WordPress is a terrific tool for building your website. As on open-source platform, it’s subject to constant scrutiny and, more importantly, continuous improvements coming from the best minds in the business.
It offers you the flexibility to create pretty much any kind of site you want, from simple blogs to video-streaming sites to online stores. WordPress gives you access to umpteen themes, plug-ins, and other bells and whistles to make your site fast, functional, fun, and unique.
Next to choosing the fastest internet service provider in your area and web host to keep you up and running, the platform you select for building your site might be the single most important harbinger of your site’s success.
But even the quickest-to-load, most engaging, and stunningly beautiful WordPress site won’t pull in optimal traffic unless it’s chock-full of the one ingredient: carefully chosen, relevant, SEO-hogging keywords.
What’s a Keyword?
If you’re new to website building you may not be familiar with all the lingo that gets tossed around in web development land.
So let’s start with a basic definition.
Keywords are words or short phrases that people use when they initiate searches on search engines like Google. Publishing commonly searched terms on your website content makes it more likely your site will appear in searches.
To optimize your website for search (SEO), you should include the right search terms—and include them often. Ideally, these words will appear in both the titles you use and in body text. They can also be included as meta tags you build into the code that makes up your site and the URLs that direct visitors to your pages.
How Do I Know Which Keywords to Include?
The right keywords for any site (or an individual page on a site) depend on the purpose of your site. Boil it down to the simplest of terms. “I’m trying to inform patients on the risks of smoking,” for example. Or “I’m trying to sell golden retriever puppies in Washington DC.” You can probably think of some critical keywords just by summing up your reason for being in a single sentence.
When trying to develop a keyword strategy, you become a marketer trying to sell a product. Marketers ask themselves two very important questions, regardless of the medium they’re using to connect with customers. The first is, “What do my customers care about? And the second is, “What words do my customer use to talk about what they care about?”
It’s that last question that confounds a lot of newcomers to web design. Sure, you could invest thousands of dollars and countless hours in focus groups to pinpoint the precise language your customers use to describe their wants and needs.
But the accuracy of your data would suspect, simply because you’d be working with such a small sample. But big data has a solution for you. It’s called the keyword research tool.
Keyword Research Tools
There aren’t as many keyword research tools as there are keywords, but there are still a bunch. WordPress users have access to a variety of easy-to-integrate keyword planning tools developed in the same open-source environment as the platform itself.
Some keyword tools are free for as long as you want to use them and many others offer a free trial period to first-time users. Before paying for any keyword research tool, by all means, investigate the free ones. Google Keywords Planner is the largest player in the free keyword search tool arena.
To access it, you will need to open a Google Ads account. But you don’t have to buy any Google Ads use the keyword tool. In any case, don’t pay a dime for a search tool you can’t take out for a test drive. That’s because the right keyword research tool for you is likely to be the one you find the easiest and most intuitive to use. You can’t nail your keyword strategy if your hammer’s too heavy to lift.
What Features Should I Look For?
An effective keyword search tool delivers volume and variety. That means the tool contains enough data points to paint a detailed picture of what your target visitor cares about. Getting into your visitor’s heart, mind, and vocabulary is what effective keyword research is all about.
The best keyword search tools give you both starting-point, off-the-shelf keywords and a built-in process for coming up with new keyword ideas that will not help you drive traffic to your site, but also make your copy distinctive from your competitors’.
Speaking of the competition, like all smart marketers, you’ll want to keep an eye on yours. Your keyword search tool should provide data on the keywords your competitors are using to drive traffic to their sites and how those keywords are performing.
But the most frequently searched terms won’t raise your site to the top of a Google search page all on their own. They’re just the price of admission. The idea is to strike a balance between stealing your competitors’ best ideas and coming up with your own unique ideas—keywords your competitors haven’t even thought of, or at least aren’t using.
That’s where long-tail keywords come into play. Long-tail keywords are phrases that include keywords in a natural, conversational way. So if your essential keyword is “dog food” and you know your visitors care about their dogs’ health, you might include a long-tail keyword phrase like “choosing the healthiest dog food.”
Long-tail keywords don’t attract the same high volume of searches that the most obvious keywords do, but you’re not competing with everyone else when you use them.
The best keyword search tools will also help you select keywords based on user intent. Some users are simply trying to learn something. Others are searching for a particular site. Some absolutely want to buy something—and do it locally. Chances are, you’ll want to attract visitors with all different kinds of intentions, to your site.
The way you craft your keywords can help you do just that. Let’s say you’re a real estate broker. If you offer general information on buying and selling houses, you might include the keyword “real estate basics.” To attract people who want to buy a house, the keyword “homes for sale” would be a smart addition to your text. And if you’re a realtor who does business in just one city, you can focus on your specific target market by using the keyword “Yonkers home listings,” for example.
Too Much of a Good Thing Can Hurt
You can tell when a content creator has sacrificed readability to shove a few more keywords in. Copy that’s “over-keyed” is mechanical, boring, repetitive, or downright annoying. The good news is that you don’t have to get bogged down in tired language to improve your SEO. Google is smart enough to recognize and equate keywords with other words that mean the same thing.
So you don’t have to, for example, use the phrase “used furniture” over and over. That would constitute over-usage, don’t you think? Instead, you can write “second-hand” or “previously-owned” or “even pre-owned” and still get credit for the “used furniture” keyword from Google. In a world that’s been digitized, quantified, and analyzed to death, style still counts for something.