Keywords and click are two of the most popular words on the Internet. Countless readers will have visited this blog post because they realize the importance of those two words.
We should immediately warn you that many may find the content of this blog post disturbing. If you think you know all there is to know about keywords you may be in for a surprise. If you stay with us through to the end, be warned. Your preconceptions about keywords may be in for some serious disruption. Hold onto your hat, here we go.
Keywords For What
How could we even pose a question about the reason for using keywords? Most Internet savvy people realize that the word keywords should immediately make you think of how to get around the Internet. Yes, Google really has done a great marketing job. The way to find what you want is to put keywords in a simple search field. Just look at the almost classic simplicity of their search page at the time of writing this blog post.
Indeed in their browser, Google Chrome, they even encourage you to forget about URLs and you can put either a URL or keywords in the single address field.
Isn't that the natural way to get around. Well not everyone agreed that keywords were the most useful way of surfing. Remember Jeeves. He suggested you should ask questions and the ongoing version, Ask, still recommends that.
Bing is a new Decision Engine providing customers with a first step in moving beyond search to help make faster, more informed decisions. Bing is specifically designed to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business. A Decision Engine is designed to empower people to gain insight and knowledge from the Web, moving more quickly to important decisions.
Neither of them is likely to displace Google anytime soon. However it does point out that keywords are not the only choice.
Of course many will perhaps find this line of thinking almost blasphemous. Indeed while writing this, I received an e-mail from Acronym, which pushes its keyword-driven marketing approach as the superior way to market on the Internet.
However before swallowing that argument, let's continue with our examination of the conventional wisdom.
Who Needs Keywords
A number of groups accept the argument that keywords are almost the most important element on the Internet. Let's explore the different motivations they have.
At the top of the list we should put Google which has built its business on keywords. They suggest they should be used as the way of finding whatever information you may be seeking on the Internet. If you are an Adwords advertiser, Google offers keywords as the only way of specifying where your ads should appear. Clearly keywords are working for them.
The next group clearly must be website owners. They find that Google (and the other search engines) can bring so many visitors to a website, that if Google says they are important then that is the way to go. Website owners thus use SEO methods to ensure that their websites will rank highly for important keywords. Of course only a small fraction of website visitors arrive via a search for a simple keyword. Most often they have typed in some longer phrase that includes a simple keyword. This is often defined as a long tail search. Website owners are thus involved in trying to rank highly for these long tail searches as well. It is somewhat like trying to create a huge 'butterfly net' of words and phrases that may bring in as many visitors as possible.
The other key group that must work with keywords are the Adwords advertisers. They also must develop sophisticated 'butterfly nets' of keywords to ensure their ads appear before as many eyes as possible.
Do Website Owners Really Need Keywords
Many would regard that question, Do Website Owners Really Need Keywords, as foolish. Indeed we would not say keywords are unimportant, but perhaps there is a more fundamental issue here. After all a website owner does not necessarily want only a visitor who has tapped in a keyword in a search field. Usually they want prospects who are interested in what they have to offer and are likely to be persuaded to buy whatever product or service they are offering.
That prospect is not defined by a set of keywords but probably by some concepts. They have certain needs and certain prior experiences and they are looking for solutions. Ideally if you could see what concepts they had in mind you could better target what you present to them.
The Big Picture - Concepts not keywords
As you might expect, Google does provide help on what keywords may work well for you. It's called the Google Adwords Keyword tool. However they do add a small disclaimer.
Use the Keyword Tool to get new keyword ideas. Select an option below to enter a few descriptive words or phrases, or type in your website's URL.
Keyword Tool Tips
Important note: We cannot guarantee that these keywords will improve your campaign performance.
You might assume that trying to understand the concepts that potential website visitors might have could be more difficult. However there is another Google tool that can provide some help. It is called Google Insights.
See what the world is searching for. With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties.
I would highly recommend that you try Google Insights as a first step in trying to get the big picture before you home in on what specific keywords might relate to the concept. I have used it on a number of situations and it has always expanded my field of vision.
You can of course use the Google Adwords Keyword tool, but it seems to edge out from the keywords you have inserted even though you may allow it to a look at synonyms. The results seem to be centered around the initial keywords. Google Insights on the other hand does seem to look at the underlying meaning of the words and can produce major surprises.
One example that highlighted this for me concerned the VTEA charity website that provides therapeutic riding for disabled children. Another word for therapeutic riding is hippotherapy. That is buried in the Adwords Keyword Tool results. Looking at the Google Insights results for therapeutic riding, this alternate description is shown in certain countries to be only a little behind the more traditional phrase.
Perhaps an even more dramatic result is shown in considering laser eye surgery. Note that if you wish to repeat the searches mentioned below, the results will depend on your location. Using the Google Adwords keyword tool, although the word Lasik is mentioned, it does not particularly stand out.
Using the Google Insights tool however, a search for laser eye surgery produces somewhat surprising results.
By doing this, it is quite clear that the big picture includes both laser eye surgery and Lasik eye surgery. By doing a Google Insights search to compare these two phrases, it is quite clear that there are strong regional differences. The blue bars are for 'laser eye surgery' and the red bars are for 'lasik eye surgery'.
In some parts of the world laser eye surgery is the preferred phrase. However in the US Lasik eye surgery is used more often.
This comparison does point out the importance of understanding the concepts that prospects may have in mind before homing in on the specific keywords that may be appropriate to use.
$64,000 Question - Do the Google algorithms search on concepts or keywords?
If you have been following the argument here, you may have the same major question that comes to my mind. Does the Google search algorithm follow the logic of the Google Adwords keyword tool or the logic of the Google Insights tool. If the search algorithm is closer to the Google Insights tool, this suggests less emphasis on specific keywords and more emphasis on the underlying concepts. It is not just a question of adding in synonyms for keywords but may suggest fully describing the meanings behind such keywords. That approach would make a great deal of sense and would certainly ensure that more insightful articles and blog posts will appear higher in the rankings.
In summary we are suggesting here that Search Engine Optimization should not prompt an immediate rush to a keyword analysis with traditional tools. You should use a little insight first to understand the concepts that your target prospects may be considering. Once you have checked out the concepts and have the right 'Big Picture', then your keyword research may be somewhat broader and will certainly be more relevant.