Key Difference Between Hashtags and Keywords

hashtags and keywords: what's the difference?Keywords for SEO is Still Important

At one time, keywords were probably the most important search engine optimization (SEO) element for websites to use to rank with every search engine. After all, search strings are matched with keywords and still are today.

Keywords are equally as important today as they were some years ago, it’s just that now Google and other major search engines are weighing keywords a long with many other search engine ranking factors.

Comprehensive keyword research is also still an essential element in website optimization and SEO. I recommend an extensive competitor analysis as well and researching your own websites analytics to spot long-tail keywords and phrases that customers and prospects are using to find your website. In regards to proper keyword selection, says:

“Choosing the right keywords to optimize for is thus the first and most crucial step to a successful SEO campaign. If you fail on this very first step, the road ahead is very bumpy and most likely you will only waste your time and money.

There are many ways to determine which keywords to optimize for and usually the final list of them is made after a careful analysis of what the online population is searching for, which keywords have your competitors chosen and above all – which are the keywords that you feel describe your site best.”


What about #Hashtags?

So now that we’ve established that keyword research and using relevant keywords in your SEO and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns (i.e. Google Adwords – PPC/CPC ) is still an important part of your digital strategy, what about the hashtag you’re seeing and hearing so much about?

A hashtag is very similar to a keyword. The way they are used is also similar but hashtags have a much more broader application. When you break it down to the most simple element all a hashtag really is, is a keyword with a ‘pound’ sign, i.e. the “#” symbol in front of it.

My simple way of looking at it is that hashtags are a more immediate and sometimes short term promotion method, which should drive engagement on social networks and increases traffic to your website via click-throughs of the link included in the social post where the hashtag was used.

Hashtags also provide social SEO, if you will. If people are searching using a search engine, they will enter what ever words they feel appropriate in their search query. If your website is optimized of those search terms you stand a better chance in ranking high in that users search query.

If a user searches on social networks, rather than using the search phrase they’d normally enter into a search engine, they may simply search using a hashtag. Which again is just a keyword with a “#” in front of it. If you’re using that hashtag in your tweets, you stand a better chance of showing up for that person’s search query.


Hashtags and Keywords: What’s the difference?

Are you still confused about the similarities and differences between hashtags and keywords or have I confused you even more? No need to worry, all will be clear very soon. I found an article on that nicely illustrated Hashtags and Keywords:  6 Key Comparisons.

I like the one they listed first as it speaks to the immediacy of social media marketing and social media in general. The author suggests one key comparison between hashtags and keywords should be looked at “in terms of time”.

“Let’s say you publish a blog post without promoting it on social media. Your content is rich and useful, the text is nicely optimized for your target keyword and you’re confident it will be enjoyed by your readers. You publish and wait for the mighty Google to index it and catapult it up the SERPs. How long before you see a comment or a spike in statistics? This is marketing principle at its most basic. Publishing without promoting is essentially like going fishing without knowing where the fish are. Sure, one will come along eventually, but a good angler knows the water, the habits of the fish and their preferred feeding times. This is where the hashtag comes into its own. A hashtag delivers instantly and directly to users. It doesn’t necessarily have to be searched for to be found, though it is more than capable of this, too.

With hashtags, results can be tracked in a span of hours or even minutes, whereas it can take much longer with keywords. Search engines still need to find your content and index it, which leaves you reliant on when they send out their bots.
Hashtags are like wildfire. They spread at a rapid pace, leading to so-called “trending topics” on Twitter. Well, human interaction has a lot to do with that. Take the recent uproar caused by the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. Warner Bros will very quickly have got the message that people didn’t like the idea, given that they took to Twitter in their droves and created the hashtag “BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck”, with thousands using it in their posts to voice opinions on who could do the Caped Crusader more justice.

The keyword, however, does have its own advantages when it comes to time. It is everlasting, unlike the hashtag. A hashtag is prone to changes of opinion, whims, boredom of users, and can fizzle out just as quickly as it came. A keyword though is strong and unwavering; it will never leave your web page, or Google’s index for that matter. It will forever more be ready to be called upon.”


Use Hashtags To Entice Users To “Join The Conversation”

I love the digital marketing catch phrase “…or join the conversation on twitter at #InsertCreativeHashtagHere”. Television does a great job with this.

If you’re watching a live telecast of some sort or even a taped episode that others are currently watching, the TV stations will sometimes watermark a hashtag on the screen encouraging users to use that hashtag in their tweets regarding the show or for users who want to see what people are saying about the show they can search the hashtag – and then ‘join the conversation’ if they wish. It’s awesome and I know I will use this strategy in a campaign for a lucky client soon!

In relation to keywords, clearly this concept doesn’t translate. Firstly it’s not immediate. When using keywords in website copy or even in the metadata, it takes time for search engines to crawl your site and index that webpage based on the keywords used. With hashtags none of this is necessary as social media is always in real time.

There are more similarities and differences between hashtags and keywords. The point is they both are equally important in your internet marketing. You can increase your content’s visibility by using either/or dependent on your digital and social strategy.

You should read more comparisons of hashtags and keywords here.

If you’d like to discuss your website optimization (SEO) or need help with your social media strategy, please contact VPDM for a free SEO and website marketing audit.

UPDATE: Thursday, September 26, 2013
For more on hashtags read my new article regarding Google hashtags announcement.


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