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What are Keywords?

If you want to use SEO to get more organic traffic to your website, the place to start with that is keywords. Keywords are the foundation of any search engine optimization strategy. If you pick the right ones, search engines will send the traffic rolling right in, but if you choose the wrong ones, you might be trying to rank for search queries with an irrelevant audience or words and phrases that will take years to get to page one of search results, or keywords with zero search volume.

Today we’re going to talk about how to do keyword research that brings relevant traffic to your website to generate a lead or a sale. I’m Kelis Landrum. I’m a co-founder at True North Social, where digital marketing agency based in Los Angeles, California. And we’re here to help you learn how to market your business online.

SEO audit

If you want to do that with search engines, keywords are the place to start. Keyword research is the heart and soul of SEO, and because of that, there’s a lot to understand about keywords. So we’re splitting this up into a three-part series so we can really break things down:

  1. In this video, we’re going to talk about what are keywords and what are the different types, so you really know what you’re looking at.
  2. In part 2, we’re going to talk about how to create a great big list of keywords that might be potential candidates, and we’re going to go over some actual techniques to help you try and find some relevant terms.
  3. And in part 3, we’ll talk about how to narrow that list down to an actionable number of specific keywords that are relevant to your site, to your niche, to your industry, the scale of monthly search volume, keyword difficulty and where you are in the game. This is vital to determine which keywords important to rank for.

These are all actual techniques that we use here are True North Social, and we’re going to share them with you. Now let’s start this off right and talk about what are keywords. What exactly do we mean when we say keywords?

keyword research tools

Personally, I like to call them to search terms or search queries, because it helps me to remember that I want to rank my pages for things with actual monthly search volume, and that people don’t tend to search one word at a time. Instead, they tend to search for terms like Thai food or phrases like Thai food near me. This might be a really important question, right around lunch and questions like how do I make pad Thai?

I know I’m guilty. Pretty much everyone else I know is too of using keywords and search terms interchangeably. We’ll go back and forth. Essentially, they mean exactly the same thing. Keywords or what somebody actually types into a Google search to find whatever they’re looking for. Moving right along, let’s talk about the types of keywords that we’re going to look at!

When we’re thinking about how to choose SEO keywords and phrases, we should start by thinking about the types of keywords and phrases that we can consider. Keywords can be broken down into two basic types, and I put together this little graphic, which will hopefully help clarify.

search intent

The first type is broad keywords which are usually pretty vague, maybe one word or two words at most, and then there are long tail keywords which are usually more specific. These are usually a few words, or a phrase, or a question. Both broad keywords and long tail keywords can be broken down a little bit further by intent, which is informational versus commercial.

So if we look at some examples, let’s think about trying to sell cars. Broad keywords are usually short. Maybe one or two words and informational keywords are for people who are researching. They want to know a little bit more about a subject, and in this case, they want some broad information, so they might search for something like cars.

title tag

Search intent for commercial keywords is associated with buying, so broad commercial keywords might be something like buy cars or cars for sale. Generally, broad keywords have a lot of monthly search volume and are very competitive. If we look at search results for “cars”, we can see the search volume on this term is 60,500. But this type of search is generally for someone who doesn’t know exactly what they want to buy yet, or maybe isn’t serious about buying at all.

So unless you have a ton of selection like Carvana or CarMax, who carry a lot of different kinds of cars, this will take a lot of work, and you may not get a serious customer, or you might get someone looking for something that you don’t sell at all. Long tail keywords, on the other hand, will have much smaller search volume but can be much more tailored and are easier to compete for. Long tail informational keywords might be something like what is the safest sedan? This is a question about a specific property of a specific type of car.

This person might have purchase intent, but there’s still at the top of the sales funnel, and they’re clearly doing research at this point. And they may not be ready to buy for quite a while. Long tail commercial keywords, on the other hand, indicate someone is looking to purchase a 2019 Toyota Camry Los Angeles, for example, if someone who is looking for a specific type of car for a specific year in a specific location. If it were just the car brand and the year, they might be looking for mechanical information. But when you couple it with the location, it’s highly likely that someone wants to purchase this year’s make and model in their area.

find keywords

And because there are only so many of these cars available on any given day, getting a listing for this to rank is actually pretty easy because there can’t be too much competition by nature. So I just wanted to say Congrats. You now know the fundamentals of keywords, and as a result, you probably know more about SEO than 95% of people on planet Earth. These are fundamentals, they’re a little bit dry, but they are crucially important to understanding what we’re trying to accomplish here.

In our next video, we’re going to go over some techniques to do keyword research and build a big list of potential of target keywords. In our third video, we’ll talk about strategies to narrow down that big list to a few target keywords you really want to go after. Once again, my name is Kelis Landrum from Turner Social. Don’t forget to hit the like and subscribe buttons. Then I’ll seek you in the next video!


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