Homer Simpson saying D'Oh by Columbus OH website design firm Sevell

As a Columbus Ohio web design firm, we do the keyword research and on-page SEO for the websites we design and build. However, we also want our clients to share what they  think their keywords should be, because they know their industry better than we do. And even though their perspective is based on very basic knowledge of how keywords work, this helps get us off on the right foot. Once we have their input, then it's up to us to take their ideas, see if they're legitimate keywords, and if so, expand on them (to find long tail keywords) or variations on those keyword suggestions.

Along the way, we try and educate our clients as well... should they have an interest in learning about SEO.

Of course, we're happy to do it, because the more they understand how keywords work, the more they understand their website and how they should be blogging. And everyone who wants to know more, always seems appreciative of the lesson. (Even though we understand how boring it might be to them, we try to make it as simple and relevant as possible.)

Here's some scenarios of clients' misperceptions of how keywords work, including examples of their requests for keywords. This should explain why some keywords that seem  like a good idea at first, may not be as relevant as they thought.

Mistake 1: not optimizing for local search

What does that mean? Well, one of the keywords we use on our blogs, "Columbus Ohio website design," is both optimized for local search (using the word "Columbus") and a long tail keyword. When we do keyword research, we use Google Keyword Tool which takes your (or our) initial thoughts on keyword research and suggests you thousands of variations on your keyword. Not all their options are relevant, but it opens the door for going down the right path.

If we tried to be found for "website design" it would be possible, because Google and other search engines know the location from where you're searching. If you've ever Google'd the phrase "restaurants near me," you know what we mean.

That said, if you're targeting for local search, it's a good idea to include region-specific keywords. Not only in your copy, but in your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions. What are page Titles and Meta Descriptions? You can find out in less than a minute if you watch the first 40 seconds of this video on Page Titles and Meta Descriptions. You can see the keywords in our Page Title below.

Columbus website design firm homepage Page Title

Mistake 2: Using a single keyword that's too competitive.

We built a website for an Austin, Texas-based doctor specializing in anti-aging. She'd given us a list of keywords she thought would be good for her new website, including, as you would expect, "anti-aging."

When you Google the word "anti-aging," you get the results you see below. "Anti-aging" is an all-too-common phrase used by the major cosmetic companies, so there's no way you can effectively compete with them. They've been around longer, have a lot of SEO history, and unlike you and us, have a much bigger marketing budget.

So using a phrase that's common enough it's used by lots of companies, especially larger ones that have been around for a while, isn't going to work for smaller organizations.

Mistake 3: Using keywords that could mean more than one thing.

The same  doctor wanted the word "Regenerative medicine" to be a search term they show up for. A search for that terms quickly showed the results went right to stem cell research, not "Hormone Replacement Therapy," the practice the doctor offered. So showing up on page one for "Regenerative medicine" would out you at odds with the other resutls on that page. And when the results for a search for "Regenerative medicine" show information about stem cell research, that tells us "Regenerative medicine"  isn't the right keyword for this doctor's practice.

Even if you could, miraculously, get on page one for a word like "Regenerative medicine" people would expect you to sell services relating to either stem cell research, or growing tissues and organs in the laboratory for implanting. And since our doctor client didn't offer those things, it would be confusing, and frustrating for the visitor. And therefore, not a good keyword for them.

But say you did make your way to page one (a very unlikely scenario) for that keyword.  Even if you did get a lot of eyeballs seeing your website rank in Google, you'd most like have a very low conversion rate. (Meaning the number of people seeing your website vs. the number of people contacting you.) They might click on your website in Google's search results, but when they realized you didn't offer what they were looking for, the amount of people contacting you (the conversion rate) would be very low.

On the flip side, the amount of time and money you'd have spent to have gotten to page one of Google would be huge.

regenerative medicine Google serp pages by Columbus Oh website design company

So you can see it's important to do some keyword research through both Google's Keyword Tool, as well as actually searching for your potential keywords by Googl'ing them to see what shows up on page one: your competition! By Googl'ing the keyword you have in mind and reviewing the results, you'll see if Google returns websites relating to companies similar to yours, or if they're returning results for websites that aren't even in your industry.

However, if the results are  what you hoped for, and the results match what you're offering, then you're probably onto a good keyword. If not, move onto another keyword.

Mistake 4: Using keywords that might be too "broad."

Broad keywords are words like "hats" or "shoes" opposed to "long tail keywords" "embroidered baseball hats" or "woman's running shoes."

We did a website for an attorney who has a unique twist on his services. He's both an attorney and a working actor. What he offers are classes to help other attorneys perform better in front of judges and juries, by using techniques actors use to be more commanding and convincing.

The issue is, the words he says are relevant for his services: "communication skills," "body language," and "presentation skills," are so broad, and used by so many different kinds of websites, it would be hard for him to show up because this client:

  1. wants to be found for the phrase throughout the United States
  2. is competing against huge companies who have been using those keywords and have been around much longer (giving them a huge SEO head start), and
  3. doesn't have the time to develop a Content Marketing effort (ie: blogging every week) that would compete with those companies who have either marketing dollars, or marketing departments

Side note: what is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the commitment to write quality, original content, week-in, week-out and share them on social media to get your ideas and articles out to a wider audience. And when we say writing content, we don't mean short blog posts.

Both search engines, and people, are looking for in-depth articles about a subject, assuming it is well-written and knowledgeable. While rumor has it that 300 words is the minimum to shoot for in your blog post, research shows articles with 1,500 words are shared more often than blogs with 300 words. Is that because those who can write 1,500 or 3,000 word articles are better writers? Probably. But not always.

Mistake 5: Using keywords nobody searches for.

We recently wrote an article that addressed using the wrong keyword for your audience. To summarize, there are two ways this occurs:

Using a keyword like "periwinkle websites." (Periwinkle is a light purple color.) If we used that keyword in our website, we could easily be found on Google for that phrase. Why? Because no other website design firm uses it. And the reason they don't use it is because no one searches that phrase.

Google search results for periwinkle websites by Columbus website design firm SevellThe other situation is using something CLOSE to the right keyword.

As you can see below, there are zero monthly searches for the keyword "Columbus Homebuilders" (with "homebuilders" as one word).

However, there are 140 monthly searches for the keyword "Columbus Home Builders" (with "home builders" as two words). So one simple bit of research can make all the difference in using the right version of a keyword for your website.

Google SERPS for Columbus homebuilder by Columbus Oh website design firm Sevell

Under the same heading of "using keywords nobody searches for" is when companies look at the services page/sections of their website for keyword inspiration.

Using that school of thought, they end up using keywords that are already on their website. The problem with that approach is: what if the words on your services or products pages aren't the words your prospects' are searching for? 

An example of that is a consulting firm we're working with wanted to use the word "Ingenuity" as one of their main keywords, since that word was throughout their services page. (Of course, as you've learned earlier in this article, "Ingenuity" is too broad of a term.) So during that keyword discussion, we Googled "Ingenuity" and found the "long tail" keywords people were searching for...

Google search suggestions for Ingenuity...as well as the results that showed up on page 1 of Google for just  the phrase "Ingenuity," below.

Again, while people are  searching for the word "Ingenuity," a consulting firm wanting to be found for that keyword just couldn't compete with established brands who have been focusing on that keyword for far longer.

Google SERP for keyword Ingenuity

In summary

The goal of keyword research is to find the right balance of keywords that:

  • your prospective customers are using to find your services,
  • focus on long tail keywords that focus on what you're offering,
  • focus on keywords that don't have double meanings,
  • find keywords that aren't too vague (broad) in their meaning, so they can eventually:
  • guide the content of you main pages to use those keyword

We hope this information helps your understanding of how to use keywords for your website. Should you have any questions about how we go about researching the right keywords for a website, feel free to contact us.