It’s not enough to fill up a few pages of your site with some pithy paragraphs. When you’re writing content, whether it’s product descriptions, a landing page, or your ‘about us’ page, you’ve got to be writing with a purpose in mind. A strategy.
Elsewhere on our site, we talk about how we go through the process of keyword research. But, WHY do we go to the trouble of data mining for keywords in the first place? If you’re very descriptive and grammatically correct, it seems like that should be good enough. But search engines don’t work that way.
Customers’ thought processes are keyword-targeted. Hence, search engines are keyword-targeted.
Let’s throw out an example. Someone wants to buy a phone case for their shiny new iPhone 6. How are they going to search for phone cases on Google? Will they type in a long description of what a phone case is?
‘plastic housing covering outside of cell phone protecting from damage’
‘aluminum snap-on case for when you drop your apple phone on sidewalk’
‘type of cover you put on smartphone preventing screen from getting cracks’
These are all accurate descriptions of the type of product this user wants. But they absolutely are NOT going to be searching for it in that manner. Their search term will likely be, at most, 4 words long (the average is between two and three words). The categories of words they’ll use may include: (1) a word that names the item they want, (2) the function of the item, if that isn’t evident from the name, (3) a related item, person or place, and (4) an additional descriptive word (material, color, design).
In our current example, Google provides the following suggested search terms (curiously, Google seems to favor three-word terms):
‘waterproof iphone case’
‘iphone case charger’
‘iphone case reviews’
‘designer iphone case’
‘best iphone case’
‘apple iphone accessories’
There isn’t a lot of variety in the words that users have submitted to Google. The vocabulary is very small. You may do an excellent job of describing the products you offer on your site, with a wide and witty vocabulary, but if you overlook those very few words and phrases that stick out in users’ minds and so your content isn’t keyword-targeted, then they’ll never find you.
Without keyword targeting, you’re just a needle in a very large haystack.
Keep in mind, Google doesn’t just look at whether words show up on your page or not–one of the many, many things it also looks at is the distance between the words. Let’s say that Site A has a page on which the words ‘apple iphone accessories’ appear together as a single phrase, in that order, while Site B has a page on which ‘apple iphone’ appears in paragraph 1, while ‘accessories’ pops up separately in paragraph 2, with no mention of ‘apple’ or ‘iphone’ in that paragraph. All other things being equal, Google is going to consider Site A as being more useful and relevant than Site B.
Why? Because Google’s search algorithm calculates the mathematical likelihood that various words on a page relate to one another. If they’re very close together, odds are that they all talk about the same thing. In the example of Site B, the math will say that it’s more likely that the word ‘accessories’ has to do with something else being talked about in paragraph 2–maybe accessories for a tablet or another type of phone. So from Google’s perspective, Site B is talking about two different things: iPhones, and accessories for some other item. The odds of the user being happy with this are a lot lower than they are for Site A, because it’s incredibly unlikely that a page with the phrase “apple iphone accessories” won’t have anything to do with accessories for iPhones.
So Site A wins and shows up somewhere on the first couple pages of the search results, while Site B ends up on page 13. It doesn’t matter whether or not Site B is about accessories for iPhones or not. From Google’s perspective, it’s slightly less likely to be useful than Site A, so Site B loses. Google thinks in terms of likelihood. It’s an odds game.
Keyword targeting is a way of giving yourself better odds.
The takeaway from all this is, when we go to write our content with keyword targeting in mind, we have to make sure that these ten or twenty most common related keywords are incorporated, and additionally, that we write in such a way that keywords are very tightly related with the other keywords that often go alongside them in a search query.
But that’s where the real challenge begins. We have to do the above, while still writing in a natural fashion that provides the searcher with not only what they want, but additional, useful information about what they want as well. We can’t just discard high-quality writing and make a big list of common phrases (e.g. “We carry Apple iPhone accessories, the best iPhone cases, waterproof iPhone cases…”) and call it a day. Google has long since gotten too smart for that sort of thing. The keywords have to be present in the context of something more structured and informative (an article, a blog post, an in-depth product description), otherwise Google will discard it as being spammy and worthless.
This is why we offer free SEO analyses to our site visitors. Figuring out keywords is the easy part. 90% of the work is incorporating those keywords into pieces of tightly written keyword-targeted content that will be engaging and useful to site visitors, while still being easily found when someone types two or three words into Google or Bing.