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Almost all searches are text-based. Keyphrases are the words, phrases, or topics that describe your site content. Keyphrases often appear in various places on your site, from metadata to page copy. Another useful related term is search queries, which are the words or phrases users type into a search engine. Your website will show up in searches where the keyphrases on your site match the search query that the user has entered into the search engine. Keyphrases drive organic traffic, or users who end up on your site as the result of an (unpaid) search result.

Using Keyphrases

There are different types of keyphrases and strategies for using each. This section explains the differences between types of keyphrases, the importance of related keyphrases, and how to use search volumes to determine your target keyphrases.

Types of Keyphrases

There are two main types of keyphrases: head keywords and long-tail keywords.

Head keywords are typically only a few words and quite general. An example of a head keyword might be “engagement ring” or “silver jewelry.” Typically, these types of searches are overwhelmingly broad and your website is unlikely to show up as a search result given the thousands of other sites that also mention these words.

Long-tail keywords are longer search queries and more specific than head keywords. A long-tail keyword could be as simple as “engagement ring Charlotte NC.” Or, it could be highly complex and specific, such as “where can I buy a restored antique silver locket 1800s.”

Related Keyphrases

Not everyone who’s looking for the same thing will use the same keyphrases. Related keyphrases are terms and phrases that are used interchangeably, have similar meanings, or are used by people looking for closely related things. For example, “diamond ring” and “engagement ring” don’t mean the same things, but diamond rings are often given as engagement rings. You can use related keyphrases to target searches that are adjacent to your main keyphrases.

Two good tools to use for SEO and keyword research are Ahref’s Keyword Explorer or Google’s Keyword Planner. Both are tools that will show you the search volume for your keyword and related keyphrases.

Search Volumes

Unfortunately, your site is unlikely to ever appear on a SERP (search engine results page) for single-word or head keyphrases. Head keywords have very high search volumes, which means many people enter these keywords as search queries. Unless you suddenly become as well-known of a brand as Kay Jewelers or Tiffany, putting all your effort into ranking for “engagement ring” isn’t a smart move.

Long-tail keyphrases will typically have lower search volumes. However, because they are more specific, the quality of the traffic and number of clicks generally increases. The lower competition for long-tail keyphrases makes smaller sites more visible. You want to avoid being too specific with your keyphrases, because the search volume for very specific things can result in little to no traffic if the search volume is too small.

Beware of keyword stuffing. Copy-pasting a list of keyphrases onto your page or repeatedly using the same phrase too much can actually harm your website’s ranking. Try to use your target keyphrase 1-2 times per paragraph, and then fill in the gaps with related keyphrases or synonyms. Remember that humans as well as computers might be reading this text, so it should be clear and well-written. Hire a copywriter or proofreader if you need assistance.

Using Keyphrases on Your Site

The first step to improving your SEO using keyphrases is to choose some target keyphrases. These should describe your business' area of expertise and the products you specialize in. You can use your Google Analytics account to see what keyphrases people are currently searching to find your business, too. Once you have a list of target keyphrases, spend some time finding related keyphrases that you can include.

Location-specific searches are great ways for local businesses to get discovered online. Be clear on your site where you are located. “Near me” searches have increased exponentially over the past few years as geolocation services on cellular devices have improved.

There are a variety of places to use your keyphrases, once you’ve determined what you’d like them to be. Generally speaking, your home page should focus on the broadest aspect of your business, and each subsequent page should target a more specific keyphrase. Blog posts, landing pages, page text, H1s, meta descriptions, alt text, and URLs are all great places to incorporate keyphrases. You can also use your keyphrases in paid ads.

Keyphrases for Jewelers

Here is an example of how keyphrases might help your business to grow.

The Golden Karat is a family-owned retail jewelry store in Hobbiton, The Shire. They specialize in gold rings and also have a variety of gemstones for sale sourced from the Iron Hills. Their business is well-known for their ethically mined gemstones and appears on several SERPs, but they are not very visible for their custom-made golden rings.

The Golden Karat would like to increase their website’s ranking for golden rings by using keyphrases. They start by using their Google Analytics account to see which pages are driving traffic to their website. Unsurprisingly, most of their organic traffic is from the search “ethically mined rubies” and “ethically mined diamond jewelry.” Their keyword “gold ring” has a high search volume, but their small shop can’t compete on such a wide-reaching head keyword.

They look into other related keyphrases that might be easier to use. Since they do a lot of custom work, “gold ring design” seems like a good fit for their store. Unfortunately, it has a very low search volume. “Gold ring band” is also very similar to “gold ring” but has a lower search volume and is still highly relevant. They do a bit more research and discover that “gold wedding band” is often a related search term. Many searches also include compositional elements (such as “14k ring” or “pure gold ring”). The Golden Karat decides that they will add more emphasis to selling their rings as wedding bands and add more language about their custom work so they can talk about the purity of the metal, the unique and elaborate designs, and their ability to engrave the rings.

This is a strategy you can use on your own site. At the time this article was written, the monthly search volume in Google for “gold ring” was 7,726 searches, and “gold rings” was 6,048. Meanwhile, “gold ring band” was a much lower search volume with only 287. The Golden Karat’s strategy moving forward isn’t to stop targeting “gold ring” altogether, but they will start adding in related keyphrases with both middle and low search volumes to increase their page rankings. They may also choose to create another page that markets their gold rings as “gold wedding bands.” Though the products will be similar to their “gold rings” page, the page copy and URL differences may help them rank higher.

It’s important to note that websites don’t rank on SERPs – pages do. Even though The Golden Karat was doing well selling gemstones, they wanted to increase visibility for another product category with separate pages.

Keyphrases Checklist

After reading this section, you should understand the following:

  • What are keyphrases?

  • What is the difference between head keywords and long-tail keywords?

  • What is search volume and how does it affect how you choose target keyphrases?

  • Where are some of the places you can use keyphrases to boost your SEO?

Keyphrase Action Items

To improve your SEO using keyphrases, follow one or more of these steps:

  • Use your Google Analytics account to see which keyphrases make you visible on SERPs

  • Make a list of target keyphrases for your site, and include both keyphrases already doing well and those you’d like to add or improve upon

  • Use a keyword research tool to find related keyphrases for your target keyphrases

  • Read any of the following articles for ways to implement your keyword research: blogs, URL structure, landing pages, metadata

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