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What are keywords and why do we need to use them to rank well on Google?


When you first starting looking in to how to get better search engine rankings for your business, one of the first questions you will come up against is What are keywords?

What are keywords?

The term “keyword” is actually a bit of a misnomer as it implies singular words – however in reality a “keyword” is a phrase that someone might type in to Google’s search box (or Bing, Yahoo etc) when looking for a business.

So, for example, if someone were to search for “plumber in Miami” that is a keyword.

The person doing the search will then get results something like this:-

what are keywords

These results are often referred to as the Search Engine Results Pages or SERPS for short.

The way search results are presented can change depending on the keyword entered, but you will no doubt be used to seeing a search results page much like this, with Adverts appearing first (typically 3 or 4). Then local maps listings, usually for 3 local businesses (we call this the map pack), then we get our “organic” search results which are regarded as the top ten positions for that particular keyword.

So there are three areas vying for your client’s attention on Google. All of them rely on Google looking at your website and interpreting your website’s content and deciding if your website should be categorised as (in this case) a “plumber in Miami”.

So if we were to visit a plumbing website and there was not one single mention of Miami, and his or her address was nowhere near Miami, then it is fair to say that site would not be listed for that keyword.

But think of the reverse – if that site does mention Miami and even better their address matches that locality, then you can see why Google might seek to include that website in the search results.

So this is basic Search Engine Optimisation 101 – your website text should include the terms that your user is likely to be searching for.

But this is where it becomes very very interesting!

How do we know what our customer is searching for?

Well, without doing proper customer research, we are just guessing really (We’ll cover customer research in another post here on ThePoolsideCEO – it is vitally important and shouldn’t be overlooked).

So back to that question – how do we know?

Well we don’t, but fortunately for us, Google keeps track of the number of times people key in these search phrases (i.e. keywords) and stores that information in their databases. And even better, they allow us to access that information.

And this is where the magic happens!

Why is it magic? Well the information you can extract from their system is hugely revealing and if you interpret the content carefully, you have a MASSIVE lead on your competition.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say I was that plumber in Miami and I was looking to rank my website for the best keyword  i.e. the keyword that was searched for most times, that was relevant to my business. Without doing my research, I may have assumed that “plumber in Miami” was the best.

Well, what if I were to tell you that “plumber in miami” was searched for 320 times every month. Wow! That’s quite a lot of people looking for your services, isn’t it.

Well, here’s where the magic happens – by checking Google?s keyword records, I can actually establish that another similar keyword actually gets almost 1400% more traffic!

“Miami plumber” gets searched for 4400 times per month!

That’s a huge difference in potential traffic visiting my site if I can somehow rank for “Miami plumber” instead of “plumber in Miami”.

I hope now that you are starting to see the importance of keyword research and how it can hugely influence the success of your business on the Internet.

How do we do keyword research?

Well there are a number of tools available – paid tools are essentially more powerful, but you can access Google’s own free tool which is called Keyword Planner.

How to access Keyword Planner

Keyword planner is a tool that is contained within Google Adwords. Google Adwords is the advertising platform that Google uses to deliver the 3 or 4 ads you see at the top of the search engine results.

Creating an account on Google Adwords is free, and access to Keyword Planner is also free – however recently they made it a little tricky to use the tool for the first time, unless you have registered a credit card and created an advert with them (very sneaky) – but fortunately I know how to work around that 😉 (N.B. This worked at the time of writing – your mileage may vary!)

So first things first – go to and we will create our adwords account.

What are keyword

Click on the Start Now button and you will be presented with a screen like this:-

what are keywords

VERY IMPORTANT THIS IS THE SNEAKY THING I MENTIONED EARLIER – Click on “Skip the guided setup” as this will force you to create an advert before you can access the Keyword Planner – if you don’t do this you will be forced to enter credit card details and create a paid advert before you get access to the keyword planner tool.

Next you will see the screen below which will allow you to create your free adwords account (remember we won’t be creating any adverts here, we are simply accessing their free keyword research tool):-

what are keywords

Enter your email address, and select the relevant currency and country.

Click the Save and Continue button, and if this email address does not have an associated Google account you will see a screen like this:-

what are keywords

Complete the form and click Next Step – you will be presented with a Privacy and Terms popup that you will need to scroll through and agree to.

Google will then send you an email verification link that you will need to respond to in order to continue. In some cases, they may also want to verify your account via mobile phone.

Once you click the verification link, your Adwords account will be created and you will be taken to your Adwords Dashboard screen:-

what are keywords

Now click on the Tools menu option and select Keyword Planner

what are keywords

This will then take you to the Keyword Planner screen – this is where we can start checking the keywords to use for our business.

what are keywords

Click on the first option – “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”

what are keywords

In this example (which I encourage you to follow through) we are going to use our “plumber in Miami” again, so that you can see the data we used earlier.

Enter “plumber in Miami” in the the box marked “Your product or service”

Leave the next two boxes blank.

The “targeting option” allows you to establish actual keyword usage figures based on a geographic area around your business – so if this was relevant to you, you could adjust this to suit. If your business includes an online element that can deliver anywhere, then leave this blank.

Now click on Get Ideas and the Keyword Planner gets to work.

You will now be presented with potential keywords that are broadly related to your initial search term and you will also see a graph of the last 12 months of usage (which can be interesting in itself).

what are keywords

You can see right away that in our example, “Miami plumber” is listed at the top with 4400 searches.

what are keywords

But this may not always be the case, the obvious (and less obvious) keywords may be buried in the data a little. If I were to scroll down the screen a little more I would see that actually Google has presented me with 278 potential keywords.

what are keywords

So let’s first of all sort them by “Average Monthly Searches”. This ensures the top performing keywords are listed first. Click on the Avg Monthly Searches column and the data will be re-sorted to show the highest searches first.

what are keywords

Now we have a very different picture, with some HUGE traffic keywords being shown – “plumber” with 301,000 searches and “plumbing supply” with 135,000 searches.

Article Update: Not seeing the keyword volumes?

Sadly, since 2016 Google have taken to restricting some accounts to only see a “range” of keyword volumes and this can be restrictive when trying to properly analyse the correct keywords to use for your website. There are ways around this, but many users have reported various levels of success with these workarounds. Here is Google’s official answer on how to get around this if you are hit by it.

Keyword relevance and targeting is vital in your success

Before we get excited by huge search volumes like this, we have to remember keyword relevance and client targeting – will that keyword bring the correct target client to my website?

This is very, very important as there is no point someone visiting your site to then immediately leave, as your website is not relevant to them. (Google counts such a visit as a “bounce” and the more bounces you have, the more Google downgrades your site as it treats this as a measure of “site quality”).

So let’s get our search results a bit more relevant. Our plumber does provide a local service to the Miami area, so let’s target Miami in our keyword.

At the side of the keyword planner screen, you will see we have access to the customisation filters we saw at the beginning – click on Keywords to include and type in “Miami” then click on Save.

what are keywords

Now the screen refreshes to only include the keywords with the word “Miami” in them.

what are keywords

Now we can clearly see that “Miami Plumber” would indeed be the keyword to target for our plumber’s website.

Don’t forget about the other keywords though.

Generally, when optimising a website for a particular keyword I allocate no more than 2 keywords to any one page.

Each page on your website represents a separate opportunity for that page to show up on Google’s search results, so please remember that it’s not just your home page we are talking about here.

Now looking back at my keyword research above, I might decide to target “Miami plumber” and “plumber Miami” for my home page – giving me a chance of 5,280 searches in total. I might then allocate the keyword “plumbing supply Miami” to my about page and try to grab a further 590 searches – and so I could go on.

Furthermore, what about the local areas I might serve in and around the City? A quick Google search reveals all the municipalities around Miami.

What if I were to create a “landing page” on my website (using HBA Funnel Builder of course) for each of those communities targeting a plumbing keyword for that locality?

Let’s take the next largest City by population, Hialeah and do some keyword research on that.

I run the keyword planner tool again –  click “modify search” and change it to “plumber in Hialeah” and click Get Ideas.

what are keywords

The list refreshes, but remember our filter to include terms only with the word “Miami” in the keyword is still set – so click on keywords to include again and change it to “Hialeah”

What are keywords

Now we find that “plumbing supply Hialeah” has 90 searches and “plumber Hialeah” has 50 searches.

What are keywords

We could now allocate those two keywords to a page on our website all about how we service the Hialeah area.

That’s another potential 140 searches. Multiply that by the number of municipalities in the Miami area (34) and you could potentially be looking at a total of 4,760 searches that your competitors are ignoring, simply by creating 34 new pages on your website dedicated to those local service areas.

If you implement this properly, this is a huge opportunity for your business. Absolutely massive, and you know the best part about all this – Most businesses don’t have the skills or knowledge to even consider it. So just by reading this blog post you are already a step ahead of them.

Are you starting to get excited yet? I hope so!

Start doing some keyword research of your own that is relevant to your business.

Try different keywords and play around with the keyword tool.

Then compile a list of “A”keywords (the top performers that we might use for our home page), “B” keywords (the next best performers which we will allocate for other key pages of our site, like our About Page, Blog Page, Our Services Page etc). Then lastly document the “C” keywords that we might allocate to individual blog posts or new pages on our site (like our municipality example for Hialeah that we mentioned above).

So we might end up with a list of keywords like this:-

What are keywords

You now have a complete keyword research strategy and blueprint for your website.

Keyword research is a huge topic – so we’ll leave it here for now and we’ll cover how you actually implement these changes another day.

Can you do me a favour?

We hope you enjoyed this article and when someone asks “what are keywords?”, you now know the answer.

If you did enjoy it, perhaps you would be so kind to either share this article to your friends and colleagues, or like our page on Facebook – that would be really, really appreciated.

Thirsty for more? Our next article in this series discussed how to check your rankings properly on Google. You can access it here.

Access the next article in this series


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