Yes, in fact these days in a lot of cases the best “keywords” ARE phrases.

To be clear, what I’m saying is that instead of trying to rank for a 1-2 word “keyword” it’s often much more useful to optimize for a question, like the title of this post, and reinforce the content to support that query.

The primary reason for this is because of how focused Google has become on user intent. For instance, Google understands that when someone is looking for something, it’s unlikely that they just type a couple words. A lot of the time the user will be more specific, either by describing their topic or by asking a question directly into the search bar.

The phrasing of those searches gives Google insight into the TYPE of query it is — that is to say, whether it’s informational or transactional.

Informational searches are when a user wants to better understand something, such as:

  • Defining words
  • Looking up people or events
  • Looking up concert dates, business addresses, or operating hours
  • Information about places or historic events
  • Product reviews

Transactional searches are when it’s clear from the user’s phrasing that they intend to buy something, and their search is about finding the right product or service. Those might be:

  • Local searches for restaurants, hotels, or other shopping
  • Price comparisons
  • Nearest X store

The difference in context might look something like “best camping gear for mountains” when doing research or looking for reviews, and “camping gear stores near me” for shopping intent. A user might even type, “Where can I buy camping gear?” to receive localize results.

If you were in this type of business, it might not make sense to optimize simply for “camping gear” because that could mean a whole bunch of things, not to mention that 2-word search queries tend to be incredibly broad and have a ton of competition. It’s much harder to rank for those, and they’re not specific enough to be as useful to your site from a revenue standpoint, either.

Because you are therefore optimizing to meet a user’s specific search intent, very likely the content you create will need to be focused on a phrase of some kind. It might be a specific questions, or it might be use cases for the product or service you offer.

For instance, if you are an outdoor goods store that sells camping gear, it might make as much sense to write content about the little known uses for fishing line (outside of catching fish) as it would to do product reviews or pages that answer specific questions.

This helps you cover your core topics from a variety of useful angles, and allows you to capture traffic from different places in the buying journey.

The other advantage to optimizing for question queries or phrases rather than only traditional 1-2 word “keywords” is that you won’t run into keyword cannibalization issues. This is where you’ve talked about the same topic too many times and each piece competes with the other. By focusing on questions you can touch on keyword topics repeatedly without each piece being too similar or redundant.

Since you were asking about keyword ideas, you might also enjoy these posts: