In terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and websites – keywords are the words and phrases that define your content. If you take a single web page and you only look at the text, your keywords are the words or phrases that appear repeatedly.
Why are they important?
When someone goes to a search engine they type in keywords or “search queries.” Keywords are the road between what a person is searching for and the content you’re providing. When building a website, writing a new blog post, or even when adding pictures to your website - keywords matter. If your goal is to drive organic traffic to your website, the keywords you choose will define what kind of audience you attract.
Take Mars bars for example (yes, the candy bar). If they try to rank for just the word “mars” they might rank really high on search engines, but they’ll get extremely different types of traffic. Some people might be searching for the planet, while others are looking for something to satisfy their sweet tooth. It’s important to think about the searchers intent and align that as best as you can to the types of keywords you use.
What are long-tail keywords?
Keywords can be broad or they can be specific. Broad keywords will get you lots of searchers (and lots of competition!) but might not bring people at the right stage of their search. Long-tail keywords, 3 words or more, have more intent behind them. For example, the phrase “used cars” is broad and might have a different meaning depending on who is searching for it. But, “used sedan in Spokane Washington” is a long-tail keyword that might indicate they’re looking for a used car to buy, and soon. Using long-tail keywords might bring you less traffic but they will have less competition and bring you a more targeted audience.
Does it matter how I use keywords on my website?
Trying to rank for certain keywords isn’t about jam-packing your website full of them. Search engines, and your visitors, want to read content that brings actual value by providing an answer to a search. The goal is not to trick search engines into ranking you high; it's to provide information that’s relevant to the keywords. Part of SEO 101 also includes adding keywords to your URL, headers on the page, meta descriptions, and in the alt attributes of images.