What Exactly Are Keywords?

by Phyllis Zimbler Miller

I looked at a website and companion Facebook (business) page that consisted of such generic words that people would not use those words to search for what the site had to offer.

The website owner needed to clarify her brand and then use keywords based on that brand in a new Facebook page whose title could be keyword searchable inside and outside Facebook.

Then the more I thought about “keywords” the more I realized that the meaning of this might not be clear.

I googled “keywords” and came up with several definitions on Wikipedia. While these definitions might be correct, they did not convey what is generally meant by advising someone to choose keywords to represent his/her brand online in order to effectively attract the search engines.

Let’s take an imaginary example to illustrate this concept:

Suppose you are a book seller whose specialty is Renaissance literature and whose company name is Miller Book Resources. You create a Facebook page with the title “Miller Book Resources.”

The word “book” is way too broad to be a true keyword – a word (or phrase) that someone looking online for Renaissance literature would use to find that literature – and the word “resources” is also way too broad.

Keyword phrases – what people might use in a Google search – could be “Renaissance literature” or “Renaissance literature books.” But you have not used the words “Renaissance literature” in your Facebook page title or in your website domain name.

(Note that “literature’ by itself would be way too broad. It’s the specificity of “Renaissance literature” that makes this effective as a keyword phrase.)

Andy Hayes in a guest post at Corbett Barr’s ThinkTraffic site shared this experience that, while he was illustrating website usability, is probably also an example of keyword confusion:

I’ll use a personal example from my consulting website, Travel Online Partners. We offer marketing support for travel businesses. It even says that in the banner of the website, so one would assume you couldn’t be more clear, right? Wrong. After we launched, analytics told us that our search engine referrals had almost a 100% bounce rate, with many other referring sites not far behind.

Why were so many people showing up and then leaving immediately? Analytics told us the symptom, but it wasn’t until we spoke to readers that I heard the actual problem: “Oh, I didn’t see the banner. I thought you were a travel agency.”

(Note that the name of the website – Travel Online Partners – has the word “travel” in it but does not have the word “marketing” in it.)

If you are not sure what your keywords are – the words people would use to search for what you have on offer – spend some time clarifying your brand:

What makes you unique? And what are the specific (non-generic) keywords that describe that uniqueness?

Then look at your website domain name, your Facebook page title, and your tagline on your website to check whether you’ve used a generic name/title instead of what’s called a keyword-rich name/title.

And if you need help identifying a brand that can form the basis of the specific keywords for what you have on offer, check out our Quick Start Social Media Track.

(You can read Andy Hayes’ entire guest post.)

© 2010 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) and her business partner Yael K. Miller (@MillerMosaicLLC on Twitter) are committed to taking the mystery out of social media so that individuals and companies can utilize the power of social media to attract more business. See their Quick Start Social Media Track.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Hilary September 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

Hi Phyllis and Yael .. this is really helpful .. and the examples you use are simple to understand .. keywords are tricky to get to know ..

Thank you – Hilary

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Phyllis Zimbler Miller September 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

Hilary —

I’m so glad that this was helpful — and I appreciate your taking the time to leave this comment.

I agree that keywords can be “tricky to get to know,” so I tried to use examples that could help clarify this topic.

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