Keywords 101: Different Types & Uses


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Understanding keywords and planning a strategy is essential for success, whether you’re running PPC campaigns on Google and Bing, or you are trying to improve your website’s SEO. Today, we want to keep the focus on keywords, as last week, we discussed keyword match types. This week, let’s broaden the scope and do a deeper dive into keywords. What types exist, how to use them in your campaigns, and some common mistakes business owners make when selecting keywords.


Short tail keywords are keywords of 3 words or less. These tend to be the most broad search terms available. For example, if you are a Realtor, “sell my home” would be a short tail keyword. These are typically the highest competition terms, and will cost you much more per click in a PPC campaign. They are also among the most difficult to rank for in an SEO strategy. With so many aged websites having an upper hand because they have been producing content on these terms for so long, expect very minimal gains if you elect a strategy for these terms.


Long tail keywords are pretty self-explanatory. They are 4 or more words long, and are more specific. You might find a higher intent web browser using long tail keywords. Sticking with our example, a Realtor may want to use the long tail term “down payment assistance programs to buy a home.” This is obviously a more detailed search, and would have less overall competition. PPC clicks on Google Ads or Bing Ads would be less expensive, and these are easier to rank your website for. The downside for these would be the lower overall click volume.


Short term keywords are those that become extremely popular, but have a short shelf life. Terms that revolve around events tend to have huge search volume for a brief period of time, but then have a sharp decline shortly thereafter. For example, a term like “2020 Oscar Nominees” might be extremely popular until about April 2020, but will have a sharp decline thereafter. Using these terms in your PPC strategy would be beneficial for relevant, updated content you want consumers to find.


Long term keywords by contrast, are those that will retain their popularity over time, albeit in a less explosive fashion. Using a baseball analogy, long term keywords are a .300 hitter with 10 home runs, while short term keywords are a .275 hitter with 36 home runs. These are great terms, although the competition is a bit high for them. A good mix of long term keywords in your SEO planning or PPC campaigns can help keep your results high.


Customer defining keywords are good for targeted, direct campaigns. These are essentially “add ons” to help you reach the consumers you want to speak to. For example, the Realtor we discussed earlier might use the term “top home buying tips for millennials”. By adding a generational term, I have segmented the audience. This is especially effective in keeping your CPC down in your PPC campaigns.


Product/service defining keywords are great for getting those early in the purchase journey to click. They tend to indicate a more educational approach. A great example of this would be from the auto industry. By using a term like “the 2020 Ford F-150” the consumer is able to feel comfortable in their click, knowing that they are finding relevant information for their search. These are extremely specific (read low competition) terms, but they tend to convert at high rates.


Geographic keywords are exactly what they sound like. Adding some local color to your keywords can help drill down an audience and is especially useful for small businesses. If you are a mechanic and your shop is on the West end of Spokane, WA, you will want to use “mechanic in Spokane” or, even more detailed “mechanic on west side of Spokane”. The popularity of these terms depends heavily on the size of the area. So, Los Angeles is going to be more competitive than, say, Saginaw.


Intent keywords are great, as they help you weed through traffic. Using terms like “learn how to bake” or “steps to lose weight” showcase the intent to learn something. Linking these to a page on your site with deep content would be your best bet. I might use they keyword “learn how to run PPC campaigns” to help market this article, while I might use “hire a PPC expert” to drive traffic to a more sales-oriented page.


Latent Semantic Indexing keywords is really a fancy way to say related terms. For example, if I am putting together a PPC campaign and its focus is for a business in Detroit, I might want to include “Motor City” in my campaign. Or, if I am focusing on selling action figures, I might want to include terms like “Captain America toy.” This is a way to expand the reach of your campaigns, as not everyone searches the same way.


A couple of notes: When looking at campaigns business owners are running, I see a couple of very common mistakes related to keyword planning. One of the biggest and most troublesome is overloading the ad with too many keywords. The best thing to do is focus on less, but higher performing keywords, and bid for those. Otherwise, you will most likely end up losing money on clicks that don’t convert.


The other huge mistake I see is only bidding on the most popular keywords. If you are trying to outbid Nike for “basketball shoes” you will lose every time. Your best bet is to get creative and use some of the other keyword types I have mentioned above in your campaign strategy.


As always, if your PPC campaigns are floundering, give POSH a call. Our experts know what makes you click.

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