When creating content for your website, keyword research is an extremely crucial first step to making your content visible to users. It gives your content direction, and helps you to hone in on concepts that matter to your target audience.

At the same time, it’s not always clear how you should integrate keywords into your web copy. One of the most common questions we get asked is, “Does my keyword phrase have to exactly match what I see in my keyword research tool?” 

In today’s blog, we’ll cover how to find the right keywords and properly weave them into your site. Keep reading for practical tips and a better understanding of how keyword match comes into play from an organic perspective. 

Why is keyword research important?

First and foremost, you should know that when it comes to SEO, keyword research is valuable because it helps you to understand how your users are searching for and thinking about the topics you’re writing about.  

It’s very easy to jump to assumptions when you’re immersed in your work. Keyword research helps you think outside of your brand. It gives you a birds-eye view of consumer behaviors and of the competitive landscape online. It’ll not only tell you how popular a customer search term is, but who else is waging for a position on related Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). 

When performing research, you may be surprised to find that a keyword doesn’t draw the crowd that you thought it did. Or, a keyword may be far too competitive for you to realistically land a first-page position—at least not any time soon. 

Ultimately, this type of research helps you to make the best use of your time. It helps you to pave a path to better search engine visibility, and figure out what your users are wanting to find when googling a particular term or phrase. 

How to get started with keyword research

Keyword research starts with just that–research! There are countless keyword research tools out there to choose from and most SEOs already have a tool that they rely on, whether that’s Google’s Keyword Planner (although this is geared towards advertisers), a third-party tool (like ContentEdge), or simply Google’s automated keyword suggestions when typing in phrases to Google’s search bar.

screenshot of google search results when typing in running shoes

However, figuring out which phrases to research can be the real challenge. Typically, you’ll want to start with a broad, core term then work your way to more niche, long-term keywords. 

For example, if you are an athletic eCommerce site writing content about the best running shoes to buy, you may start your keyword research with the term “running shoes” then work your way down to more specific keywords like “women’s running shoes” or “comfortable running shoes”—or even something very specific such as “top trending running shoes in 2021.” 

It helps to have a specific topic in mind beforehand; keyword research generally works best when it’s used to support a larger content strategy, not to guide it. 

Read More: Building a Keyword Strategy in 2021: 6 Key Considerations

As you analyze various keyword options, you’ll want to look at their monthly search volumes, keyword difficulty (which is not to be confused with difficulty scores related to paid positions), and search intent. Search intent can be discovered by typing in your keyword into Google and then seeing what results already appear on the first page—do they relate with what your brand has to offer?  

Once you’ve gathered enough intel about the keywords you should be targeting, you can start to look for opportunities to add them to your content.

3 keyword match types you probably hear about 

When it comes to figuring out how to incorporate keywords into your copy, it’s easy to confuse SEO standards with advertising standards. In Google advertising, you’ll often hear about these keyword match types:

  • Exact match: When your Google Ad is only shown when a query exactly matches the word(s) that you’re bidding on, or for close variants that don’t change the meaning of your term/phrase 
  • Broad match: When your Google Ad is allowed to be shown when a keyword is present anywhere within a query, as well as if a query is a close variant of your keyword 
  • Broad match modifier: When an ad is displayed only if the exact words are present in a query, although the order in which they appear and the phrasing don’t matter 
  • Phrase match: When your ad is shown when a certain phrase is present, similar to exact match but not as restrictive

These are all bidding methods that you can control when managing a Google Ads campaign. However, when it comes to organic search visibility, Google is in the driver’s seat. You cannot tell Google when it can or cannot show your page and instead need to prove to Google that your page is relevant to the search query.

This is why in SEO there are various on-page and off-page factors for you to juggle. Moreover, how you include keywords will vary slightly with every page you publish, since you have to balance compelling, human copy with algorithmically sound tactics.   

How important is exact keyword match in SEO?

The short answer is yes. It is good practice to use exactly the keyword you are targeting, especially if it is a specific long-tailed keyword. This is because it will help you better rank for high-converting phrases that users are searching for to find your content. 

At the same time, Google cares about content relevance. It considers  semantics and understands that certain words are often used together when speaking around a certain topic. So, while matching the exact keyword is extremely beneficial, it is also good practice to include other related keywords and concepts within your content to prove your proficiency in the space. 

The goal is two-prong: to show Google that you’re a topical expert, and to better connect with readers by speaking in the same way that they speak. 

How do I effectively improve my semantic keyword integration?

When writing content and integrating keywords, it can be difficult to know which other keywords you should include in your content that are relevant, valuable, and pushes you ahead of the competition. Luckily, there are tools on the market that can help you do just that! 

ContentEdge, for example, allows you to analyze new and existing content and provides you with recommendations on how to improve your content. 

It additionally offers a list of related keywords to include in your content, as well as how many times you should include that related keyword to compete with the pages that are already high ranking.   

screenshot of contentedge's content insight report

In summary

Keyword matching applies to both paid and organic standards of ranking. However, they’re not one in the same. When focusing on your SEO efforts, make sure to prioritize exact keyword matches without going overboard. Google cares about the user experience as a whole, and will evaluate other signals to decide whether your page is worthy of a first-page status or not. 

For extra help getting your SEO strategy up to snuff, reach out to our team. Our experts can help you to establish a clear path towards SEO excellence.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in February 2020 and has since been updated to include more up-to-date tips and insight.

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