A keyword variant is a term used in search engine optimization (SEO). A keyword variant is a term or phrase that is closely related to a primary keyword but differs slightly in its form or meaning. Keyword variants are important in SEO and digital marketing because they help to ensure that your content reaches a wider audience. By targeting both primary keywords and their variants, you can improve your visibility on search engines and increase the chances of your content being discovered by users who are searching for similar or related terms.
For example, if your primary keyword is "digital marketing," some keyword variants might include "online marketing," "internet marketing," or "web marketing." By incorporating these variants into your content, you can potentially rank for multiple related search queries, improving your overall online visibility.
Google’s algorithms are quite intelligent, thanks largely to the fact that it uses machine learning algorithms (AKA: artificial intelligence/AI). In many cases Google can understand complex queries while taking into account local context. For example, the phrase “catch a cow” means something different if you are near the Great Lakes. Near the Great Lakes regions, this means you caught a large bass (or at least, this is my understanding). In California on the other hand, it implies exactly what it sounds like: Trying to catch an actual cow. That being said, Google isn’t perfect and neither are we! Sometimes we need help, and sometimes Google needs help.
Keyword variations are key phrases or keywords with a slightly different meaning but colloquially mean the same thing. A great example of this is “stuffed animals” and “plushies”. Technically these are two distinct different types of toy, but in everyday speech the terms are used interchangeably. This means that a user may be looking for what is technically a plushie, but is searching queries related to “stuffed animals”. By bridging the gap between the two and spelling this out for Google, we can essentially say “Hey, we want to show up for this related topic as well!”, which can lead to quite a few new users coming to your site.
It depends on the topic at hand, but let’s stick with our plushie v. stuffed animal analogy so we can connect some data to this concept later on. In this case, let’s say you have a Triceratops plushie you want to sell. Meta titles are one of the easiest places to introduce these terms without changing the on-page appearance of a product, so an example would look something like this:
Original Meta Title:
Triceratops Plushie | Totally Legit Example Company Name
Modified Meta Title:
Triceratops - Triceratops Stuffed Animal | Totally Legit Example Company Name
As you can see in the original, we really only told Google that this was a plushie and that said plushie is related to the Totally Legit Example Company Name business. When we add in additional context, we open up this plushie page to similar traffic with a similar purchase intent. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these keyword variants NEED to be related. You CANNOT, for example, add in “Nike” shoe-related keywords into a page all about plushies. This would look like an attempt to manipulate the algorithm, which would cause a decline in performance if not a manual penalty to resolve.
You can further support your alternative keywords by adjusting your product descriptions or other on-page content to reflect this addition. A FAQ for example, is an easy place to add in some additional keywords that are related to queries your page provides answers too. The golden rule is simply this: Make sure your website is useful to users.
Give us a call! We eat, breathe, and sleep all things organic traffic related at Baotris. Chances are, we can help you. All we need is your expertise in your niche, we combine that with our knowledge of the digital marketing world, and then we get to work on making your website work for you.
This is a tricky question to answer as there are a multitude of factors that come into play, but thankfully it’s not hard to answer this question. Let’s use an example from a Baotris client.
For this specific case, the brand primarily shows up for “plushy” and “plushie” terms. An easy win is opening them up to more traffic, which we simply do by targeting “stuffed animals”. In August we thoroughly built out the product pages and collection pages for this client’s Shopify Store so that the meta titles all used appropriately targeted keyword variants for plushies.
Note: Keep in mind if you are attempting to replicate this process, you should make sure your variants are backed by query volume! Don’t make up terms to add into your meta title, instead focus on what you can find in various keyword tools that show volume. Don’t be afraid to target high volume and high competition keywords.
As you can see, we were able to increase impressions and clicks quite dramatically. Here’s the raw numbers when comparing November 1st, 2022 through February 28th, 2023 v. the previous 6 month period:
The data tells a very strong story here, we’ve not only introduced a large improvement in the number of queries related to “stuffed animals”, but we’ve also improved the overall ranking, impressions, and clicks. Not bad for a .1% sacrifice in CTR (Click Through Rate)!
If we hadn’t expanded into these similar terms that are overlapping, this website would not be benefiting from this new upswell in traffic. The real remaining question is, can you confidently say that your website is set up to explore alternative keywords related to your content?
"How do I identify keyword variants that will actually work?"
This is a tricky question, as the answer requires being intimately familiar with your specific niche. For example, if you are an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon your instinct may be to say that this title is one of your keywords. I’m here to tell you that colloquially, the term used by most users is “Oral Surgeon”. While Google CAN understand that these terms are related, it doesn’t hurt to spell it out for Google where you can (and the same goes for your users). Ask friends, ask family, ask experts in your niche beyond yourself, and write down the terms and phrases they use in casual conversation. Most likely, these will form the base of your keyword research.
"I’m worried about targeting high volume and high competition keywords, are you sure I shouldn’t target smaller ones with less competition?"
Why not do both? You can target less powerful keywords by mixing them into your content (only if it makes sense, don’t you start keyword stuffing on me now!) on-page. You can then be free to target those juicy high volume keywords that can really make a difference in your bottom line. In SEO, competition will never go away. Don’t let it scare you, simply embrace it. At the end of the day you are only competing against yourself when you first start out. Once you’ve firmly established your website, you can then begin to try and undermine competitors by improving your website even further.
"What keyword research tools do you recommend?"
For broad keyword research, SEMrush and Ahrefs can provide some amazing information. If you’re looking for more detailed information and the ability to limit the data to certain geographic areas such as cities, look into Google Adwords Keyword Planner. It provides superb detail straight from the source, Google. Yes, it’s aimed at Google Ads users but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t useful for SEO and organic search!