Often clients who are not well versed in SEO will ask me, “What is a keyword?”

Usually I say: A keyword is a word or phrase that is typed into a google search to find your website, and which are present in your website content.

That’s easy enough to understand but there’s a lot more to it than that.

What they don’t know is that there are many different kinds of keywords, and they should be used differently on your website depending on what type of customer you are trying to attract. Not only that, but there are a number of factors around keywords to consider, which are all part of keyword research. For example:

Keyword mapping:

This is the process of pairing keywords with relevant pages on your website. Once you identify a good keyword, you need a page on your website to feature it.

Keyword cannibalization:

This happened to me and it’s an eye opener. This is when pages that are being indexed in Google seem to be competing against each other. This is because they are optimized for either the same keyword, or 2 keyword phrases that are so close in meaning as to be indistinguishable by Google. When I googled “langley web designer”, 2 pages within my site came up: the web design landing page, and the “About” page.  That actually makes sense, since the keyword “langley web designer” is a fairly high-intent keyword (see below for more on this), and the two pages that came up would both fit. My solution, which I hope will garner better results, is to slightly alter the keyword on my About page from “langley web designer” to “becoming a web designer”. They keyword is different enough in meaning to distinguish it from my web design page, but it also fits because it talks about how I became a web designer.

You can check for cannibalization on your own website. In a Google search field, type in site:domain.com search term.  Whatever pages you see within your own site are competing against each other.

Keyword volume

Volume refers to how many human beings are typing a particular keyword into a google search page.  It’s by no means the whole story, but you don’t want to spend time and money on a keyword with 0 volume for your area or country. Ubersuggest is a great tool for this, but so is the google keyword planner.  I actually prefer the google keyword planner for the initial keyword research on volumes because you can narrow down the search region. With Ubersuggest, you can only target a country or a specific local area, usually a town. Most of my clients have potential customers across a province or state.

Keyword types

As mentioned earlier, the types of keywords differ according to what the user has in mind when Googling the search term.

Informational – at the top of your funnel, you have information keywords. These are search terms typed in by people who are researching. They want some information on an industry or topic. The usual strategy here is to map blog posts to these keywords as they tend to be more informational by default. An example would be “what is keyword research?” Clearly by using this search term, I’m not looking to purchase keyword research services or tools.  I’m still at the research stage.

Navigational — I used one of these while researching this blog post: “keyword mapping Neil Patel”. I specifically want Google to navigate me to Neil Patel’s work on keywords, which is massive. I made sure to specify keyword mapping as the topic, not just keywords or even keyword research. Both informational and navigational keywords are considered “low intent”, meaning the person searching is not likely to convert without further exposure to the brand.

Commercial – This type of keyword is almost the same thing as the navigational – except it’s not targeting a website, but a brand. An example would be “Dairy Queen chocolate desserts”. I’m not likely to have a blog post about chocolate or dessert returned. I’m going to see local Dairy Queen location results and probably Dairy Queen’s Google business page.

Transactional – These are what Google ads managers refer to as “high intent keywords”. When you’re paying for clicks, you want to be sure that the intention of the searcher is to buy rather than to research.  An example would be “kitchen renovations contractor”. This keyword indicates the searcher is looking for a vendor to contact. The opposite informational keyword might be “kitchen renovation tips” (if you’re doing your own renovation.) If you’re selling courses or training, a transactional keyword might be “learn to be an SEO expert”.

Other high-intent keywords might be phrases like “buy wood flooring”, “get SEO services”, or “purchase Birkin purse”.

More keyword types

But that’s not all! There are other types of keywords besides these four, specifically short-tail and long-tail.

A short tail keyword is usually one or two words, for example, “outdoor renovation”. The long-tail version of this search term might be “backyard outdoor renovation tips.  This is much more specific and the keyword volume is going to be lower. So why use it? Because it’s specific to anyone who might be searching for it. In that sense, it’s a high-intent keyword. There will be less competition for that keyword, too, giving you a better chance to rank for it. In fact, in this example, the website ranked #6 for the long-tail keyword, but #16 for the short-tail counterpart.

Keyword strategy

So how do we go about arriving at the best keywords to use on our website?  Like everything else, it depends what you want the outcome to be. If the outcome you want is more traffic, then optimizing for low- intent informational and navigational keywords in short or long tail version is probably a good strategy.

If you are using the strategy of nurturing your increased organic traffic to convert by moving through your site, you’ll want to ensure you have high intent landing pages as well.

But as this article from growandconvert.com points out, are you sure that strategy is going to work? And if it does, how long will it take?

Their recommended strategy is to set your sights on the high-intent, transactional keyword traffic to maximize conversions ahead of traffic, using both landing pages and blog posts. My guess is this could be super-charged by adding long-tail keywords into that mix.

The answer is Yes

If it seems like there’s a lot that goes into keyword strategy, there is, and rightly so. After all, keywords are the foundation of any SEO campaign. You must research your potential client’s wants and needs, match keywords to it, and then sprinkle the magic dust of the right keyword placement and density in your website. Only then do you have a basis for attracting traffic and getting conversions. Is keyword research still necessary in 2023? For now and the foreseeable future, the answer is “Yes”.