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Fovero Digital Technologies' Editorial Staff is a team of Tech experts led by Odewale Ayomide. We are a world class Graphics, Web and Digital Marketing agency operating from Lagos, Nigeria.

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