The Importance of Keywords in Marketing

Marketing, for the most part, is based on visibility. Businesses that struggle to place their names, products and services at the front of the public’s consciousness will have a harder time connecting with consumers than those that become known commodities. This visibility previously relied on traditional strategies such as print and television advertising. In the internet era, however, knowing how to use keywords in marketing strategies is crucial.


The right keyword in the right context can land a business on the coveted first page of a Google search ranking. This can carry substantial clout. The statistical aggregate site Statista reports that Google processed 12.51 million search queries in January 2022 — 92.2% of the search engine market share, according to GlobalStats’ statcounter. A business that lands on the first page of one of these query results is exposed to customers who, given the context of the Google search itself, are likely interested in the business’ field or a specific product.

At the same time, the importance of using marketing keywords goes beyond landing on the top of a search page. Effective keywords can help marketing professionals boost their organization’s social media presence, better understand what prospective customers want and gain insight into brand reputation. These can be used to develop nimble marketing strategies that can lead to growth. First, however, it’s important for professionals seeking a Master of Communication Management degree to understand the mechanics behind properly chosen keywords.

What Are Keywords in Marketing?

Keywords are the words and phrases that people use to find information online. They type these words or phrases into search engines such as Google, which produces results in the form of pages of links. These results are driven by search engine algorithms to provide relevant information that matches a user’s needs. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process by which content generators and site owners use popular keywords to improve the position of their page in a search engine’s results.

The primary objective behind using keywords in marketing is to reach your target audience, offering the opportunity to engage them in a way that converts them from curious visitors to paying customers. Ideally, these keywords are organically built into various forms of content designed to drive interest. These content forms may include web-based content, social media posts and digital ads. They can also include elements within larger pieces of content, such as social media hashtags or meta descriptions.

Keywords and SEO also allow marketers to gauge the effectiveness of their current strategies. Low search page rankings may compel companies to retool their web-based content or approach social media messaging strategies differently. Keywords can also expose customers’ opinions about a company’s products, services or even operations and reputation. This data can provide key insights that can shape new, more effective marketing campaigns.

Even if a business’s current slate of marketing keywords are effective, it’s important to periodically gauge their ongoing effectiveness. Search engines like Google change their algorithms occasionally, and these tweaks can cause high-ranking keywords to tumble a few notches. Fortunately, tools such as Google Search Central help keep marketing professionals informed when changes happen.

Marketing Keywords and Types of Media

There are different kinds of marketing keywords for a marketing communications manager to consider when building a keyword-driven strategy. These keyword types serve different purposes and can drive traffic in unique ways.

Some types of keywords in marketing include the following.

  • Market Segment Keywords: Keywords used for a broad-based product search within a specific industry
  • Branded Keywords: Keywords featuring a specific brand name, but not a specific product
  • Product Keywords: Keywords referencing a specific brand name and a specific product
  • Competitor Keywords: Keywords built around different companies in your industry; these keywords can provide insight into what potential customers are seeking
  • Short-tail Keywords: Non-specific keywords of three words or less; these yield high search results
  • Mid-tail Keywords: Slightly longer, more specific keywords, usually around three to four words; they yield smaller search results but reach a more targeted audience
  • Long-tail Keywords: Specific keywords typically longer than four words; they yield reduced search results, but also attract the most targeted customers

Professionals must also take media types into consideration within the context of their keyword marketing strategies. Each media type correlates to a different combination of marketing and consumer engagement level that allows professionals to connect with the broadest target audience possible.

Below are the most popular types of digital media.

Earned Media

Earned is the most elusive media type. It is the result of the trust you build in interactions with your customers. This form of media means customers themselves are marketing for you on social profiles, blogs and rating sites. They are serving as brand ambassadors for you, singing your praises and driving sales/conversions at a higher rate than any other type of media.

Creating brand ambassadors takes time, and it’s done by creating a quality product or service. This helps a company earn a reputation for responsiveness and disseminating quality content. Loyal brand ambassadors will not only share your content but create content of their own such as ratings and reviews. These drive sales (if they’re favorable) by influencing others and increasing your rankings on search pages. Since your brand is not in control of earned media, you must monitor it consistently.

Owned Media

These are the properties you “own,” such as your website, blog and social media profiles. While you can’t control the reactions that occur from these postings, you can control their content. Your keyword strategy when populating these locations with content will create the relationships that will hopefully give birth to earned media. The interactions/earned media are noticed by search engines and improve your ranking accordingly. A brand that receives a high level of interaction and shares is deemed “quality content” and is elevated in search results.

Paid Media

Paid media gets your name, product or service in front of those performing internet searches, but it’s also the least trusted. Paid media listings appear in the paid section at the top and right of search results, as well as in display ads such as those created by Google Ads.

How to Effectively Use Marketing Keywords

The difference between basic use of keywords in marketing and optimizing how they are applied can potentially be measured by the number of consumers who gain interest in your business. With that in mind, there are a few best practices to deploy when building a strategy around keyword marketing.

Like any other marketing strategy, effective keyword marketing begins with understanding your target audience. It’s important to build keywords around phrases and terms that targeted consumers are likely to use. This is particularly critical when designing long-tail keywords, which tend to particularly attract targeted consumers.

Another key tactic is to use research tools to help you build an effective, pinpointed strategy. These may include tools that highlight related keyword searches and common consumer questions, to tools that help you determine what keywords your competition uses. While some of these tools require supplemental software programs, others are easily accessed for free on Google’s search engine pages.

It’s also important to develop a keyword marketing strategy that incorporates a blend of earned, owned and paid media. This can require patience — remember, earned media is dictated by the consumer, not the brand — but this three-pronged approach can help optimize marketing reach.

Finally, it’s important to be aware of how changes in today’s digital zeitgeist can impact keyword choice. This means being aware of how trends in pop culture, social and political movements and the economy may affect search keyword choices and ranking.

The Future of Marketing

Effective keyword use goes well beyond simply putting the right words in the right paragraph on the right page. The influx of social media, the complexity of search engine algorithms and the approaches of different media types make it more important than ever to fully understand the importance of effective keywords in marketing.

Without this understanding, keyword marketing becomes a concept primarily built around good intentions. But if you know how to use its complexities to full advantage, it can be a tool that gives you a substantial advantage over the competition.

USC’s Master of Communication Management (MCM) online degree program can help you learn how to use keyword marketing tools to their best effect. With courses like Methodological Fundamentals of Big Data in Communication as well as Online Marketing Communication, Development and Analysis, USC’s MCM degree offers the knowledge and skills to build marketing strategies that target the right customers at the right time.

Learn how we can help you become a leader in the marketing field.

Recommended Readings

Communication Management Plans and Tools

8 Skills All Communication Majors Must Build

Why Is Effective Communication Important to Career Success?


GlobalStats statcounter, Search Engine Market Share Worldwide

Google, Google Ads

Google Ads, Basic Tips for Building a Keyword List

Google Search Central, List of Google Search Ranking Updates

Indeed, “13 Types of Marketing Keywords: Definitions and Examples”

Statista, Number of Explicit Core Search Queries Powered by Search Engines in the United States as of January 2022

Technology Advice, “Finding the Right Mix of Earned, Owned, and Paid Media”

TechTarget, “Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”

Zapier, “The 6 Best Free Keyword Research Tools in 2022”