Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has played a valued role in marketing strategy since the dawn of digital marketing. Best practices have changed a lot over the years, but one element has remained essential: keywords. Here we explain what keywords for SEO are, and how you should use them.

What are keywords for SEO?

Keywords for SEO are words and phrases that lead people to your content through search engines.

For example, if you sell bananas at an outdoor market, people might find you by searching “bananas for sale in [geographic location]” or “produce found at [name of market].” A search for “bananas” will give too many options, and we can’t be as certain that a person searching this word is actually looking to purchase bananas, let alone to purchase from you in your geographic location.

Marketers often divide keywords into two categories. 

Short-tail keywords contain 1-3 words and are general in nature: e.g. “bananas for sale.” 

Long-tail keywords usually contain 3 or more words and are more specific: e.g. “bananas for sale at an outdoor market near me.” They usually have a much lower search volume than short-tail keywords. The tradeoff is, long-tail keywords give more information about the user’s intent, making these users more valuable for your business. That is, as long as the long-tail keyword matches your offering.

Stage 1: Define content pillars for your marketing strategy

As always, we at GoViral recommend defining your buyer personas before creating your marketing strategy. Buyer personas help you define the people you are trying to reach.

After you’ve defined your buyer personas, it’s time to map the buyer journey. Consider how your content meets the needs of your personas at different stages of their journey. The ultimate goal is to lead them to a conversion (for example, a purchase on your website).

With defined personas and a mapped journey, you can now create content pillars. Think of content pillars as topic areas. The key to creating successful content pillars is to make sure they match what your buyer personas are looking for. For the banana stand example, content pillars could be Buying Local, Nutritional Benefits of Fruit, and Banana Recipes.

We recommend taking your time defining buyer personas, the buyer journey, and your content pillars. The better your work here, the easier it will be to implement keywords for SEO.

Remember that what you define in this stage can change over time. As you gain more information about your customers and/or introduce new products or services, don’t be afraid to update your strategy.

Stage 2: Research keywords related to your content

Keyword research means finding and analyzing possible keywords for your digital content.

You can start by making a master list of keywords related to each of your content pillars. Think of this list as a starting point. You will likely add to it as your research progresses.

Once you have your list, use a free tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner to start your research. Consider three metrics to evaluate how useful keywords are for your purposes: Relevance, Authority, and Volume.


The days of stuffing your content with keywords to increase your Google ranking are over. Search engines these days take into account whether your content meets the needs of the searcher. In other words, user intent matters.

How do you make sure your keywords are relevant to the user’s intent? The quickest way: type your keyword into Google search and see what kind of results you get. Are the results similar to your content? If so, the keyword might be relevant for you.


Google rankings give weight to authority, primarily meaning the authority of your website. Does your website have helpful content that others have linked to on social media or on other authoritative websites? Then you have higher authority in Google’s eyes, and your search ranking will reflect that.

You can’t earn authority overnight, so make sure your long-term content strategy takes this into account. If you are just starting out, you probably don’t want to invest much in keywords that have heavy competition from well-known global brands.


How often do people type your keyword into Google search? Tools like Keyword Planner will give you this information.

Remember that higher volume does not necessarily mean “better” keywords. Some short-tail keywords will have incredibly high search volume, but are less likely to bring you visitors whose needs you can meet.

Alternatively, long-tail keywords may have lower volume but less competition from websites seen as authoritative, and more relevance to your content based on user intent.

Stage 3: Implement keywords for SEO

So you’ve settled on keywords that fit your content and the intent of your audience. Where do you put them?

First things first, use keywords in a natural way that adds value for your audience. Throwing in as many keywords as possible, willy-nilly, won’t work.

As much as you can, make sure to include keywords in the body of your content. If you’re writing a blog and focusing on one primary keyword, try to include it once every 200 words.

Also consider Meta Descriptions, Meta Title Tags, and the page URL. Use your primary keyword in all three places to boost your search results.

Finally, make sure to monitor your SEO results over time. Is your page still ranking for the primary keyword you chose? If not, consider changing it. Alternatively, create new content that better fits the search behavior of your potential customers.

Keywords for SEO form an important part of any inbound marketing strategy. Just remember you are writing for people, not for algorithms. Yes, knowing how the algorithm works can help. But high search ranking or not, searchers are looking for content written with their needs in mind.

Want more helpful marketing tips delivered monthly to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter below to take your business to the next level.