What are Keywords and Why are They Important?

If you are in the digital marketing business, then you have probably heard of what keywords are and why they are so important.  Other synonyms for keywords that you might have heard are ‘SEO keywords’ and ‘keyphrases.’  In the world of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), keywords play an essential role.  Keywords, which can be a single word or a short phrase, help organize websites on the search engine results pages (SERP), as the website with the most relevant keywords will increase its probability of ranking higher on the SERPs. 

Why are Keywords Important for Digital Marketing?

For any SEO strategy or pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, keywords are extremely important.  But why?  Well, before I alluded to the search engine results page.  On Google or any other search engine, you will search for a particular service or product, such as ‘pool covers near me.’  When you search that keyword, a list of websites will load on the SERPs.  The websites will be ranked and organized according to how well each respective website satisfies a list of criteria – relevant keywords being one of them.  So, if on your website you have information that is relevant to ‘pool covers near me,’ then your website stands a better chance of getting ranked higher on the SERPs.  Now, there are some nuances here that are important to consider – for example, you cannot dump relevant keywords all over your website and its content.  The website ‘crawlers,’ which rank websites, will notice that there are too many relevant keywords, which is referred to as ‘keyword stuffing.’  

If you are using Google Ads and are running a PPC campaign, you can use your advertising budget to pay and get your website ranked higher than some of the organic results.  In short, no matter what your SEO strategy or digital marketing strategy is, having your content and website include relevant keywords will be integral to your strategy’s success.

How Can I Find Keywords?

As we just learned, having relevant keywords is essential to your marketing strategy – but which keywords should you use, and with what frequency?  On the one hand, if you use keywords that are general and common for your audience, you risk being too nonspecific and getting lost in the shuffle. On the other hand, if your keywords are way too specific, users will most likely not search the keyword and land on your business.  So this is the art of keyword research, finding that Goldilocks zone between general keywords and specific keywords.  

Different Types of Keywords

Now that we have a good idea of what keywords are and how we can use them, let’s distinguish between two different types of keywords.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are very specific keywords.  For example, a general keyword might be ‘pool fences.’  A long-tail keyword might be ‘pool fences in Suffolk County.’  You can be sure that not nearly as many people will search ‘pool fences in Suffolk County’ as just ‘pool fences.’  If you are a new website, these long-tail keywords can be great because they tend to have a much higher conversion rate.  If someone knows what they want and searches with a specific enough keyword, and you have that keyword appearing on your website, then a conversion is likely.

What Makes an Effective Keyword?

We just zoomed in on long-tail keywords, which can be really helpful for new websites.  There are also some qualities that one can use to understand how effective a keyword might be.  Those four qualities are search volume, word count, price (cost-per-click), and competition.

Search Volume

Google collects data on searched terms and, at the end of each month, you can find out how frequently a term is searched – and there you have the keywords’ search volume.  This is an illuminating datum because, with it, you can understand how beneficial a certain keyword might be to include in your content and on your website.  So, high-volume keywords are competitive, while low-volume keywords are not as competitive – which is why new websites should gear their marketing efforts around long-tail keywords.  

Word Count

As you might have guessed, word count refers to the number of words in a given keyword.  While word count might not be the most important quality of the four, it can still help you narrow your keyword list and search.  If the keyword word count is low, like one or two words, then the competition for that keyword might be high; if the keyword word count is high, then the competition for that keyword might be low.

Price (Cost-Per-Click)

Each and every keyword has a price attached to it – a ‘cost-per-click.’  The price will tell you how much an advertiser spends each time a user clicks on the ad after searching the keyword.  The CPC of ‘pool fences’ might be $3.25.  This means that an advertiser will pay $3.25 when a visitor uses that keyword and then gets to the advertised website.  So, checking out the prices of each keyword will give you a good idea of what your budget might be for a marketing campaign.  The higher the price of the keyword, the better the conversions are and the competitiveness of that keyword.  


The more popular a keyword is, the more difficult it is going to be to leverage that keyword for your own marketing efforts, whether it is organic or paid.  Some keywords are difficult to use, as they might get searched often and thus make it more difficult for your website to stand unique among the many.  Then, based on that keyword and its popularity as a search term, you will find how expensive it is to place an ad at the top of the search engine results page.  Understanding the difficulty and the density of a keyword will help you prioritize and organize your future marketing campaigns.  There is a lot to keyword research.  Though it is nuanced, taking the time to understand it is essential to your marketing success.

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