What Are SEO Keywords And Do They Really Matter Today?

Have you heard the latest debate? Are keywords still relevant to SEO today and will they be relevant in the future?

I’m going to explain why keywords are not only important, but they are the foundation of a website and good SEO.

Do they carry the same weight as they did in the past? No. Black Hat SEOs have abused keyword tactics to manipulate rankings since the inception of search engines. This has forced search engines like Google to discount how they use easy to manipulate factors such as meta keywords. But when it comes to factors such as on and off-page optimization it is essential.

What are SEO keywords?


Keywords are words and phrases that define what your content. It could be a landing page, blog post, navigation link, even the focus of your website as a whole.

They are words that you may rank for or hope to rank for to drive traffic to your site. For example, if you have an eCommerce site for weddings dresses then your ultimate goal might be “Wedding Dresses”. Wedding dresses would be considered a short-tail keyword.

Short-tail keywords are typically made of 1- 3 keywords and are very generic. By generic, I mean very broad like bikes, cars, etc. They have the ability to drive lots of traffic, but they are going to be very competitive and hard to rank. The big disadvantage is you may be driving the wrong type of traffic to your site that doesn’t convert.

If your site is optimized correctly, it will rank for many long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases usually made of 3 or more keywords.

Back to our example “Wedding Dresses.” You would be more likely to rank for keywords such as manufacturers or specific types of dresses such as Vera Wang or Rachel Gilbert. If you sell “discounted antique wedding dresses” then this would be a long-tail keyword.

It won’t drive near as much traffic, but this query is very specific and more likely to drive traffic looking for your product. Even better would be “buy discounted antique wedding dress”. Traffic from this keyword is probably seeking to purchase soon.

I can’t overstate the importance of keywords.

An Example of keyword optimization.


Ebay is a complicated site when viewed as a whole, but if you break it down, you can get any idea of how they are using keywords and some of the keywords they are targeting.

Keep in mind keyword research and development isn’t a one and done deal. You are regularly reviewing your keywords for ideas for further targeting and refinement. Your strategy should start out simple and grow in depth and complexity.

Don’t get tied up in trying to get it perfect. There is no such a thing. Your company will evolve and so will your keyword strategy.

Amazon started out as an online bookstore and as you all know has morphed into one of the largest Internet-based retailers in the United States. Their keyword strategy evolved as their goals did.

If you expect to be successful online expect your keyword strategy to change over time to match your goals. The pyramid represents one category and subcategories that can be found starting on Ebay’s homepage. Each click away from the homepage is considered a level.

eBay Keyword Site Structure

As an example, we are going to use the navigation link “Fashion” found on the homepage. When clicked you are entering level 1.

Level 0 “Ebay Homepage.”

eBay Home Page Navigation Bar

Level 1 Category “Fashion.”

eBay Keyword Research Category Fashion

Let’s do a quick evaluation of this page.

We are going to evaluate what keywords are being used in the H1, Title Tag, and URL. These are places that keywords have been used in the past to help search engines better understand the contents of a web page.

H1 — Fashion
Title Tag — Fashion – Mens, Womens, Kids, Baby, Clothing, Dresses | Ebay
URLhttp://www.ebay.com/rpp/fashion-main

It should be clear the main target here is Fashion. Note that many other keywords can also be found such as shoes, women, men, shop, eBay, apparel, etc. These are keywords you would expect to find associated with “Fashion.” This is also part of their internal linking strategy.

Ebay’s rank for “Fashion” #20.

Now let’s click on “Women’s Clothing” in the left sidebar.

Level 2 Category “Women’s Clothing.”

Category Keyword Women's Clothing

Let’s do a quick evaluation of this page.

H1 — Women’s Clothing
Title Tag — Women’s Clothing – Dresses, Tops, Blouses, Coats, Pants | eBay
URLhttp://www.ebay.com/rpp/womens-clothing

Here you can see the primary target is “Women’s Clothing.” Other keywords being targeted are dresses, tops, blouses, coats, pants, etc.

Ebay’s rank for “Women’s Clothing” #25.

Next, click on “Dresses” in the left sidebar.

Level 3 Category “Dresses.”

Category Keyword Dresses

A quick evaluation of this page.

H1 — Women’s Dresses
Title Tag — Women’s Dresses | eBay
URLhttp://www.ebay.com/sch/Womens-Dresses/63861/bn_661850/i.html

The focus of this page is “Women’s Dresses.”

Ebay’s rank for “Women’s Dresses” #38.

We can see by the keywords listed in the examples the primary focus of these pages are short-tail hard to rank keywords.

Describe broad versus long-tail and how it applies to Ebay.

“Fashion”
Rank #20
Volume according to Google Keyword Planner90,500 Average Monthly Searches

“Women’s Clothing”
Rank #25
Volume according to Google Keyword Planner — 110,000 Average Monthly Searches

“Women’s Dresses”
Rank #38
Volume according to Google Keyword Tool — 60,500 Average Monthly Searches

These are long term goals for EBay. We can take a quick look at SEMrush and get an idea of long-tail keywords. Let’s use the page for the keyword “Fashion” http://www.ebay.com/rpp/fashion-main.

Clothes, shoes, and accessories
Rank #1
Volume according to Google Keyword Tool — 20 Average Monthly Searches

Clothes and shoes
Rank #4
Volume according to Google Keyword Tool — 590 Average Monthly Searches

Mens and womens clothing
Rank #5
Volume according to Google Keyword Tool — 40 Average Monthly Searches

The volume may seem low, but this page alone ranks for over 1,000 keywords.

As the final example of how important keywords are let’s take a look at Ebay’s homepage.

H1 — eBay
Title Tag — Electronics, Cars, Fashion, Collectibles, Coupons and More | eBay

Notice how the H1 is just branding. Why, because eBay is much more than any one particular product. They want the search engines to focus on their categories and not get distracted by things such as a focused H1.

Imagine if the H1, title tag and products on the homepage were wedding dresses. Products such as Electronics and Sporting Goods would be irrelevant. This could make it harder to rank for products other than Wedding Dresses and associated products.

Final thoughts on keywords.

Remember the pyramid?

If you want to be successful, online keyword research is one of the most important factors.

Keywords are the foundation.

eBay Keyword Site Structure

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to rank organically or planning on using Google Pay Per Click. It isn’t that complex if you use a structured approach and focus on your goals.

So what exactly is the strategy behind eBay? If you look at each level as a hierarchy, it is much easier to understand.

  • Level 0 Ebay’s homepage is just branding.
  • Level 1 “Fashion” potential volume 90,500 short-tail keyword backed by other short-tail relevant keywords (Women’s clothing, women’s shoes, etc.)
  • Level 2 “Women’s Clothing” potential volume 110,000 short-tail keyword supported by other short-tail related keywords (Dresses, Tops & Blouses, etc.)
  • Level 3 “Dresses” potential volume 60,500 short-tail keyword backed by other short-tail relevant keywords
  • Level 4 are individual product pages.

These product pages at level 4 will be full of long-tail keywords related to “Dresses.” The volume of these pages is usually so small only eBay is going to have access to the keywords they rank.

Still, wonder if keywords are relevant?

They may not carry the weight they did in the past, but we can be confident they will play a significant role in the foreseeable future.

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