What is a keyword, and why do I need to research them?

Simply put, a keyword is the descriptive words and phrases people use to find information and content online. From paid advertising to writing good copy, your keywords connect your content to your users. Therefore, researching keywords related to your business will help you write better copy and, in turn, create better content, helping your potential customers find you.

Many business owners think they know what people type into the search bar when looking for their specific product or service online. So why bother researching phrases related to a business they know inside and out? Because your potential customers do not know your trade or business inside out. They may use common or even silly phrases in a serious attempt to find a business like yours in search. Finding and exploiting those “keywords” is vital to connecting those people with your content instead of the other search engine result.

Keyword research can be tricky, but it is vital to a healthy position in the SERPs.

How do I do keyword research?


One of the easiest ways to do keyword research is to subscribe to a paid service that does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Tools like SEMrush, aHrefs, or SpyFu are a great way to get a lot of useful information FAST. From what a keyword would cost in paid search or how many times a phrase is used, you can pinpoint what words work for your budget.

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Google Trends example data on keyword Halloween masks


If you don’t have it in your budget to pay for an amazing suite of keyword tools, don’t worry, there are a few great free options that will get you started (and eventually turn you into a keyword addict).

  • Google Trends:
    This tool will show you how a keyword has trended over time. This is super useful for ad targeting but can also come in handy when creating an article or page title. For instance, if you are targeting Halloween items for the first time, you search “Halloween masks” to get a good idea of when to start your marketing campaigns.
google trends halloween masks
Google Trends example data on keyword Halloween masks
  • KeywordSheeter:
    This tool takes data from Google’s autocomplete function and generates lists of variations on your input keyword. I find this tool very useful when finding new ways to convey the same information. This page also some other useful tools like a Volume and Cost Per Click tool, a Top 100 Rank Checker, and a few more.
  • Keywords Everywhere:
    I use this as an add-on for my web browser, and it tunes me into what keywords my current competition is using. This is vital for a web developer like me who is always learning about a new business, trade, or product to help that content rank in search. It gives me information like keyword density, where the keyword is used, and how many times it occurs on the page.
halloween mask keywords everywhere
Keywords Everywhere screenshot of the SERP for halloween mask
  • Answer The Public:
    This amazing tool will give you questions that actual search users ask related to your input phrase or keyword. Of course, they display it appealingly, too. Check out this article I wrote on using Answer The Public.
answer the public halloween masks
AnswerThePublic results for Halloween mask
  • Google Search Console:
    All of my clients are set up with Search Console. Not only does it supply some valuable on-site keyword information, but it also provides info on what phrases you are ranking for and whether or not people are actually clicking on your listing (CTR is the click-through rate).

How do I use keywords?

Now that you have done all the research and have an amazing list of keywords related to your business, you need to put them to use. The key is to create compelling content. This will not only give the search engines the hints it wants to see to rank you, but it will also give your real-world users a valuable resource in your industry.

When writing new content, be sure to use your keywords in your page titles, inside your page headings, and in your ALT tags. You can also use unique keywords in your image names and captions, video titles, and especially in your URLs. Be careful, though; you will want to be sure not to “stuff” your keywords into your content. Always focus on writing naturally and conversationally.

So why not just add all the keywords you can think of to all the web pages?
While this may have worked 10-15 years ago it does not work at all now. The search algorithms have gotten smarter and your keywords need context and supporting information to help you rank in search. Without context, they are just words.

Finally, be honest with your content and what your are offering. This strategy will always fair better in the end.