What Is a Target Keyword and Why Is It Important?

Of all the different components of an SEO strategy, keywords are possibly the most important. Without optimized content, you’re going to have a difficult time getting traffic to your website. In this article, we’re going to talk about target keywords, including why they’re important, how to find them and what not to do on your website.

What Is a Target Keyword?

A target keyword is a word or phrase that people use when searching online for particular content. As a content creator or website owner, you’ll choose your target keywords based on your products and/or services and what your target audience is searching for.

Are Target Keywords Important?

Yes! Target keywords are an important part of website SEO. They tell Google crawlers and human users what type of information is on your website. In essence, target keywords impact the amount and type of traffic your site gets.

Without the right target keywords — as in, target keywords that don’t match your audience and/or content — people won’t be able to find the information they want on your site. This creates a poor user experience (UX). From there, your site’s bounce rate, conversions and dwell time will be negatively impacted.

For example, if you use target keywords that don’t match your content, a user could end up on your site and be disappointed that they can’t find what they’re looking for. At the same time, you’ll miss out on traffic from people who would be interested in the content on your site because you’re not using the correct keywords.

In addition to users, search engine crawlers will also determine that your keywords don’t match your content. Your page will show up lower in search engine results pages (SERPs). Why? Google only wants to show users quality content that matches search intent.

How to Find Target Keywords

Choosing appropriate target keywords for your website requires keyword research. Here’s a brief overview of what keyword research includes:

Let’s talk about five ways to find the right keywords for your brand.

Consider Your Audience

Nobody knows your brand like you do. Assuming you know your target audience, you can begin by thinking about what they’ll be looking for.

  • How will they search for the information, products or services you offer?
  • How will they word their queries?
  • What words will they type in?

There’s a lot more to keyword research, but this is a good start.

Google’s Search Suggestions

When you start to type in a keyword to Google’s search bar, you’ll see other searches auto-populate underneath.

Google search that auto-populates other search terms.

These will show you similar searches that people use when looking for content related to what you offer. Write these ideas down to start a running list of potential target keywords.

Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword planner for figuring out the target keyword to use.

Google Keyword Planner is primarily for running ads, but you can use it to perform keyword research, too. You can find information like new keywords related to your search, keyword volume and even keyword forecasting.

You may also be interested in our article about SEO forecasting and why it’s important .

Google Trends

With Google Trends, you can see how a target keyword has performed over time. This helps you map if its popularity is increasing or decreasing or if it fluctuates with the seasons, for example. There are also Related Queries that can guide your keyword research.

Google Trends to help find the right target keyword.

More Keyword Research Tools

In addition to Google’s keyword research tools, there are many more to choose from. Some are free or offer a free version, while others will require payment. Here are a few to consider:

Long Tail Pro

The Long Tail keyword tool.
Source: Long Tail Pro

With Long Tail Pro, you enter a one- or two-word keyword (called a “seed” or “short-tail” keyword), and the tool will show you hundreds of associated long-tail keywords. You can also see data like rank value and search volume for keywords, which helps you choose which ones to use.

Semrush Keyword Magic Tool

The Semrush Keyword Magic Tool.
Source: Semrush

With the Keyword Magic Tool from Semrush, you can look in-depth at any keyword. You can find out basic metrics, like difficulty and search volume, along with higher-level data, like a query’s trends over the past year and potential cost-per-click pricing if you want to run an ad campaign.


Serpstat for helping find your target keyword and doing keyword research.

The keyword research tool from Serpstat offers data on keywords (competition, difficulty, popularity, volume) and can also help you determine which keywords are missing from your web pages. With competitor research, you can see the keywords your competitors are using, including the ad campaigns they’re running for certain keywords.

How to Use Target Keywords for SEO

Once you know the target keywords to use, you’ll add them to the back end and front end of your website. We have an Ultimate Free SEO Checklist that goes into several keyword optimization strategies, but we’ll recap a few of them here.

Back-End Keyword Optimization

To add target keywords to the back end of your website, you’ll incorporate them in the metadata. This includes:

  • Alt Text: Describes the appearance of an image.
  • Anchor Text: Visible, clickable text that you add a link to.
  • Meta Description: Summary of a web page’s content.
  • Title Tag: Headline that shows up on a SERP.

Optimizing your website’s metadata makes it easier for search engine crawlers to determine what information is on your site.

Front-End Keyword Optimization

Your target keywords should be used throughout your content, including in the headings and body copy. There are specific ways to use keywords for optimization, too. For example:

  • Putting the target keyword in the introduction.
  • Using the keyword enough times based on the page’s word count.
  • Evenly distributing keywords throughout your copy.

This article from Yoast talks about how its content analysis plugin determines whether or not your content is optimized.

4 Keyword Strategies to Avoid

Whether these strategies are considered black hat SEO (which Google could penalize) or simply not the best way to use your keywords, here are some of the main SEO techniques to avoid:

Ignoring Low-Volume Keywords

While high-volume keywords may be the most popular, don’t count out low-volume phrases. New and small websites can do particularly well with low-volume keywords. There isn’t a lot of competition, so it’s easier to get noticed.

Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization happens when you use the same target keyword on several web pages. Search engines don’t know which page to rank for that keyword, which can impact your page’s authority as well as the SERPs. This article can help you find, fix and prevent keyword cannibalization.

Keyword Stuffing

This is when you add too many keywords and/or put them in places they don’t naturally fit. This makes the content difficult to read.

What you could gain in traffic from the keywords you’ll lose because of the poor readability factor. Google’s algorithm takes readability into account and could penalize pages that are worded unnaturally.

Trying to Rank for High-Difficulty Keywords

If you spend all of your time trying to rank for high-difficulty keywords, you’ll miss out on your other ranking opportunities. Over time, as your website gains traffic, you may be able to rank for high-difficulty keywords. But there are so many other keywords to target that could get you better results faster.

Final Thoughts About Target Keywords

The target keyword you choose for each web page will tell individuals and search engines what can be found there. This is a cornerstone of your website SEO. Spending time on your keyword strategy is one of the best ways to find out what your audience wants, come up with a content plan and help Google find and rank your content.

Creating topic clusters is an excellent way to plan your keyword strategy and content creation. Check out What Are Topic Clusters? to learn more.

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