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Using Keywords to Improve Site Ranking

Last updated on February 3, 2021
21 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the basics of keyword function & importance
  • Incorporating long-tail keywords into your content marketing strategy
  • Top keywords do's & don'ts

Skill Level

Beginner, Intermediate

Keywords are the terms and phrases that describe the content of a page, and they’re what searchers type into search engines to find the content they’re looking for. Skillful use of keywords is one of the essential building blocks of any SEO strategy. Keywords are one of the main ways websites signal to search engines what your site and individuals pages are about, and they provide you with opportunities to rank in searches for the content and activities you provide.  

Why do I need to use keywords?

Keywords perform a vital role on your website. They tell search engines what your site is about, and they bring users who are looking for the types of tours and activities you provide to your business. Here are some of the main reasons why you need keywords: 

  • To rank better in search engines: Without the right keywords, search engines won’t know what goods or services your business provides and therefore won’t know when to serve your site up to searchers. Targeting the right keywords gives you a better chance of appearing in the searches that are most relevant to your business. Always keep in mind: it is the goal of search engines to provide the most relevant results to users, and you want to help them do their job – and be rewarded for doing so. Keywords help you achieve this. 
  • To increase traffic & drive conversions: The goal of your SEO strategy is to drive organic traffic to your site, and keywords are a crucial tool to achieve this goal. As outlined above, targeting keywords that are the most relevant to your business helps you to rank better in searches for the terms relevant to your business, and this, in turn, leads to more traffic to your site. The more people who visit your site, the more opportunities you have to convert a browser into a buyer. 
  • To target the right users: Showing up in search results is great, but only if your business is showing up for the right users. For example, if you provide an adults-only booze cruise, you probably don’t want traffic from people searching for family-friendly boat rides. They would leave your site immediately after realizing it’s not what they were looking for. Using the right keywords will lead the right customers to your site – people who are looking for exactly what you’re offering. 

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is all about understanding your target audience and how they’re searching for your tours and activities. This research can give you insight into what people are searching for, how many people are searching for certain terms, how they’re formulating their questions, and how they prefer to have their questions answered. 

Keyword research really boils down to asking questions. 

  • Who is searching for the types of tours I offer?
  • What are they looking for when they type in these keywords?
  • How can I provide the answers they want?

The answers to these questions can help you not only determine what keywords you want to add to your business’ website, but also how to structure the way you present information on your site so that it satisfies the searcher’s intent. Read up on search intent here.

How do I find the right keywords for my business?

There are many free and paid keyword research tools out there you can use to perform your own keyword research and improve your SEO strategy. Here are a few we recommend.

Free Tools: 

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool offered as part of Google Ads, and it helps you discover keywords relevant to your tours or activities, providing insight into search volume and more. If you’re interested in placing paid ads in Google, Keyword Planner also helps you determine your advertising budget. 

Check it out here: 

For more free tools check out our guide to choosing the best keywords for your business.

Paid Tools: FareHarbor does not receive an incentive or referral fee; we are just sharing the tools we like and use! 

Keywords Everywhere

This is a browser add-on you can install on Chrome or Firefox, allowing you to find long-tail keywords (more on that in a moment) and their monthly search volume, meaning the number of searches for a particular keyword in a month. To use it, just install the add-on, then search a keyword in Google, and you’ll see the monthly search volume displayed right there on the search page. It also displays terms related to the keywords you’re targeting and shows you other terms people are searching for. 

To try out this free tool, download it here: 


SEMrush is a robust tool for digital marketing and SEO, providing technical SEO audits, search engine position tracking, ideas for increasing organic traffic, and more. Some of its features include keyword research, analytics reports, advertising research, traffic analytics, and more. It provides more in-depth keyword research, such as estimating keyword difficulty and keyword analysis. 

Pricing varies depending on the size of your business and the features you need. Learn more here: 


Ahrefs provides a variety of SEO tools, including keyword research, content research, competitive analysis, rank tracking, and more. It allows you to see the exact keywords your competitors rank for in organic search, get thousands of keyword suggestions from their comprehensive database, explore keyword difficulty and other metrics that help you decide which keywords to target, and more. 

Learn more here: 

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are longer (three or more words), more specific keywords that drive more targeted traffic to your site. Long-tail keywords typically have lower search volume than shorter, more generic keywords but tend to lead to higher conversions; this is because they are used by searchers who are looking for something specific. 

For example:

  • Regular Keyword: Oahu Tours
  • Long-tail Keyword: Snorkeling Tours on Oahu’s North Shore

Competition for shorter keywords or phrases, such as “Oahu tours” can be fierce. This lowers your chances of nabbing one of those top spots in the search results. Long-tail keywords have less competition because fewer businesses fit the specifics of the key phrase. This gives you a better chance of showing up for long-tail keywords that fit your business’s specific offerings and location.

Pro tip: Long-tail keywords are useful for ranking in both organic searches and paid searches (because in paid search the bid is lower for a low-volume keyword with less competition). We discuss paid search, or pay-per-click, in this guide. 

Use the research tools outlined above to determine some of the best long-tail keywords for your business. You may identify some keywords that can’t be easily applied to your homepage or activity pages but that are relevant to your business. That’s okay! A great place to incorporate these keywords is on your blog or on an informational or ‘About Us’ page. Using long-tail keywords in your blog helps you rank for more specific terms without competing with the main pages on your own site, where you might use shorter keywords with a higher search volume. Understandably, long-tail keywords are great for long-form content – such as a guide on the best things to do in your area.  

Interested in blogging? Check out our guide on blogging ideas for tour and activity operators or browse all of our blogging and content marketing resources!

How do I use keywords?

Keyword research is just the beginning. Once you’ve identified the keywords you want to target, it’s time to start implementing them on your site. Here are some keyword do’s and don’ts you want to keep in mind when implementing your keyword strategy. 

Keyword Do’s

Optimize for search intent.

While your keyword research gives you insights into search volume, relevance, and competition for certain keywords, you want to think beyond the numbers and consider search intent. 

The best way to understand search intent is to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. When you type in “the best snorkel tours in Maui” what would you hope to find? You’re most likely in the research phase of your vacation planning, and you’re not ready to book yet, but you’re hoping to learn about some of the top options on the island. This is your search intent. 

Search engines work hard to determine the intent of the searcher so they can serve up results that satisfy that intent. When you type in “the best snorkel tours in Maui” Google understands that you’re searching for a list, not just one tour, and it will serve up articles with top lists. 

Optimizing for search intent means aligning the keywords you’re using to the content on the page so that the searchers find exactly what they hoped for when typing in that keyword. This keeps searchers on your site longer, which in turn tells the search engine that they should continue to rank your page for those keywords. For more on this topic, check out our guide to SEO trends

Write content for human users, not search engines.

It can feel like a lot of the SEO work you do is meant for search engines and their algorithms, but at the end of the day, your website is made for real people who you want to convert into customers. Search engines are constantly learning from what users want in order to make their algorithms better, so optimizing your content for humans actually means optimizing for search engines as well. 

When a potential customer lands on your site, you want your content to read and flow naturally, not like a bunch of jumbled keyword jargon solely intended to help your website rank. Always think about your target audience and your typical customers, and write your content to speak directly to them, giving them the information they need. 

For example, if a searcher is looking for a how-to guide to prepare for a hiking trip in Colorado, they’re hoping to find something like this: 

Colorado has some of the most stunning hiking trails in the world, but you don’t want to start heading up the mountains unprepared. From gear to hydration and breathing techniques, check out our how-to guide to hiking in Colorado. 

This content infuses keywords while providing the searcher with the information they want. (For an example of what NOT to do, read on to the keyword don’ts.) Writing for humans not only improves the user experience, but also signals to search engines that your site has relevant, useful content for searchers. Now that’s a win-win!

Optimize for keywords in the title tag, meta description, and headings.

Title tags, meta descriptions, and headings are some of the most important spots to include your keywords. While they’re not always visible on your site (in the case of title tags and meta descriptions), they are in the page’s code and help search engines know what the pages on your website are about, which can influence your ranking. They’re also visible on the SERPs, and you want them to be aligned with the content of your page. 

The title tag is visible on the top of the browser when you’re on a page, and it’s the heading of the search results on the SERP. The meta description is the small block of text displayed in the SERP below the title tag and URL, and even though it doesn’t affect rankings, the matching keywords from the query are bolded in the meta description, signaling to searchers that this page has information related to the terms they searched for.

If your site offers snorkeling tours on the North Coast of Oahu, the metadata for your all activity page might look something like this: 

  1. Title tag: Snorkeling Tours on Oahu’s North Coast | [Your Company Name]
  2. Meta description: [Your Company Name] offers unforgettable snorkeling tours on Oahu’s North Coast for the whole family. Book a tour today and swim with the tropical wildlife!
  3. H1: Oahu North Coast Snorkeling Tours

Adding keywords in these three places can improve your rankings and lead to more clicks from organic search. To learn more about these technical SEO elements, check out our guide on website optimization fundamentals

Use location keywords.

Location-specific keywords, like long-tail keywords, sometimes have a lower search volume, but they drive qualified traffic to your site from users near you who are ready to book a tour or activity. Using a keyword research tool, find what types of location queries could drive traffic to your site. For example, you might already be ranking for “New York food tours,” but you might be missing out on keywords specific to certain cities and neighborhoods, like “Manhattan pizza tours.”

Location keywords drive quality traffic to your site and help your local SEO strategy. They’re also great to use for blog posts and informational pages that rank for long-tail keywords and provide useful, long-form content about your city, such as a guide to finding the best slices of pizza in Manhattan. 

Keyword Don’ts 

Don’t keyword stuff your content.

In the early days of search engines, keyword density was the name of the game, so many people practiced keyword stuffing, which is just what it sounds like: stuffing your content full of keywords in the hopes that it’ll help you rank. However, this practice no longer helps – and can actually hurt – your SEO strategy. 

For example, if you’re writing a blog post to rank for the long-tail keyword “family-friendly things to do in Estes Park, CO,” keyword stuffing might look like this: 

Dreaming of the Rocky Mountains and the exciting family-friendly things to do there? Stop dreaming and start planning with our list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Estes Park, CO! With our list of family-friendly things to do in Estes Park, you’ll be able to better plan your Estes Park, CO, family vacation by finding the right family-friendly things to do for your trip.

This is not how people talk or write, and search engines recognize that. Keyword stuffing can appear spammy to both your readers and search engines. Google now considers the density of keywords relative to the amount of content, and it can hurt your rankings to have more keywords than is natural in the context of the content. To avoid keyword stuffing, make sure you: 

  • Only add keywords where it’s appropriate to do so, and make sure it flows logically.
  • Read the text aloud to make sure it sounds natural. 

Penalties for keyword stuffing are directly related to why you must write content intended for a human reader. People want to read content that is useful, relevant, and well-written, and search engines favor this type of content. Don’t worry about missing out on keyword opportunities. As long as you write quality content and include keywords where they naturally fit, you’ll have a good chance of ranking over time. 

Don’t keyword stuff your title tags, meta descriptions, or headings.

Keyword stuffing applies not only to content but to metadata and headings as well. You’ve probably seen keyword stuffing most often in e-commerce sites, where a product might be named “bridesmaids dresses prom dress full-length dress for parties.” This type of heading is attempting to capture all the possible keywords for that product, but it appears spammy and doesn’t lead to a positive customer experience. 

Resist the temptation to stuff your title tag, meta description, or heading full of keywords. This signals to search engines and readers alike that you’re trying to manipulate search results instead of focusing on providing valuable content. 

An example of a title tag

An example of a title tag and meta description

Don’t stuff multiple locations on your site.

If you’re located outside of a major city, it could be tempting to add keywords relating to that city to your site to capture more traffic. But for the best keyword strategy, you should make sure to optimize only for the places where you operate or cities that are near (less than an hour away). 

For example, if you offer tours or activities in Nevada, more than an hour outside of Las Vegas, stick to location keywords for your specific area rather than trying to target keywords for Las Vegas. You want to lead the right traffic to your site, and if you attract people who are looking for Las Vegas tours but they don’t find any on your site, they’ll bounce right off your site, telling search engines that your content isn’t actually relevant for those keywords. 

Keywords are one of the most important factors of SEO, and now you have a better understanding of what they are, how they work, where to find them, and how to use them. Start experimenting with the best keyword research tool for your business and see how it improves your traffic. Want to know more about tracking performance? Check out our guide to Google Analytics. Looking for more SEO tips? Check out our SEO checklist!

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