Having Fun with -Onyms in Keyword Research

You’re writing a page about a new stadium in your City, soon to enjoy the sounds of crowds in the bleachers watching duels between batters and pitchers, hoping to watch balls batted over the center field fence, or shutouts pitched, or the perfect double play.

Your page could simply contain a picture, a street address, and maybe a schedule of games to be played for the season. Or it could include a skeletal list of links to simple pages about the team that will play there, an image of sections where tickets could be purchased, a page to purchase those tickets, and another page about parking and directions.

There’s nothing wrong with delivering just the facts, and providing simple information that fills needs.

But let’s imagine that your goal for the site is to make it more likely that people sign up for season ticket plans, that they get excited about attending games, that they consider driving for a few hours to see the stadium in person rather than kicking back and watching on TV. You want people excited about the new stadium, and you want to show and tell them what’s new. And you want to draw on the history of the players and team to draw old fans and interest new ones.

You want your site to engage and persuade and excite, and be found by as many people as possible.

So you decide to create pages filled with pictures, and descriptions, and quotes, and nostalgia and forecasts for the future.

What’s actually new at the playing field? What’s hidden under the bleachers? What were the buildings like that this team played at in the past?

When you write for the audience of a web site, one of the most important steps along the way is exploring the words and phrases that your audience might expect to see on the pages of your site, and that they might search for to find your pages. Keyword research can help you develop ideas and concepts that you want to include on your pages, building an information architecture of your site. It can assist you in identifying the different audiences for your site, and the different informational tasks that they might be able to satisfy on your pages.

Audiences and Tasks

Many articles on keyword research often seem to start with a description of keyword tools that can be found online, and the idea of plugging words into those tools and seeing what they recommend. While that can be helpful, there are steps you should consider taking before ever getting to that stage. One of the most important is to think carefully about the audiences that your site is written for because those are the people who you want to find your pages.

For a page, or pages about a new baseball stadium and the team that plays there, your objectives may be to inform the public about the playing field, satisfy the stadium owners and users with what you write, encourage people to attend games, attract and inform baseball fans and corporate stadium box holders and media coverage, find employees and interns and volunteers, and other possible people who might be interested in the stadium.

For each of the audience members, you can include information on the site appropriate to them.

For instance, people attending a game may want to know such things as:

  • Seating options
  • Game schedules
  • Ticket prices
  • Parking locations
  • Driving Directions
  • Mass Transit availability
  • Information about the area around the stadium, such as where nearby hotels are located
  • What kind of food and drink might be available, and where concession stands and restaurants are located
  • Differences between the old stadium and the new one
  • Security policies (can you bring video cameras into the game, or laptops, or snacks?)
  • Accessibility and services for people with disabilities
  • The availability of team memorabilia and merchandise
  • Game rosters, players stats, win-loss records, league standings

Before the thought of collecting keywords for your pages and looking them up in keyword tools ever enters your head, you need to consider the objectives behind the site and the informational needs of the audiences those objectives address.

Concepts before Keywords

Once you have an idea of what kinds of information that you want your site to contain, and you have a sense of the organization of your pages, it can help to start thinking about and collecting keywords. It can be a little dangerous to focus too much upon specific keywords at this stage, because doing so may end up limiting your options. Instead, take some of the tasks for your audiences above, and start thinking about concepts related to those tasks.

For instance, when you’re considering seating options, there are a number of possible ways to describe those.

Some may have to do with prices, with comfort, with convenience, with sight-lines or location in the stadium.

By considering concepts related to the keywords that you might use, you are coming up with categories that your keywords might fit within that make it easier to expand the choice of possible keywords that you might decide to use. As you come up with these categories, you may think of some keywords that you would like to research. It doesn’t hurt to include them within your categories at this point, but the focus should be upon expanding the possible range of categories first.

Expanding Keywords with -Onyms

Expanding your choice of keywords, and understanding the risks of some keyword choices can also be very helpful. I mention -Onyms in the title to this post because there are a number of kinds of words, usually ending in “onym” that can make keyword research more interesting, and more rewarding.

The suffix -onym in English means “name” or “word,” and you’ll find it at the end of a number of words that describe other words. If you write for the web, one that you may often consider when writing is the word “synonym.”

And knowing about some of these types of -onyms can help you from being mislead by keyword research tools that might show attractive search volumes that are actually misleading.

Some -Onyms to think about.

Antonyms Words that have opposite meanings. When someone is buying, someone else must be selling. When someone is pitching, someone else is hitting. Can the opposites of some of your keywords lead to useful concepts and keywords?

Acronyms As well as abbreviations and capitalisms, these shortened versions of words and phrases are common in many areas of life, from the names of organizations to types of measurements and more. Baseball, for instance is filled with them, from MLB for Major League Baseball, to baseball statistics such as rbi, era, oba, hbp (runs batted in, earned run average, on base percentage, hit by pitch), and many more.

Heteronyms – These words are spelled identically but pronounced differently. While you should lead a horse to water, the lead in pencils is something else entirely.

Homonyms – Words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but which have different meanings. So, you may deposit your money in a bank, but you shouldn’t just leave it on laying on the grass along the bank of a river.

Capitonyms – A word that changes meaning and possibly pronunciation when capitalized. For example, If you polish, you might be shining your shoes or your silver, and if you’re Polish you may be from Poland.

With heteronyms, homonyms, and capitonyms, the search volumes on your keyword research may refer to the meaning of the word you’re thinking about as well as completely different meanings. If you’re considering selling shoes from Poland, and look up the search volume on Google’s keywords tool for the phrase “Polish shoes,” it might tell you that there are an average of 74,000 searches a month for “shoe polish.” That’s not very helpful.

Holonym – A word for a whole of which other words are part. For instance, a baseball stadium contains a pitcher’s mound, bleachers, an infield, an outfield, home plate, dugouts.

Troponym – A verb that indicates a more precise manner of doing something with the replacement of more general verb with a more specific one. Instead of walking to first base, a runner may hustle, trot, or crawl, for example.

Hyponym – A word that indicates some kind of subclass. So, instead of baseball players, you can have pitchers, catchers, third-basemen, infielders, outfielders, designated hitters, relief pitchers.

Hypernym – The opposite of a hyponym. Instead of a pitcher, you have a New York Yankee, or a baseball player, or a major-leaguer, or an athlete.

Eponym – When the name of a real or fictitious person person is used to name something else such as a particular place, or an invention, or a group of people, or some other item. The House that Ruth built was often used to refer to the old Yankee Stadium, for example. Tommy John surgery is a kind of surgery pitchers sometimes undergo, named after Tommy John.

Demonym – A name given to people refering to the place they are from, such Virginians, or New Yorkers, or Northerners or Americans.

Toponym – A name that has been taken from a place or geographic feature, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken or Chicago deep dish pizza or Great Falls Spring Water.

Exploring different -onyms may help you expand the keywords and concepts that you are researching. Some of them may be helpful in coming up with brand names and business names. Some are good to be aware of when words or phrases might have more than one meaning, even if they are spelled the same.

Keeping -onyms in mind while you create pages can be very useful, as well as fun.

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15 thoughts on “Having Fun with -Onyms in Keyword Research”

  1. Fascinating post. The first part is a very good “back to basics”. Loved the second part with all the onyms – never knew about most of them. I guess there’s a term for pretty much anything.

  2. Hi Anne,

    Thank you. Google’s recent announcement on their Official Blog that they would sometimes expand searches to include synonyms had me wondering how they might attenpt to identify things like antonyms, and some of the other -0nyms. Once I started down that path, I thought it might be nice to write a post exploring some of them, and how them might be helpful in doing keyword research. I did leave a good number out, such as pseudonyms and retronyms and paronyms, otherwise this could have been a much longer post. There are a lot of them.

  3. You have made keyword research more fun and interesting with this post. Now I know all the other onyms, thanks to you. I totally agree with your post to find keywords that would fit in to your content naturally.

  4. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks. The idea of looking at onyms wasn’t just to find some ways to think about keyword research, but also to provide some ideas on how to write about topics in a more expansive way.

  5. Hi Investigative SEO,

    When someone writes on the Web, they should write for their audience first, and use words that audience may expect to see on their pages. The point of exploring other ways to think about the words that someone might use when writing, like considering -onyms, is to get rid of some of the tunnel vision that people might have when they might focus too much upon keywords, and not enough on writing for that audience. As you note, communication can stop when people focus too much upon finding keywords instead of having meaningful conversations.

    My aim with this post was to offer ideas on how people might come up with broader, richer, and more thoughtful ways of expressing what they might want to say on their pages. Understanding language a little better helps us become better writers and better conversationalists. Even the best writers have to work hard at learning how to communicate effectively.

  6. As people, offline or on, communicating is difficult enough without adding word manipulation to the kitty. In a conversation amongst friends and associates, outside of search engine visibility, onyms are used and sometimes for purposes to provide humor, tears, elation or provocation and so forth. The idea of ranking in a search engine for chosen keywords and phrases is terrific until we stop communicating as people and begin communicating with the sole purpose of impressing SEs and SE people with keywords and phrases as opposed to using God given conversation tools. Maybe the search engines will eventually learn that.

  7. Nice post that, if you look at it deeply, is very serious and useful. Anyway i didn’t even know that there are so many -Onyms :)… Is there any site that makes finding new -Onyms little easier?

  8. Pingback: Basics in Optimizing Keywords
  9. After working with SEO for more than 12 years serving my clients cost effective conversions year after year. I have seen a lot of competitors offering keyword research, PPC and SEO at very competitive prices. Why is this happening?

    Well, looking closely on what is actually included in many of the services beeing offered is making me really frustrated and sad on my client’s behalf.

    The last years I have seen a lot of what I would like to call “cheap” and “dangerous” SEO putting businesses at risk of loosing big money!

    I’ve seen a lot of cut&paste from Google Keyword Tool and search volume focused campaigns with no KEI research and keyword expansion included. When this is being done the client saves a lot of money, but they also loose a lot of income because they are not reaching their full potential.

    Search volume “only” strategies can fool clients that measure their success in visitors and page views that is not great KPIs they really should measure and action on, but looking at the organic search engines and all the free traffic (relevant, targeted) they can attract relevant traffic, fint the intent and need for solution already before they enter the website. This knowledge and quality could easily make a big impact on the conversion rates, but instead they are focusing on rankings only, page views and visitors. Segmenting the segments is in this cases not done and the lack of creative and structured keyword analysis and web analytics is hurting their business.

    Anyone who have any experience in how to handle cases like this?
    How do you prevent your clients from choosing seo companies and agencies offering bad adwords campaigns like this?

    Trond :-)

  10. Hi Trond,

    Your comment swerves a good deal from the topic of my post, but I do have a few thoughts. Just relying upon terms found in Google’s keyword suggestion tool isn’t a wise way to go at all. Anyone doing keyword research should spend a fair amount of time analyzing the business objectives of the site the research is for and the intended audience members of that site before they even start using a keyword suggestion tool.

    Just looking at search volume by itself, without trying to gauge how competive candidate search terms might be, and how appropriate those terms are for the pages of the site in question is also a big mistake.

  11. Wow…never knew there were so many “Onyms”. Agree with what you say about an over-reliance on tools and search volume data.

  12. Hi Steve,

    There’s a lot that you can do before you even look at a keyword suggestion tool. Hopefully that’s not where most people are starting their keyword research.

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