Why Are Keywords Important for SEO?

Written by Matthew Ludden / March 1, 2021 / 10 Minute Read
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Keywords play a pivotal role in optimizing content for search engines. Despite creating high-quality content, the absence of relevant keywords can lead to underperformance. Keywords, both short-tail and long-tail, are essential in guiding search engines and users to your content, ensuring it reaches the right audience and achieves its intended impact.


You’ve just written a great piece of content that’s informative, helpful, and is sure to attract countless readers. You publish the content and after search engines index your new page, you check its analytics. Despite the quality content and insight of your content, it’s underachieving. You’re disappointed, frustrated, and confused. What went wrong?

A common culprit behind an underperforming piece of content is the lack of keywords within the copy. No matter how unique and interesting your content is, if you do not perform search engine optimization (SEO), your target audience will never discover your website. Search engines are exceptional tools that are gatekeepers between search queries and answers. By going back to your content and adding relevant keywords, you’ll likely see an improvement in your content’s traffic, click-through rate, conversion rate, bounce rate, and great search visibility for your entire domain.

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What Are Keywords?

The simplest definition of a keyword is the word or phrase that demonstrates a user’s search intent.

Keywords in SEO are the building blocks of your entire strategy. When you have an answer or a solution to a problem, you need to predict what your target audience will enter into a search engine like Google. These target keywords incorporated into your titles, headers, meta-description and the body of your copy tell search engines that you are a reliable source on the subject.

Target keywords, despite their name, are often a full phrase. While they can be just a single word (called short-tail keywords or broad keywords), most keyword phrases are specific. For instance the search volume on the term “copper pipes” will be high but this term is broad. A more specific keyword phrase (called long-tail keywords) might be “plumbing repairs of copper pipes.” These types of phrases reveal the search intent and are relevant to the topic of your content.

Keywords can also be the terms, phrases, or words that are often found within the copy of similar pieces of content to yours. For example, if you were to search “How to Fix Leaking Pipes,” Google finds pieces of content that contain both the primary keyword, as well as supporting keywords that are commonly used in new content that ranks for that phrase. These terms are called latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords. Google and other search engine algorithms are assumed to semantically relate to your topic and are an important part of advanced SEO content strategies. If you write one piece of content about plumbing, then your search engine rankings are not going to improve. However, if you create dozens of pages of content focused on plumbing repair, installation, and maintenance then Google is more likely to understand you are a credible source for plumbing queries.

Search queries themselves are keywords, and search engines look for content that features queries and variations of them when finding content to rank for a given term. When you use the right type of keywords and execute a complete SEO strategy at scale, your overall search visibility will improve. Suddenly that piece you wrote that was underperforming is driving leads and generating sales.

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When to Use Short-Tail Keywords in SEO

Short-tail keywords are commonly used to reach a more general audience. While these keywords often have a higher search volume than long-tail keywords, they’ll also have greater competition, as more websites are trying to rank for them. Short-tail keywords will typically require a more aggressive SEO campaign to achieve high rankings.

In general, you should use short-tail keywords in pieces of content like home pages and primary brand pages. These terms are more effective as informational keywords educating search engines and users what your brand offers. For instance, “plumbing repair” is a highly competitive term and far too broad to capture relevant users. Incorporating keywords on your primary pages is important but likely will not improve your overall website performance. Because broad keywords are more general terms you will need to perform SEO keyword research and support your homepage and primary pages with long-tail keywords.

When to Use Long-Tail Keywords in SEO

Long-tail keywords are most effective in transactional content. Using long-tail keywords allows you to optimize your content to match the specific search intent of users who are looking to make a purchase or take some other action, such as filling out a contact form. These keywords will typically have a lower search volume, but also lower competition, as the keyword is more specific and being targeted by fewer competitors.

Keyword research helps to identify the long-tail keywords your target audience is most likely to use. Using applications and analytics tools, you may find that “repairing copper pipes in older homes” is a keyword term used in your community. Adding this keyword into new blogs is likely to earn high rankings in search results.

A solid SEO and keyword strategy includes a mix of both short-tail and long-tail keywords. Both add tremendous value to your SEO campaign and should be used in combination to achieve the best results. Short-tail keywords are great for driving organic traffic to your website and increasing your overall visibility. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are essential for targeting specific niches and attracting highly qualified leads. Proper layers of keywords across your content marketing builds a strong overall SEO strategy.

How to Find Relevant Keywords

A good place to start in finding the right keywords that are relevant to your topic is to put yourself in the shoes of your reader. What is ultimately the end goal of the search query? Is your audience looking for information about a certain topic? Are they hoping to make a purchase at the end of their journey? Determine the search intent of your target audience to find the keywords that you should implement into your content. For the greatest results, consider incorporating only keywords that are relevant to the topic and the information on a single page. That is, choose a specific keyword to focus on and structure a page around that term. Using a keyword research tool can help you find high-value keywords that should be added to your content.

There are a variety of tools that can be used for SEO keyword research for your topic. There are dozens of keyword research tools like Google keyword planner but the best keyword ideas will emerge from your own expert experience. SEO tools can only provide so much assistance. The goal of keywords is not to cheat search results or manipulate digital marketing. Rather you want to create content that is valuable for your users. Adding specific keywords related to your work as the page title, header positions, and meta description helps search engines connect you to new users.

Why Are Keywords Important?

Google and other search engines want to present the searcher with the most relevant piece of content possible to create a positive user experience. Keywords are one of the biggest ways that they determine what is, and what is not, relevant to what the searcher is looking for.

One way to consider why keywords for SEO are important is to consider advertising. Paying for digital marketing of the term “plumbing repair” is expensive and every plumber in town is bidding on that term. Every time you pay for your ad to appear your return on marketing spend is lowered.

Search engines such as Google are constantly analyzing content across the internet. Creating content at scale that uses related keywords to plumbing repair helps your website show up in native search results. Organic traffic accounts for more than 70% of all clicks from Google search results. More importantly, if you can improve your Google Analytics performance the long term benefits help to increase return on marketing.

As search engines analyze your content including home page, primary pages, blogs and other similar pieces, they begin to learn which keywords are most relevant to each topic and are more likely to push that content to the top of the search results. Keywords are important because at scale you don’t need an exact or partial match to appear in search engines. When Google recognizes that you are a credible authority your overall search visibility increases for all related terms.

How to Implement Keywords

Title Tags

Your pages’ title tags should always include the primary keyword you want to rank. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about upgrading plumbing fixtures, your title might be “The Ultimate Guide to Upgrading Plumbing Fixtures.” Google associates title tags with the main topic of the page, so including your primary keyword in the title can help search engines understand your page and improve its chances of ranking for that keyword.

However, it’s important to use your primary keyword in a way that feels natural and compelling to the reader, rather than simply stuffing it into your title tag or H1 header position. Beyond the algorithm indexing your title, the title is your introduction to actual searches. Your title should accurately represent the content of your page and provide a clear indication of what users can expect to find on the page.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are short snippets of text that appear under the meta title in search engine results pages (SERPs). Both should be optimized to provide the searcher with greater insight into what the page is about and to help them determine if your content will match their search intent.

Including keywords in your meta descriptions can increase their likelihood of clicking through to your website. Additionally, adding keywords to your meta description helps Google and other search engines more accurately crawl the page and determine if it would be of value to a reader searching for the topic.

It’s important to note that Google typically only shows 150-160 characters of a meta description, so make sure to keep your snippet short and to the point. Doing so will ensure that searchers can actually see the important information available to them within the meta description.

A well-written meta description will typically be less than 160 characters, include relevant keywords, and provide the reader with an accurate description of what the web page is about.


Sometimes search engine optimization is simple structural changes to a solid piece of writing. After performing keyword research you can often improve metrics and enhance the reader’s experience by breaking up your content with headers. H2, H3 and so forth, break up long form content into smaller and easier to read sections. SEO keywords often fit into these positions.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Though it can be tempting to stuff every relevant keyword phrase you see into your piece of content – referred to as keyword stuffing – you need to be tactical and strategic with your approach. Simply jamming keywords into your content won’t only look clumsy and out of place to the reader, but you’ll also likely be penalized by Google for doing so. Google’s penalties typically hinder the web page from ranking for the given term and can even impact your domain if they believe you’re doing this across multiple pages on your website.

Search engines understand when too many SEO keywords are crammed into a single place and even when they don’t make sense. A keyword research tool helps you understand the best keywords and how extensive your content needs to be to compete. Remember that when you optimize content, your first priority is telling your brand story to people. As algorithms become more sophisticated, keyword stuffing has become a highly ineffective keyword strategy. Instead of forcing keywords into spaces where they don’t belong, find places where they fit naturally or leave them out of your content. The best on-page optimizations go completely unnoticed by readers. 

Keep User Experience Front of Mind

Don’t forget that the goal of search engine optimization and keyword implementation is to capture visitors and readers. The best strategy is to start with a full content brief that answers the questions your target audience will ask. If visitors reach your content only to find that it’s hard to read and does not make sense, you’ve likely wasted their time. If you rely too much on the keyword research process, then your audience won’t stick around to read that content.

Contact Valve+Meter for SEO Services

At Valve+Meter Performance Marketing, we understand that ranking for any given keyword is easier said than done. Our team focuses on keyword research and implementation to help your content rank and deliver repeatable, scalable, and profitable results. One of the most common issues we find during an SEO audit is a lack of structure and keyword research. For more information about how keyword implementation can improve the SEO of your website, get in touch with Valve+Meter today. Our skilled and experienced professionals can answer any questions that you may have.