Of course, keywords are important. But the exact order of the words in a keyword phrase, maybe not so much. Find out what Google advises.
Google consistently states that one of the main goals of its algorithm is to properly balance relevance (how well your page or site matches up with users' search terms) and quality (how effectively your page or site delivers the information promised). Which means that if you focus solely on keyword strategy, you're missing out on half the equation. And if you run a small business, you might be missing out altogether.
In situations where there are a lot of choices, Google will always show larger, more high-quality sites first, even without an exact keyword match or matching keyword phrases. Google might even give preference to pages using synonyms!
The first step is relevance, the match-up. The next step is ranking, the quality. So even if you're first in the door with an exact match, you'll probably be left behind if there are a lot of well-established, high-quality sites competing with you.
Note that if a person who's searching puts quotes around a phrase, the quotes cause Google to look for that exact phrase. Example: "red prom dress." Per Google, "Without the quotes, Google is just looking for pages with those words, but in any order, and not necessarily adjacent." (Google Webmasters, February 2017) This is important, since the vast majority of ordinary customers search without quotes.
If you have a smaller, newer site, or a site with lots of competition, spend less time on keywords, and more time on other methods of driving traffic to your site. Some Google-authorized experts even state outright that very small sites that are subdomains in marketplaces like Etsy or eBay won't rank at all in Google search. So if that's true, extensive keyword research—from the Google search point of view—might not be the best use of your time, at least while you're still growing.
Google itself recommends alternatives such as advertising, social media marketing, and other strategies that can help build your reputation and motivate people to link to your site. Google also strongly urges newer and smaller sites to incorporate quality content that's as unique as possible.
Side note for Etsy sellers: Etsy search (inside Etsy itself) works a little differently. Etsy does give preference to exact keyword matches when buyers use the Etsy search bar. This type of search doesn't have any connection with Google searches.
Feel free to comment. And browse the blog for more on SEO, copywriting and social media.
Barbara Clavan provides copywriting, coaching and consulting services to high-growth businesses, high-profile individuals and creative entrepreneurs.
Visit Services to learn more.