Small Business SEO: How Do I Choose Keywords?

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If you’re new to the game of SEO, pay close attention.

It’s no secret that if you want your business website to be found by the right visitors (aka your target buyer persona), it needs to rank high on search engines for select keywords.

Keywords are specific phrases used in your web content that search engines can identify and match with online visitors who are searching for those keywords. In other words, keywords make it easy for online users to find your website. Digital marketers use keywords to gain authority (aka real estate) in the Search Engine Result Pages, or SERPs. Among the tens of thousands of possible keywords for your business website, how do you choose the ones that will bring in and convert the most searchers? Read on to find out!

Short Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords

Short Tail Keywords

Keywords can be as short as one or two words, such as, “website.” This is known as a short tail keyword. It is nearly impossible to rank for short tail keywords since they are extremely broad terms. What would someone who searches for this term be looking for, exactly? Website design? Website development? Website hosting? It’s hard to say.

Additionally, big name companies such as Wikipedia, Wix, or Squarespace will be difficult to overthrow for this rank, as they take up so much of the digital landscape. These shorter, more general keywords receive much more traffic overall, but are known to have lower conversion rates and produce lower-quality clicks compared to long tail keywords.

Long Tail Keywords

Keywords also can be three or more words, such as, “Website development and design in Frederick Maryland.” This is known as a long tail keyword. Long tail keywords are unique combinations of words making up a more specific, direct phrase in an online search. The conversion value of long tail keywords is much higher because your buyer persona is searching specifically for your services, and may be searching for those services in your area. You’ll have a much higher chance in ranking for a long tail keyword than a short tail keyword.

This comparison table from gives a clear picture of the pros and cons for both short and long tail keywords:

short tail vs long tail keywords

How Do I Know What Keywords Will Be Best for My Business?

Conduct Keyword Research

Before launching your marketing SEO strategy, do your research. Let’s say you’re a small lawn care business looking to get more customers via your website. Start by creating a list of relevant topics based on what you know about your business. This might look like:

  • Lawn care
  • Landscaping
  • Lawn tools
  • Lawn services

Then, for each topic, create a list of search terms a user might type into Google. This is the time to think like your buyer persona and generate search terms they might actually use. For the “landscaping” topic, you come up with these possible search terms:

  • Landscape maintenance
  • Trees and plants
  • Landscaping ideas
  • Landscape design
  • Urban landscaping
  • How to landscape

When you run out of ideas, turn to Google and start researching what competitors are already targeting. This will help you narrow down which keywords your business has a better chance of ranking for and possibly even monopolizing. You’ll want to have a good mix of keywords so you can gather metrics down the road of which are actually converting into leads and customers and which are not.

If you want to automate this process, you can also use keyword research tools to help generate targeted keywords. There are lots of options out there for your needs, but here are The Best Keyword Research Tools of 2017, as ranked by AdEspresso. Here at 270net, we’re HUGE fans of SEMRush and SpyFu for keyword research – and we use both daily.

Consistently Re-Evaluate Your Keyword Strategy

It’s important to remember that the web is constantly evolving, and so should your keywords. Keywords are not a set-it-and-forget-it portion of your marketing strategy. Many times, business owners make assumptions about which keywords are bringing in more traffic and target the same keywords they’ve had for years. However, digital marketing software such as SEMRush (mentioned above!) and Serpstat can easily prove them wrong by tracking which keywords are performing better than others. This kind of software crawls the internet to rank your keywords for searchability and traffic. Data doesn’t lie; therefore, rely on the metrics to make decisions. You should be analyzing, evaluating, and evolving your keywords on a regular basis to make sure your website is a high performer with search engines.

Grow Your Traffic with SEO Experts

If you’re looking to improve your rank on the SERPs, but are lacking the necessary time and resources to do it yourself, check out 270net Technologies’ digital marketing services. We spend our days obsessing over the latest SEO trends and keyword research to keep your business ahead of the competition. Contact us today for your free consultation to get your website ranking.