A keyword is a term that someone uses on Google (or another search engine/service) when they want to find something.

“local doughnut shop”

“hair salon near me”

“Atlanta United tickets”

In our consultations with customers, we have found that “what is a keyword?” is one of the most common questions which we are asked, and it is usually followed up with a pattern of follow up questions about keywords and how they are used in internet marketing.

What is a keyword?

When someone searches for something on Google, they type what they are looking for into the box in the middle of the page. To Google, what they are typing is a keyword, and Google goes to work looking to find what the person is searching for.

Sometimes, the phrase contains a couple of words which Google also recognizes as keywords, so Google looks for them, too.

For example, Alex wants to buy tickets for an upcoming Dave Matthews Band concert. She might type a phrase for something link this:

Dave Matthews tickets atlanta

Google has recognized questions as keywords in their own right, too. So she might type in:

Where can I buy tickets to the Dave Matthews concert in Atlanta?

Google would refer to the whole question as well as the words which make it up. So in this case, Google might look for the question, and also look for Dave Mathews, Concert, and Atlanta.

There are many variations which can apply to the above example. But the point is that Google may use different parts of a phrase as additional keywords to search.

How do I use keywords?

As a website owner, the important thing to know is that Google is trying to provide its customers (the people searching) with the results which they are looking for.

One of the ways which you can tell Google that you match a phrase which someone is looking for (keyword) is to include that phrase in your website, preferably in a prominent way which Google understands. It should be in there more than once, but not too much, or Google will think that you are trying to unfairly get its attention, and Google doesn’t like that.

The first rule is relevancy. “Powerball results” may be a highly searched term on the internet, but a bicycle repair shop should not be putting the term on its website to try to artificially get those visitors.

The second is frequency. Although nobody knows Google’s list of requirements to be listed, most search experts agree that the number of times the keyword gets used should not exceed 3-4% of the total content.

The third is focus. Opinions very among SEO providers. However, Google tells us that Google Ads puts a lot of weight on the focus of the page which one of their ads leads to. For a few years, it has been the theory that each page of a website should focus on one keyword. We have seen no evidence to the contrary, but some in the industry believe that the shift is moving away from this standard as Google shifts more toward even more emphasis on creating a great user experience for your visitors.

So in short, have them in your website, be strategic in how you use them, and don’t overdo it.

How do I choose keywords?

In our experience, this is where a lot of mistakes are made with attracting people who are searching for one’s services. Many people make a list of what their company offers and what is attractive to their customers. This is a good start.

However, many don’t take the next step of figuring out what their customers are searching for and telling Google that their searchers will find it on the website.

There are methods for researching keywords. You will need to find the ones which work best for you.

How many keywords can I use?

Google looks for specific results. They go as far to tell advertisers to be specific to the smallest detail. For example, if they are advertising a rugged racing mountain bike, then when a searcher clicks an ad, they should not end up at a page full of different types of bicycles. They should end up at a page about the rugged racing mountain bike.

We use that as a guide to say that generally speaking, we would rather see that the variety of keywords used within a page would all be relevant to each other, and that each page would be specific to one aspect of the website.

Also, take care to make sure that the page’s content is actually a page’s content, and not just a collection of keywords. It is okay to have several keywords within a page, but it cannot overtake the useful content of the page.

…and don’t try to hide a bunch of keywords in the background or in very small type somewhere on the page. Google doesn’t like that, and is known to penalize pages which use these.