One of the most common digital marketing goals these days is to measurably increase online visibility. Whether your customers buy on your website or at your brick-and-mortar store, a strong internet presence helps consumers find, learn about and ultimately purchase from you.

As you scour the internet for online marketing tips, you’ll see advice about blogging for search engine optimization (SEO), creating effective landing pages, using compelling imagery and more. But when it comes down to it, there’s one vital element to digital marketing that can make or break these tactics and strategies: keywords.

How Do Keywords Relate To Digital Marketing?

The right keywords are vital to your digital marketing strategy!

When a potential consumer goes to a search engine like Google to look for something, they type in words or phrases to guide their search. These are keywords: the key terms website users enter to find what they are looking for.

Sounds easy enough. Users type in their keywords and your business comes up, right? Well, not exactly. Search engines use complicated algorithms to try to help their users find helpful and relevant results. These algorithms use a wide variety of factors such as website credibility, how often the site publishes and keywords used on the website itself.

This is why it is so important to research keywords to see what will work well for your organization.

Keywords need to be:

  • Something users will search for.
  • Relevant to your brand.
  • Terms that can be seamlessly integrated into all your online content.

Once you know which keywords to focus on, you can begin to use them strategically throughout your digital marketing content.

Different Types Of Keywords For Digital Marketing

Next to a smiling woman are the words short-tail vs. middle-tail vs. long-tail
Make sure you include a variety of keywords in your digital marketing content.


There are three main types of keywords: short-tail (also called head), middle-tail (also called body) and long-tail. Blogging Wizard does a nice job of explaining each term:

  • Short-tail keywords usually consist of one or two words (e.g., ”WordPress themes”). These keywords are broad and generic but often ambiguous, with a high search volume.
  • Middle-tail keywords usually consist of three or four words (e.g., ”WordPress themes for blog”). They are more specific than short-tail keywords but have lower search volume.
  • Long-tail keywords usually consist of four or more words (e.g., ”free responsive WordPress themes for blog”). These are more detailed and very specific, but the search volume is even lower.

Although it may seem obvious to opt for keywords that receive the highest volume of searches, the best digital marketing strategies actually include a mixture of all three types of keywords. This is because, while short-tail keywords are often searched for the most, long-tail keywords usually have a higher chance of conversion.

SEOPressor does a nice job of explaining the pros and cons of the short- and long-tail keywords:

Short-Tail Keywords

  • Volume: High – The shorter the keyword is, the higher the search volume.
  • Competition: High – Everyone is trying to rank for short-tail keywords.
  • Focus: Low – The search isn’t targeted, meaning users could be looking for a wide range of answers.

Long-Tail Keywords

  • Volume: Low – They cater to very specific searches.
  • Competition: Low – The search is going to be geared toward whatever it is you are selling.
  • Focus: High – You’re a lot more likely to have the customers you are looking for looking for you!
  • Conversion rate: High – Because you’re providing exactly what a user is looking for, they’re much more likely to convert.

Based on the above, you may think, “Why not just use long-tail keywords in all my digital marketing content?”

While you want to include long-tail terms as often as possible, doing it in a natural way isn’t always manageable. For example, if your short-tail keyword is “dance studio” and your long-tail keyword is “affordable children’s dance studio in my city,” which do you think will be easier to wrap into a blog post or social media ad while still making sense to your target audience?

It is important to remember, while keywords are vital to your digital marketing strategy, writing for search engines isn’t the only focus. Search engines will bring consumers to your content, but if your article or landing page isn’t compelling for the potential customer you’re trying to reach, it’s a waste of your company’s time and resources.

How To Research The Best Keywords For Your Digital Marketing Content

Brainstorm Ideas

The words, keywords research surrounded by drawings.
Researching digital marketing keywords begins with a thorough brainstorm.

Get in the minds of your target audience. What words or phrases do you think they’ll search for in Google (or another search engine) to find a company like yours? Write down everything that comes to mind.

Remember to think beyond the main term for your business. Search Engine Journal has a nice example of this for a plumbing company. You may think of these terms:

  • Plumbing services.
  • Plumbing contractor.
  • Plumbing company.
  • Nearest plumbing company.

While these are all good potential keywords to write down, they’re all basically focused on the same core term: plumbing. Think about other related phrases potential customers may look for, such as:

  • Leaky pipes.
  • Gutter repair.
  • Broken water pipes.
  • Water heater repair.
  • Waste disposal installation.

What other ways can you make your brainstorm as thorough as possible?

  • See what terms are already bringing traffic to your website. Hubspot explains, “Drill down into your website’s traffic sources, and sift through your organic search traffic bucket to identify the keywords people are using to arrive at your site.” Google Analytics is a great way to see this information.
  • Talk to your staff. What questions do they repeatedly hear as they talk to current and potential customers? Specifically ask them what key phrases the client is using as a way to gauge what someone might search for.

Organize Your List

Organize your list of potential digital marketing keywords as you go.

Depending on how many ideas you come up with, you may want to separate your keywords out by category. For example, if you sell clothing online, you could create different columns for tops, pants, dresses, shoes, accessories and so on. To keep everything organized, I like to make these lists in Excel so I can see the different columns side-by-side.

Research More Terms

Go to Google and enter one of your keywords, then scroll to the bottom and look for the related searches. Those are more potential ideas for you to add to your list. Add any relevant terms to your list and move on to the next potential keyword. Go through your list, one at a time, until you’ve searched for each idea.

A helpful tool for this part of the process is Keywords Everywhere. This browser extension seamlessly integrates with Google, so when you perform a search it tells you the keyword’s volume (number of searches per month), cost per click (CPC) if you were to advertise and competition (based on other content/keywords out there on the internet). In addition to providing these details about the term you search for, it also provides even more suggestions on the side of the screen along with their volume, CPC and competition.

If you’re looking for a keywords tool that is free, another option to consider is Wordstream. It doesn’t give you quite as much information, but it does provide very helpful data on search volume and CPC.

Be Thorough And Detail-oriented

Go through each term in your columns one-by-one, detailing the volume, CPC and competition as you go. I like to write out the whole numbers, one per cell in my spreadsheet, so that later when I begin to evaluate which keywords to focus on, I can manipulate the data more easily. Here is an example using terms for a company that sells mattresses and bedding:

Evaluate Your List

Go through each column and highlight the keywords you think will be best to focus on for your digital marketing. Remember to select a mixture of short-tail, middle-tail and long-tail so you can take advantage of the benefits of each.

Following your research, finalize which keywords you will use for your digital marketing content.

During this process, I sort the list a few different ways to go through it. I often start by sorting the list by volume and looking at the terms most often searched for; this is a fantastic way to get a solid list of short-tail keywords.

I will also sort the list by competition and CPC to help my brain see the best possible options in another way. Looking at the terms with the least amount of competition is often an easy way to determine long-tail keywords.

Another helpful resource for evaluating terms on your list is Google Trends. This handy digital marketing tool allows you to input a few different terms and compare them by popularity, region and more – including trend history and projections.

Finalize Your List

Write the highlighted terms down as a separate list so you and your digital marketing team can reference it moving forward.

How To Add Keywords To Your Digital Marketing Content

A successful digital marketing strategy requires more than researching the keywords: you also need to use them effectively.

Remember, the entire point of your content is to connect with people. Keywords are a way to help search engines bring these individuals to your website; when they get there, your keyword-rich content needs to be well-written, easy to read and compelling for the consumer.

Blog posts are one of the easiest and most effective digital marketing tools in which you can use keywords strategically on your website. By adding new blog content regularly – down to the same day of the week and time of day – search engines will learn to come back and look for fresh articles. If you use your keywords in a natural way throughout the posts, your website will rank higher as internet users search for related terms.

In this post about blogging for effective SEO, I shared the best places to slip keywords into your articles:

  • The title
  • Subheads/section headers (tip: format these as header tags when you upload your posts; Google weights them higher than the body of the article)
  • Photo captions
  • Image file names
  • The URL of the post
  • The meta-description
  • The first sentence
  • The last paragraph

Your blog posts are not the only place to use your keywords, though! Sprinkle them throughout your website copy as it makes sense, include them in any digital marketing content you create (such as social media updates – both organic and paid) or, if you post videos on YouTube, use the same terms there, too!

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