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    The Importance of Keywords and Keyword Strategy

    Posted by Jodi Ireland

    Reaching your target audience is critical for success in today’s digital landscape. Enter keywords — powerful tools that enhance online visibility and connect with the right people — and keyword strategy. Attracting leads, however, hinges on understanding your audience’s behavior. 

    Keywords form the substructure of search engine optimization (or SEO). Imagine a search engine as a librarian. Search engines contain a massive library of web pages. The main job of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines? Returning the most relevant results when someone enters a search query.

    Whenever someone conducts an online search, they use keywords or phrases to describe what they’re looking for. These keywords are like the words in a library catalog, helping users find the information they need. Search engines use complex algorithms to match search queries with relevant web pages or websites. These algorithms consider factors like the keywords on a webpage, how well they’re integrated into the content, and the website’s overall quality and authority.

    Strategically incorporating relevant keywords throughout your website content — titles, headings, meta descriptions, and body copy — increases your chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) for those keywords. The higher your web page or website ranks on the SERPs, the more likely potential customers will see it and visit your page, which translates to increased website traffic and brand awareness.

    The need to embrace keyword strategy

    Keywords don’t simply appear by magic — or luck. Researching and finding the best keywords takes work. Some larger companies have whole departments dedicated to keyword research. But if you’re starting small, have a limited budget, or need to explain the value of finding the perfect keywords, check out the benefits of implementing a robust strategy.

    • Boost organic traffic. Imagine potential clients searching for a program or service you provide. Websites with often-used (popular) keywords appear higher on SERPs. This organic visibility translates to a steady stream of leads and requests for information (RFIs).
    • Build trust and credibility. You instantly establish trust when a student, parent, or guidance counselor lands on your website after a relevant keyword search and finds content directly addressing their needs. This initial trust is crucial for nurturing leads and converting them into clients.
    • Attract high-value leads. High website traffic is great, but quality matters more. Want to know what search terms your ideal clients use? Conduct keyword research. By tailoring your content and messaging to these keywords, you attract clients seeking programs or services like yours, increasing your return on investment (ROI).
    • Fuel content creation. Keyword research is a treasure trove for content ideas. By understanding your audience’s search queries and interests, you gain valuable insights into the content they value. These insights can inform the blogs and case studies you write — or the listings you post on TeenLife.

    Keyword types: Choosing the right tool

    Not all keywords are created equal — many different categories exist. Here’s a list of those most commonly used.

    • Market segment keywords. These keywords are the broad terms defining your industry (e.g., “overseas travel”). They attract a wider audience but aren’t as targeted.
    • Branded keywords. These keywords include your organization’s name and work well for increasing brand awareness and reaching current and prospective clients.
    • Product (program or service) keywords. Combine your organization’s name with a specific program or service (e.g., “Super Scholars Summer STEAM Programs for Pre-College Students”). It’s perfect for targeted marketing campaigns around specific programs or services.
    • Competitor keywords. See what keywords your competitors use (e.g., “alternatives to [competitor’s name]”). This research helps to understand the competitive landscape and attract potential clients considering similar programs or services.
    • Short-tail keywords. These concise terms include two or three words (e.g., “gap programs,” “SAT tutoring,” “volunteer opportunities”) and generate high search volumes. The caveat? They’re also less targeted.
    • Mid-tail keywords. These more specific phrases (e.g., “European gap year programs,” “individualized SAT prep,” “volunteer opportunities in California”) offer a balance between search volume and targeting.
    • Long-tail keywords. These are specific phrases exceeding four words (e.g., “career exploration gap year programs that award college credit”). They attract the most leads but have a lower search volume.

    A holistic approach to optimizing your strategy

    Strategically leveraging keywords helps you bridge the gap between your offerings and those actively seeking them. This targeted approach allows you to attract new traffic and leads, nurture relationships, and ultimately drive business growth. Consider these recommendations for developing a well-rounded strategy.

      • Media type: Different media types cater to varying levels of audience engagement. Earned media (customer reviews, social media mentions) builds trust and brand advocacy. Owned media (your website, blog, listing pages on TeenLife) allows complete control over content. Paid media (search engine ads) offers targeted reach. Use a combination of these media for maximum impact.
    • Target audience: Continuously refine your understanding of your ideal client. Are they rising seniors struggling to decide what to do after graduation? Or parents looking for resources to help their kids ace the SAT or ACT? Or students curious to learn more about STEM careers? What language do they use when searching for information? Tailor your keywords and content accordingly.
    • Competitor analysis: Stay informed about your competitors’ keyword strategies. Keeping updated can reveal valuable insights into industry trends and potential client search patterns.

    Tools and resources

    Fortunately, you don’t have to slog through keyword research with just a search engine and spreadsheet. Dozens of research tools exist to help, and many are free.

    • Google Trends works well for learning what’s currently trending, finding local search trends, identifying keywords that are becoming more popular, and gauging public interest in a topic over time. 
    • Keyword surfer is a Chrome plug-in that researches data like cost per click (CPC) for search terms, keyword ideas with volume, and more.
    • AnswerThePublic allows three free searches per day. It’s a good starting point for raw search insights and learning what your audience (and potential clients) want to know. 
    • Keyword Sheeter’s free version lets you quickly generate a long list of keyword ideas from Google.
    • SemRush’s Keyword Magic Tool’s free account permits 10 searches daily. You can sort keywords into topic-specific subgroups, see related and semantic keywords by topic, or identify keywords with similar phrasing.
    • Ahref’s free Keyword Generator will help you identify long-tail keywords and narrow your search based on the search engine (Google, Bing, YouTube, and Amazon) or geographic location. 

    Final thoughts

    Identifying the right keywords is like finding the SEO sweet spot. You’ll significantly improve your online visibility by incorporating relevant keywords throughout your web content, paid advertising campaigns, TeenLife listings, and even mobile apps. 

    Use keywords that reflect search intent (what users are looking for), have decent search volume (enough people searching for them), and offer strong conversion potential (likely to turn searchers into clients).

    This targeted approach maximizes your advertising spend and helps your target audience find your organization and its programs or services.

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    Jodi Ireland

    Jodi is TeenLife's Director of Content. Prior to joining the team, she worked as a Content Director at BLASTmedia, a PR company based in Indianapolis, IN. She's had several careers over the years — as a horse trainer, high school Latin teacher, college professor, editor, and journalist — but has always found time to write. When she's not advocating for the Oxford Comma or learning about the latest AI, Jodi's cheering on the Phillies or Eagles, curled up with a book and a cat, or gaming with her teenager.