Remember back in the mid 90s when every commercial ever ended by saying “Go Online with AOL Keyword: ‘x’?” Well if you’re a millennial, chances are you DON’T remember these commercials, but trust me; they happened. When the internet first started becoming widely accessible, everyone began claiming that by looking for a magical keyword or phrase, you could be pointed directly to the page for which you were looking. The problem is, the more content that matched that keyword, the less you were able to rely on keywords to find precisely what you wanted. Around the time of all of this, Google began getting popular and indexing the internet. Since then, they’ve used crawlers to locate and index information based on keywords, or simply put “This is how search engines function.”
What is a keyword?
If you’ve quite literally ever searched for anything on the internet, your search term is considered ‘a keyword.’ But wait, why isn’t keyword pluralized? Because ‘keywords’ represent multiple search terms. But, before I confuse you further, allow me to explain. Remember the early internet when a keyword could take you directly to your content? When a content provider had claimed a single keyword, new contenders had to claim longer or multiple keywords. So this single search term would take you to your content. These ever-growing search terms are now called ‘longtail keywords’ because as there is ever-more content being produced on the web, complete sentences and queries are more likely to yield what you actually want to find on the web.
To explain this by example, let’s search for “web design” on Google:
As you can see from the image, we show up on the first page nationally for the keyword ‘web design.’ But what happens when we look for a longer, more focused keyword or phrase?
When we search for ‘web design in Chandler Arizona‘ we see that we’ve come up a couple of spots to number 8. This is because a generic search only hits generic keywords being used by web design companies on the internet, but because we used a longtail keyword in the second search, our website gained in rank because it’s more relevant to all of the words used as a keyword in the search.