Christine Darby // Originally Published: October 9, 2014 // Last Updated: May 18, 2019

Keywords play an important role in small business marketing. If you've landed here, then you know keyword strategy should be considered before redesigning a website or publishing a blog post. Writing great content can take you far, but you still need to consider keywords.


Why do keywords matter?

Keyword optimization helps search engines understand what your content is about. If your site ranks high for the phrases your prospects use, then your small business website will receive search engine traffic from people interested in your offer.

Keywords help to differentiate content for users at various stages of the buyer’s journey. If you understand what people are searching for and how they are searching, then you can provide content specific to their queries.

How to Find Keywords

Step 1. Start with Your Intuition

You know your business and your customers best, so start with what you know. Brainstorm. Make a list of what you think search engine users might enter in order to find products and services like yours. Jot down a list of relevant terms that describe your products or services.

Enter these as search queries in the most popular search engines to learn which of your competitors are ranking well for those terms. Also, make note of how many paid search ads appear on the page - this will give you a good idea of the value of that keyword.

Consider asking friends and family what terms they would use to find a business like yours — their answers may surprise you! And creating buyer personas of your best customers and then trying to predict what they would search for is an effective strategy.

Step 2. Try Google Keyword Planner

You can sign up for Google Adwords and use the free Google Keyword Planner tool to explore keywords for your small business in greater depth.

Here you can enter a single keyword and get dozens of related keyword ideas to explore. You may find that your initial instinct was close but not quite right. For example, the tool may reveal that people aren't searching for Game of Thrones jewelry so much as they're searching for Game of Thrones pins, necklaces, or bracelets.

Look for keywords that are relevant, that have high monthly search volumes, and low or medium competition. Keep in mind that Google limits the useful keyword data you can access. And while useful, Google’s keyword data is actually more relevant to PPC campaigns.

Step 3. Use Free Keyword Research Tools

Luckily, there are other free keyword research tools to analyze or find keyword combinations:

  • Keywords Everywhere is a favorite tool. It is a free browser extension showing relevant search volume, CPC, & competition in real time while you are on Google Search, Ubersuggest, Google Analytics and more.

  • Google Trends allows you to type in multiple phrases and compare how search volume for each term has changed over time.

  • Übersuggest uses Google’s autocomplete feature, making it super useful to find content ideas that work together at the topic level.

  • Keyword.Guru shows results from top search engines and ecommerce sites like Amazon and eBay.

Tips for Choosing Keywords

  • Relevancy. No matter which tool your small business uses to find keywords, it's important to choose keywords that are relevant to your offer and audience. For example, if your website sells unique hand-crafted jewelry and one of the most promising keyword phrases is "buy jewelry supplies," think again. It doesn't matter how much traffic that phrase will bring you because it's attracting the wrong audience. People searching for that term want to make their own products, not buy yours.

  • Variety. Choose a variety of related keywords and plan on incorporating them into a single page. Once you decide on your primary keyword, look for terms you can use as secondary SEO keywords. Related terms are helpful for keyword optimization because they give additional context to your page.

  • Performace. Next, track results. Use analytical tools to see which pages are performing and which ones may need to be fine-tuned. Finally, as you discover keywords that bring traffic to your website, make sure to make the most of that traffic. Does the page's content make sense for the keyword search? Does your call to action make sense?

  • Long-tail. As a rule, long-tail keywords like "men's-brown-oxford-shoes" will be easier to rank for than shorter terms like "shoes." Long-tail keywords will generate less traffic, but the traffic will be better qualified. It's estimated that over 50% percent of searches are long-tail queries.

How to Use Keywords

You have a list of keywords, now what? Your goal should always be to provide your visitors with useful, high-quality information that reads well, adds value, and answers the reader's question or solves a problem.

Use your primary keyword in the title tag, in the first paragraph of copy, in the alt tag that describes an image, in the URL, and in the meta tag. Use variations of the keyword throughout the body copy, being careful to avoid redundancy. Use keywords only as often as they naturally appear, using them gratuitously will do more harm than good.

Related Resource // How to Write Blogs that Rank

Want to learn more?

Finding keywords to drive traffic to your small business website is important to an overall digital marketing plan that includes content marketing, blogging, social media, and email marketing

And no matter what CMS you use, online resources are easy to find for Wordpress SEO, Squarespace SEO, and others. Good luck!


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