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What are keywords and how do I choose the right ones?

Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines like Google to find things online. They are a staple of SEO and the best way to help customers discover your site.

As an award-winning entrepreneur and SEO consultant, people often say ‘Hi Claire, just wanted to ask. How on earth do I decide which keywords to include in my content?’. 

Great question! To break it down super simply, I’ve put together a quick guide. Here’s what to expect:

1) What is a ‘keyword’ anyway?

A keyword is a word or phrase that we input into Google to find information online. They’re basically a way for Google’s algorithm to match up relevant content with a user’s search query. 

I should note here that a ‘keyword’ isn’t always one word. It could be a string of words, like ‘best houseplants for winter’. Or even an entire question, like ‘how can I stop my houseplants from dying?’.

For that reason you might also see a keyword referred to as a ‘key phrase’ - but I won’t get into the semantics here. What matters is that a keyword (or phrase) is something that your audience is typing into Google to find information. And if you rank for the keyword a user is searching for, they’re more likely to find your page.

Take this example. If you go on Google now and search for ‘electricians in Boston’, congrats! You’ve just entered a keyword. The pages that pop up are of all the websites that have used the phrase ‘electricians in Boston’ in their title or page content. 

When you include a keyword on your webpage, you’re telling Google that you want to rank for it. This makes it more likely users will land at your page when they search for that phrase on the web.

2) But how do I choose the right keywords? 

Ok, so it might be tempting to start slotting keywords into every nook and cranny of your blogs—but wait. Google has strict policies against keyword stuffing, and customers will leave your site if a page doesn’t match their search query.

I recommend targeting one keyword per page. To have the best chance of ranking you need to make this keyword relevant to the information you’re providing. If you target the phrase ‘best running shoes’ in your comprehensive guide to flip-flops, people who find your page will be disappointed and leave. The Google Gods notice this and might penalize you. 

  • Instead, choose a keyword that reflects the content on your page. If you were writing about flip-flops (each to their own) a keyword like ‘best suede penny loafers’ would be a solid place to start. 

  • I also suggest starting out with longer keywords because you’ll have less competition for these phrases. It’s a helluva lot easier to rank for something like ‘coffee shop with wifi near me’ than it is beating out Dunkin’ Donuts to rank for a keyword like ‘coffee’. 

3) How do I research keywords?

The best way to do keyword research is to use a combination of industry-standard solutions, such as Ahrefs or Semrush. I’m a big fan of Ahrefs personally. 

Both of these tools are the absolute best at what they do, meaning they’ll cost you some money. And if you’re just starting out with SEO, you might want to stick to something free for now.

In that case, I recommend using Google to find relevant keywords. Luckily for you, I have a whole guide on how to do free keyword research right here.

Summing Up

To finish things up, here are the key details I hope you take away from this article:

  • Start out by finding one key phrase per piece of content.

  • Choose a longer keyword so you aren’t competing with all the established brands.

  • Use tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or even Google to find relevant keywords.

If you follow these basic principles, you’ll have a great chance of finding (and ranking for) some great keywords. Good luck!


My name's Claire and I’m an SEO and content strategy expert. I help startups and ambitious businesses improve their content, so that customers can find your website in search, and so that when they do, they convert.

I’m a former startup CEO, and I’ve worked for some of the world’s biggest publishers (Penguin Random House, Oxford University Press), as well as training with Google's in-house SEO team. I even built a website to attract 45k in organic search visitors/month. Drop me a line if you need help of any kind with SEO and content.


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