What the Heck are Keywords and Why Should a Small Business Owner Care?

by Joanne Steele on April 1, 2016

I was recently working with a small business owner, helping him to learn how to optimize his website.

long legged spiderI suggested that his next step was to make a list of keywords to use as he updated the written content.

There was a fairly long silence and he asked, clearly with some embarrassment, “Could you explain ‘keyword’ to me? I’ve heard the term a million times, but I’m not certain I know what you mean.”

It started me thinking about how many other assumptions I’m making about people’s understanding of these internet marketing terms we toss about.

If there is a geek term YOU have heard used and aren’t quite sure what it means, leave it in the comments, and I’ll see if I can help.

I want you to take control of your internet marketing, and the first step is to understand the language!

Here goes with a straight forward definition of Keywords.

When someone goes to Google or Yahoo or Bing to search for something, they type in a string of words. Those word are what we call keywords.

In the olden days – 7 or 8 years ago, people would often just type in one or two words. But today, we’re all so much more tech savvy, the average number is more than four! So it’s actually more accurate to talk about keyword phrases.

Google crawlers or spiders use a number of factors that are part of their very secret algorithm to match the keyword phrases your customer types into their search box with the most relevant websites. One of those factors is the keyword phrases themselves. Another is synonym of those phrases. Google learns from your customer’s past searches what they’re most likely looking for and what websites they visit.

In the past when search engines were less sophisticated, web techs were often able to pack content, meta tags etc. with a repetitive string of the same keywords, and it worked to get their site listed on page 1 of a search.

No longer! Those search engine spiders have gotten smarter and smarter, and searches have become more useful and relevant for the user.

So, what does this keyword thing have to do with your own website?


Rural small businesses have a great opportunity to capture more customers by effectively using the keyword phrases an their synonyms in their content that those customers will be using in their search engine searches.

You’re small; you know your customers. The things your customer is going to be asking for is pretty limited compared to a big city or multinational corporation.  Things such as, family guided hiking trip, horseback trail ride, B&B accepts pets, emergency dental care. You hear these requests via phone, email and in person all the time.

Those requests plus your location are powerful, relevant keyword phrases your prospective customer will also type into the Google search box.

To start identifying your most relevant keyword phrases, think about what your customer already asks for.

Then think about all the regional and local words that they might also use in that search. If your Perfect Customer probably lives in your state or region, add your town or a regional label.

Is it important that you include your country or state? Maybe if your identified Perfect Customer lives far away and may be using state or country names in a search.

Then, to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything, go to Google Adwords and type in some of your keyword phrases. Variations of these will come up, that you can add to your list to create keyword niche lists. You might also discover some new keyword ideas from this process. This is Google’s marketing tool for their paid search tool.

Don’t pay for any searches! Use this tool to get familiar with your market and the most used keyword phrases.

The Adwords tool will also show you how competitive your keyword phrase is and how many searches using those terms have occurred.

Those terms that have tens of thousands of searches are too competitive for a local small business.  Your goal is to get onto page one for a search for your identified keywords phrases, and you won’t have a snowballs chance in you-know-where with those highly competitive terms.

The terms that exactly describe what you do and where you are, that only generate a few hundred to a few thousand searches a month are your sweet spot. Those are your customers looking for you! And organic search (nonpaid search) will connect you.

Now that you have your list of relevant keyword phrases, the next thing is to use them on your website.

Here’s the process:

1. Identify the Perfect Customer you’re targeting on the page your writing content for. If you’re fuzzy about this idea of a perfect customer, read this post:  How to Target Your Perfect Customer Like Facebook.

2. Look at your keyword phrases list and pick out 3 or 4 you know this customer will be using to look online for your features, services or products.

3. Write relevant, interesting, useful content that this Perfect Customer will be thrilled to discover, using those keyword phrases and their synonyms as often as you can without being spammy. If it becomes difficult to read, or repetitive, it’s spammy and Google will ignore you.

Remember that once your customer gets to your homepage, they’re looking for the benefits your great features and services will offer them. Those keyword phrases on your homepage are for the Google Spider to find.

The benefits of those keyword features is what is going to move your customer to action, so incorporate both. Don’t understand the difference between a feature and a benefit? Check out this past post:  Nature Based Tourism Is Not REALLY About Nature.

4. Don’t forget to include a call to action in your content! You got your customer there with good keyword phrase choices and usage. You enticed them to read your page with good content. Now, don’t forget to close the sale.

If you’re interested in more detailed information about keywords, here’s a link to other good, in-depth articles.

The SEO pro’s secret path

Photo on Flickr by John Tann



1 Bill Metcalfe April 3, 2011 at 7:23 am

This is going to help a lot of people, and it is explained really clearly. Thanks.

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