If you are a businessperson and you deal at all with the internet (so, pretty much everybody), you have heard a lot of talk about “keywords.” You probably did a little amateur etymology the first time you heard the phrase and determined that these “key words” are simply important words for you to include on your website (or even social media posts). And you wouldn’t be wrong.

But do you know why keywords are so important? Do you know how or when they are used? And by whom? Here’s a short primer on keywords, and a brief “how to” for putting them to work.

First of all, it’s important to understand that a keyword isn’t always a word. It is often a phrase. For instance, “car detailing” would be classified as a keyword, even though it is actually two words. As you’ll see a little later in this story, that can make a world of difference.

Keywords are utilized by search engines like Google (and search algorithms on platforms like Facebook). These complex computer programs try to simulate how a human seeks out information online. When you type in “car detailing,” the search algorithm does its best to analyze what you really want and deliver a result that you will click on.

This can be harder than it sounds. Is somebody who types in “car detailing” actually searching for details about cars? Does the word “cars” really mean all vehicles? Search algorithms do their best to make judgement calls on questions like this, “learning” from past experience to improve their chances for success.

That’s why it is so important for us to use keywords appropriately on our websites – to make it easy for search algorithms to find our content. Let’s say you have a car detailing business. Consider these two sentences:

Bring your car in to get detailed today.

VS

Joe’s Auto Cleaning is your headquarters for car detailing in Omaha.

In the first sentence, the specific keyword “car detailing” doesn’t truly exist. A search algorithm is pretty smart – and it may guess that your website has something to do with detailing cars – but it would prefer a sure thing. And if it treats “car” as a keyword itself, it is essentially useless. Keywords that are overused and ultra competitive make for tough sledding. It’s likely that your puny use of the word “car” on your site would be overlooked by search engines as they are instead attracted by car manufacturers, car dealers, etc.

In the second sentence, the keyword is used precisely how we want it interpreted (“car detailing”) AND we manage to get the location in as well (Omaha). Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the first assumes that the search engine is as smart as a human, while the second does not.

One more thing about keywords – don’t get carried away. This might seem like a contradiction after what I’ve just written here, but bear with me. Back when internet search was just getting off the ground, the algorithms were much more primitive. Essentially, the logic went like this: If a website using a keyword once is good, then a website using a keyword fifty times must be fifty times better. Good-intentioned (and not-so-good-intentioned) web designers across the internet sought to exploit this by “packing” their sites full of keywords (often wedging them into every sentence or simply pasting them twenty times on the bottom of a page). The results were terrible (they are any time that humans are able to manipulate results), so the engineers at Google changed the rules. Today’s search engine algorithms do their best to look for things like context. And they penalize black hat villains who are trying to game the system.

The key to keywords is to use them in a way that would appeal to a human who was evaluating your web pages. If a human could identify the point that you are trying to get across, then a search will too.

When we write content here at Code Roadies / Anchor Marketing, we do our best to put good keywords into all of the places that search engines look. If you’d like help making sure that your content is search engine-friendly, give us a call.