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In this article we will go over the basic fundamentals of what keywords are, why they are so important and how to go about selecting the most effective keywords for your website in order to rank highly in the search engines.

What are keywords?

Keywords are words and phrases user’s type into search engines like Google when they are searching for particular products, services or answers.

For example: If somebody was looking to purchase a rugby ball. They might enter any one of the following into Google.

“rugby ball”

“rugby balls for sale”

“cheap rugby balls”

“best rugby ball for a beginner”

All of these are keywords, and it’s the search engines job to sort through all the billions of webpages on the internet in order to display the best search results for every keyword.

The image above is what is known as the search engine results page (SERP) for the keyword “rugby balls for sale”. The 10 webpages listed on this page are what Google believes to be the best and most relevant pages for users looking for “rugby balls for sale”. These SERP’s are also suited to your location. What this means is that the SERP’s for somebody looking for “rugby balls for sale” in South Africa will be a lot different to the results for a user in New Zealand doing a search with the same keyword (image below).

Why are keywords so important?

Website owners optimise their webpages by targeting keywords in order for their websites to show up highly in the search engines for specific keyword searches.

Imagine if you are the owner of a website that sells laptops online. Let’s say that 1000 people are searching for a laptop to purchase by entering the keyword “best online laptop shop” into Google every month. If your website was well optimised for “best online laptop shop” and if Google decided your website was the most relevant for the above mentioned keyword, your laptop website would appear at the top of Google every time somebody looking to purchase a laptop searched in Google using the keyword “best online laptop shop”.

That would mean 1000 potential customers would see your website at the top of Google every month. I’m not saying that all 1000 users each month will visit your site, although you can reasonably expect a large portion of them to do so. Many studies have been done and on average, the first result usually receives between 29% – 50% of visits for a given keyword. That is 290 – 500 potential customers each month on your website, looking to make a purchase.

What would that mean to your monthly revenue?

As you can see, choosing the right keywords will have massive implications for your business, not only for organic rankings in the search engines but for PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns as well.

How do you find the right keywords?

Even though “keyword” implies 1-word, the best keywords in SEO tend to be the ones containing multiple words. These longer keywords are called long-tail keywords and have fewer monthly searches than single words but are much more targeted to your desired customer base and will bring in a lot more sales and conversions. They are also far easier to rank for than short keywords.


If you were selling socks. You could try to rank for “socks” which I’m sure gets thousands of searches and the SERP’s is most likely dominated by the big retail stores. Or you could take the easier and smarter route by optimising for the longer keywords.

“Long red gym socks”

“Affordable socks for women”

“Blue and white striped socks for men”

These keywords will only have a fraction of the search volume compared to “socks”, but I’m sure you will agree that these keywords are a lot more targeted. The people searching Google with these keywords are further along in the buying cycle than somebody simply searching for “socks” who might just be browsing, or looking for some pretty pictures of socks.

These are the people you want visiting your website as they are ready to buy.

GEO Targeted Keywords

Some great keywords to also target are keywords with geo-modifiers in them. Simply put these are keywords with a location added in, like a city, suburb or country. These work especially well for service related businesses like doctors, lawyers and plumbers. Using my search engine optimisation agency as an example, instead of going after broad keywords like “SEO”, “SEO company” and “SEO agency”, it would be more effective for me to target “Johannesburg SEO”, “SEO companies in Johannesburg” and “SEO agency Johannesburg”, then optimise a page on my website with content specifically talking about SEO in Johannesburg.


The first steps to choosing effective keywords

Examine your website as a customer.

Think about what your clients/customers would type into Google if they were looking for your products or services. Now examine your website closely and ensure that the content on your site correlates to the keywords. This may seem like an obvious step but it’s often overlooked.

Analyse your competitors.

Go to their websites and scan their content to see the keywords they are targeting.

An outdated trick that still works on some older sites is to right click on the page and click on “view page source”, the wording may differ depending on which browser you use. Then hit ‘control F’ and do a search for “keywords”, this will sometimes show you the keywords that the website is actively targeting.

Do a Google search using one of your keywords.

Take note of whether there are any Google ads that appear in the SERPS. This often indicates that it’s a profitable keyword as companies are willing to pay to be listed in the SERPS for that keyword.

Take advantage of Google’s suggested searches.

Again, do a Google search using one of your keywords. Now scroll to the bottom of the SERP’s and you will see a small section with Googles “other related searches”. This is a great way of finding keyword suggestions you may have missed.

Use the Google Keyword Planner.

This is a free tool which you can use to not only find more keywords, but to also see their average monthly search volumes as well. All you need to access it is a free Gmail account. This tool was meant for Adwords advertisers but it’s great for any website owner intending to rank organically.

Quick tutorial on how to use the Google Keyword Planner

1.Go to https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner and sign in with your Gmail account.

2.Once you’re signed in, you will see a screen that looks like this:

Click on ‘Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category’

  1. Then enter a keyword and under the targeting section type in the country you wish to see keyword data for.

Once you have done this, click on ‘Get Ideas’.

  1. On the following screen you will see a list of Ad Group Ideas.

Click the tab next to it which says ‘keyword ideas’.

You will now see your keyword with its average monthly search volume as well as a list of related keywords and their search volumes.

Don’t worry about the competition or suggested bid columns, these are just indications of how many advertisers are competing for that keyword on AdWords and how much they would expect to pay per click.

You can hover over the trends icon to get a month-by-month breakdown of the average search volume over the past year.


Most importantly, when deciding on which keywords you plan to rank for, ask yourself the following questions:

Will my visitors find what they are looking for on my webpage if they use the keyword in a search?

Will the traffic coming to my page as a result of those keywords assist in meeting the goals or financial objectives of my website?

You should be able to build up a great list of effective keywords for your website by following the methods described in this article.

There is a lot more that goes into ranking on the first page of Google, such as on-page optimisation, back-linking and social engagement. But choosing the most effective keywords for your website will build a solid foundation which will make the SEO process a lot easier and get consistent traffic flowing to your pages.

Make sure you check out my available services to help you get more leads, customers and grow your business online.