The Problem with Single keywords

All About Keywords… Keyword Basics

Note: As keyword concepts are explored in these article you will see reference to Google Adwords and PPC. The reason for this is that an in depth understanding is of more importance to a paid search campaign than to an SEO campaign. In fact one of the “secrets” of success in keyword research for SEO purposes is to run a Google Adwords campaign before starting an SEO strategy. You will be able to subscribe to both the SEO and PPC series if you wish at a later stage.

As was discussed in the introductory articles on keywords the first point to understand is that a keyword as used in internet terms is not necessarily a single word. A keyword in the context of this discussion is more often than not at least 2 words and probably more. In fact the average search term on Google now exceeds 3 words.

Keywords are most commonly used in references to a search being made on a search engine. For example if someone types “Cape Town Hotel” into Google search then the 3 word phrase, “Cape Town Hotel“, is the keyword. Google will return all the search results that are relevant to those 3 words. It’s conceivable that Google could return a web page that does not contain the 3 words in exactly the same order as entered by the searcher. For example a page which might include the following words… There is a fine hotel in the famous suburb of Simon’s Town which is the last place to explore before reaching Cape Point.

It’s probable that such a page would not meet the searcher’s intent or motivation. By simply entering the 3 words into Google this way a BROAD keyword match was returned by Google in its SERP’s (search engine results pages).

By doing the same search with the 3 words surrounded by inverted commas such as “Cape Town Hotel” Google will return only those pages that have the 3 words exactly as typed and in that specific order

This type of search is using a concept known as PHRASE Match. Clearly this type of search will return more relevant results to a searcher looking for a hotel in Cape Town.

Broad, phrase and exact matches are the backbone of Google AdWords strategies we’ll discuss in depth in our Google Adwords PPC sereis..

The Problem with Single or 2 Word Keyword Searches

When a person types a keyword into Google that searcher is identifying, at that precise moment in time, a need.

However if only a single word search, Cape in this example, is made it’s impossible to guess or understand the searcher’s intent or motivation. Even when Cape Town becomes the search term we still don’t understand enough about the motivation of the searcher. When the third word Hotel is Added to Cape Town then the searcher’s intent, need or motivation starts to become clearer. As a hotel owner in Cape Town with rooms to sell I am possibly interested in my website being found by this searcher.

If the searcher extends this keyword to Cape Town Hotel Hout Bay then we know almost exactly what the searcher’s need is.

Now if we have a hotel in Hout Bay then we definitely want the searcher to see our offering. This searcher has shown us exactly what the need was at that instant in time. The converse might also be true… if I don’t have a hotel in Hout Bay then I don’t want my ad to be shown to this searcher. This exclusion opportunity is made possible by the use of NEGATIVE keywords which will be discussed in depth.

The keyword Cape Town Hotel Hout Bay is known as a Long Tail Keyword.

The average keyword in Google now exceeds 3 words.

The Long Tail

Savvy searchers use long tail keywords.

The vast majority of searches made are long tail keywords. For many markets more than 90% of all searches fall into this category. For example on one of my main websites the top 10 keywords account only for 5.6% of all traffic to the website.

It is a major mistake to focus only on obvious single word keywords. For example to bid on a keyword like hotels is guaranteed to lose you money in AdWords.

Despite this it is probable that far more money is spent trying to compete for broad terms such as Cape Town Hotels than for the more specific terms such as:

  • Hout Bay Boutique Hotels
  • Hout Bay Guest House
  • Hout Bay B&B Less Than R300

Google AdWords makes it possible to target these long tail keywords with complete precision.

The use of long tail keywords by a searcher is a strong indication that the searcher has completed the research necessary and is close to the buying point.

Short keyword phrases suggest the searcher is just browsing. Short keyword phrases with words such as review, or compare or list probably indicate someone who’s shopping with intent to buy later.
A long tail keyword searcher is a highly motivated searcher. These are the searchers we should aim to sell to.

The challenge is to discover these relevant keywords because it’s quite obvious that the possible permutations and combinations increase dramatically as the number of words in a search phrase is increased.

Google notes that more than 50% of daily searches are unique or have not been searched for within the last 90 days. This just confirms the importance and variety of long tail keywords.

Keyword research is the name given to the process of discovering all types of relevant search queries.