Marketing Channels, Marketing Planning & Reporting

A Beginner’s Guide to Keywords for Small Businesses


Understanding the basics of SEO (search engine optimisation) is essential if you want your small business to get noticed online, especially by locals. So I decided to write up a little beginner’s guide to keywords for small businesses to help you get started.

It might seem scary at first, but there are lots of easy ways to optimise your website so potential customers can find you through search engines like Google. And the best place for beginners to start is with keywords.

By using the right ones, you can reach a whole new audience of people interested in your products or services. No matter what kind of small business you have, understanding SEO keywords is really important. So let’s get started!

What do keywords do?

beginner's guide to keywords
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It makes sense to kick this beginner’s guide to keywords off here! Essentially, keywords are important phrases which make it possible for people to find your website through search engines. Think of it like this: if you go to Google and type in “plumbers in Edinburgh”, that’s a keyword!

The websites which appear on the first page of search results (or SERP) are all websites which have used the keywords “plumbers in Edinburgh” throughout their site.

As well as being an essential way for search engines to find your website, keywords are also a useful tool for human visitors. Keywords make it easier for people to understand what your website is about and what your key services or products are.

Find out about the most important Do’s and Don’ts for your small business SEO.

How to find the right keywords

Any solid beginner’s guide to keywords will tell you; there’s no point stuffing as many keywords as possible on your site and hoping for the best. Instead, figure out which keywords are the most relevant to your small business.

These will bring the right people to your website. People who are searching for your specific product or service and are likely to become a new customer. But how do you find the right keywords for your small business?

beginner's guide to keywords
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  • Google Keyword Planner – this is a free tool (you need to set up AdWords account, but it doesn’t cost anything to use the Keyword Planner) which helps you discover which keywords might work for you. There are several useful features, including the new keyword search. This allows you to enter some information about your small business and your website. And the Keyword Planner will suggest a list of keywords related to your business.
  • Google Trends – another useful feature from Google, the Trends tool shows you which keywords and topics are currently the most popular. You can find out data about all the top trends, or enter your own keywords to see how they have performed over time. The ‘related queries’ section is really useful for finding new keywords related to the main topics of your website.
  • Search engine auto-complete – it’s a simple tool that often gets overlooked, but the search engine auto-complete box is your best friend! For example, if you open Google and type “plumbers”, a list of auto-completed suggestions will appear that might include “plumbers Edinburgh”, “plumbers Glasgow”, “plumbers near me” etc. This can be useful for figuring out what people search for, and which keywords are most relevant to your website.
  • Google Search Console – another free tool from Google, this time to give you a lot of information about how your website is performing in their online searches. Seeing what past web visitors have searched for when they clicked through to your small business’s website is extremely helpful when looking for keywords. It also helps you find out if you’re targeting the right people or if people are clicking your link for the wrong reasons.

How to use keywords

beginner's guide to keywords
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This wouldn’t be a proper beginner’s guide to keywords without guidance on how to use your newly found search terms. Because now that you have a list of relevant keywords, it’s time to start using them.

The main goal of using keywords is to get search engines like Google to notice your website and rank you highly in their search results.

But your website also needs to be user-friendly and well written for human visitors. Keep this in mind when adding keywords to your web content.

As a sidenote, it’s crucial not to overload your copy with industry jargon. Find out how to highlight your expertise without alienating customers in this post!

1. Headings

One of the key places to include keywords is within headings throughout your website. Google pays close attention to the text within heading tags (such as <h1></h1><h2></h2> etc) which are the main headlines to use on your pages.

To make the most of this, include your most important keywords within page headings and subheadings throughout the text.

2. Pages and body text

Most of the written content on your website will be on pages describing what you do and what your products or services are. Make sure to include your keywords within the body text of all the pages on your website. This includes your homepage, about page, contact page and services page.

You may even want to set up pages which are specific to some of your main keywords. For example, if “plumbers in Edinburgh” is one of your main keywords, set up a separate page which includes “plumbers in Edinburgh” in the title. Use it to describe any relevant Edinburgh details such as the services you offer, where your Edinburgh office is based and what nearby locations you travel to.

beginner's guide to keywords
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3. Meta titles and meta descriptions

Meta titles and meta descriptions are the text that appears in Google when someone searches for your website. Usually, Google pulls through the title of the page and the first sentence or two of text on the page.

This is sometimes incomplete or irrelevant to the actual content of the page. However, if you set your meta title and description (which can be done easily through the back end of most web hosting services such as WordPress) you have control over the text that appears here.

Make sure the title and description accurately describe what the page is about. And include keywords to help the page rank higher in Google.

4. Images

Don’t forget about images, they’re really important when it comes to keywords too. Make sure to give each image a name which accurately describes the picture (e.g. plumbers-in-edinburgh.jpg rather than DSC4567.jpg).

Add an alt text too, making sure to use keywords in all your image descriptions and titles.

5. Blog posts

Google tends to favour websites which regularly update their content. And a blog is a great way to do this.

The same principles apply to blog posts as to the rest of your website: use keywords in titles, body text, meta descriptions and images. Blog posts are really useful because you can target both your main keywords and more specific keywords. This gives you more chance of appearing in Google searches.

Blogging for SEO
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Common keyword mistakes

  1. Using too many keywords. If you use the same keyword hundreds of times on one page, Google will see this as spam and may penalise your website. This will also make it really difficult to read. As a general rule, try to stick to around 2% keyword density e.g. 2 keywords for every 100 words.
  2. Using irrelevant keywords. There may be some keywords which are related to your small business, but they aren’t actually relevant to the services you offer. For example, if you only offer plumbing services within 3 miles of Edinburgh, there’s no point in targeting the “plumbers in Glasgow” keyword. Choose your main keywords carefully rather than using lots of irrelevant ones. Keyword relevance is far more important than keyword density.
  3. Not using long-form keywords. Longform keywords are phrases which are 3 or more words long, such as “certified plumbers in Edinburgh”. These keywords are really useful as they are much more specific than a short keyword like “plumber”. There will be millions of searches for “plumber” so you’re unlikely to rank highly. Longform keywords may have fewer searches, but the people using them are looking for the specific service you offer, so they’re much more likely to become a customer.
  4. Not analysing your keywords. It’s important to keep track of your keywords and see which ones perform best over time. Use a service like Google Analytics to see what keywords people use to find your website, and which ones are the most popular. You should also keep an eye out for new keywords you could add to your website, and remove any ones that are no longer relevant to your small business.

Now it’s time to take this beginner’s guide to keywords and get started optimising your small business website for online search engines!


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
How to Get Started With Your Small Business SEO
The Most Important SEO Do’s and Don’ts for Your Small Business
6 Tips to Convert More Website Visitors Into Paying Customers
4 Steps to a Successful Web Copy

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.