Keywords – 5 Things Every Small Business Should Know

Keywords Small Business SEO PPC Long Tail Search engines

Ahh, there is that elusive word again. Keywords. You know that you should have them, but why? And how are they identified? The keyword landscape is one of constant change. Gone are the days when a website could be packed with keywords and receive traffic. Search engines are becoming more intuitive and algorithms are favoring high quality content, which may include relevant keywords. Maintaining a strong keyword presence in your website content can seem tricky, but before you bury your head in the sand in trepidation, there are a few simple concepts that will debunk the keyword mystery for your small business.

1. What Are Keywords?

When customers search for your product or service, what do they search? Do they call your shop a salon or a hair cuttery or a barber shop? Although your car dealership may consider your cars to be “pre-owned,” do your customers search for “used?”  Considering the search practices of your target audience is the first step towards identifying strong, traffic driving keywords. These are the language of your customer base. Structuring content around terms and phrases that your customers are using for searches is the most effective way for small businesses to create content that is well positioned for rankings.

  • They clarify the purpose of your web page to visitors and prospective customers. Each page should have a topic and associated keywords.
  • They are the foundation of quality website content. Customers will often scan the web page for the keyword they used for the search to ensure that the correct information is present.
  • They can help search engines to understand the intent of your website and match your site to searches. Search engine crawlers use keywords to appropriately index website pages.

2. Types of Keywords

There are many types of keywords, but two primary types are fundamental to website discoverability.

Broad Match Keywords

Broad match keywords are words or phrases that may apply to your business, but will also apply to other companies both within and outside of your specific industry. Examples of broad match phrases could include the following words:

  • Marketing
  • Clothes
  • Design
  • Funding

Although these words have a high search volume, they also have increased competition and may not direct your target audience to your website. While broad match terms have their place on a website, it is important to understand that these words will attract a more general audience that may not convert to leads.

Long Tail Keywords

Keywords that tend to be long, specific words or even phrases are considered to be long tail keywords. “Long tail” refers to a concept that was coined by Chris Anderson in 2004 and refers to the value that is in smaller, more niche type groups. Long tail keywords are much more specific to a business.

  • Local online marketing
  • Large gray jogging suit
  • Small space interior design
  • Minority business grants

Terms that are considered to be long tail keywords have a lower search volume and less competition. However, they are easier to rank on search engines and the visitors who are directed to your website by these keywords are likely to convert to leads.

3. To Use or Not To Use

The use of keywords is far more complicated than it was back in the early days of search engines. There are arguments both for and against keyword use. The most important thing to remember is that high quality content that provides value to your audience trumps any type of clever keyword strategy.


  • Using long tail or exact match keywords will drive a very specific group of visitors to the website that are likely to become leads.
  • When a small business understands its customers’ needs, keywords will help to deliver meaningful content to customers.
  • The use of local keywords typically drives local business that converts to sales.
  • Keywords help with the organization of a website, as each page will have a topic that is centered around one or two keywords.


  • Although broad match keywords may drive increased traffic to your business website, the traffic is unlikely to convert if the keywords are too vague.
  • Crafting high quality and thoughtful content that appeals to your customer base will likely include words and phrases that will attract visitors, even if they are not deliberate keywords.
  • Search engines are placing less favor on specific keywords and more credibility on larger chunks of well written content.
  • Infusing your website with “bad” keywords that are unfavorable with search engine crawlers can actually hurt your website.
  • Including keywords that are not specific may result in a higher website bounce rate, as visitors are not finding the content they expected.

4. How to Use Keywords

There are several ways to include well researched keywords into a small business marketing mix. Some keywords may be better suited for different types of content and understanding the hows and whys will increase the effectiveness of content.

  • Web Page Content. Selecting one or two broad and long tail keywords per web page will ensure that your web page content is organized and well structured for search engines.
  • Pay Per Click Advertising. Using high quality, low cost keywords is the secret to a lucrative PPC campaign. Using keywords that have been proven to drive converting traffic to your website is the best bet.
  • Social Media Posts. Keeping social media posts “on message” with the use of keywords is favorable to search engines and also increases inbound links building.
  • Blog Posts. Centering each blog post around a keyword or two is a great way to drive additional business to your website without continuously changing the web page content.
  • Job Postings. With over 124 million job related searches on Google each month, it can be tough to stand out. Using the correct keyword phrases in job postings will ensure that you attract the most qualified candidates.

5. Keyword Research

The first step to keyword research is understanding the demographics of your current customer base as well as any other audience that you wish to target. Visit the websites of your competition and analyze their website and advertisement content for the use of keywords. Several tools are available to help with keyword research.

Google Keyword Planner. A free keyword tool, Google Keyword Planner helps to build new marketing campaigns or website content. Users are able to view data about specific keywords as well as those used by competition.

Wordstream Keyword Tool. A service that offers a free tool as well as additional paid services, Wordstream helps identify both keywords and niches.

Bing Webmaster Toolbox. Bing has harnessed the power of their data to provide a free keyword tool that provides information on keyword competition and popularity.

Ubersuggest. Many SEO experts rely on Ubersuggest to provide keyword data as well as clever information on virtually any topic.


If you are still reading, you have experienced a crash course in keyword usage and are ready to begin creating powerful, targeted content. Using keywords effectively will force you to really consider your customer base and lead conversion in a new way. When it comes to keywords, remember that a few high quality keywords outperform a windfall of vague keywords.

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About Mike McEvoy

Mike McEvoy has a strong and successful history in the technology business world. With more than 25 years as a technology, marketing and Internet professional, Mike has also been a small business owner since 2002.
The primary focus of Mike and his team is on helping small businesses build a stronger web presence using digital marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media and email marketing.
 Connect with Mike on Twitter - @Mike_McEvoy and @WebPresenceBiz