The world of search engine optimization (SEO) seems to be growing ever more complex. This is undoubtedly in direct response to the increasing sophistication of search engine algorithms. One key element of your SEO strategy for getting web pages to show up as the top search results is to make effective use of keywords in your content.
Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of creating a solid SEO strategy. Finding the right keywords and placing them appropriately throughout your content can go a long way in improving your SEO. This article serves as a simple guide to understanding keyword optimization. We're going to cover:
Why Are Keywords Important in SEO?
When people search for something on the internet, they type words into the browser’s search bar, and the top related results appear. How the search engine determines which results to rank depends on whether keywords in those articles are aligned with what the user typed and a wide array of other factors.
Search engines search webpages for common words and phrases related to the user’s search. As a general rule, if you have relevant keywords in your piece of content, the more likely it will appear among the top search engine results for someone seeking content like yours. Hence, using the right keywords is vital to SEO.
Choosing the best keywords can also help you better target your audience.
For example, if your target audience is people searching for the best running shoes to run a marathon, the keyword “marathon running” wouldn’t be the best choice because the top pages for that search are about training for a marathon.
This means that when people search that term, they’re most interested in training. Instead, you might use a different keyword phrase, such as “marathon shoes,” to reach your target audience.
Ensuring your keywords align with your content and the searcher’s intent makes it more likely that users who find your page in an organic search will stay on your page. This makes for a more effective content marketing strategy and tends to increase conversion rates and clicks-through-rate (CTRs).
What Is Keyword Optimization?
The goal of keyword optimization is to ensure that chosen keywords are effective for driving the right traffic to your site and ranking your site high enough that the right traffic can find it easily.
The keywords should make it clear to search engine algorithms what your content is about and which search queries should yield it as a top result.
Keyword optimization may also be an ongoing process for some content. As the usage of search terms evolves and other articles and content appear on the scene, the combination of keywords that optimized your search status before can change accordingly. You may need to use different keywords than you did before.
How Do You Optimize Keywords for SEO?
Optimizing for keywords can be challenging. If you’re new to SEO, the process may still feel a bit nebulous. We’ve described it as a process of finding the right keywords to get your content to show up in response to the right user searches. But how do you know which keywords will do this?
How bloggers and content writers approach this task can vary. Some may choose to use free tools like Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
However, other tools exist, such as Semrush’s Keyword Research Toolkit, which provides everything you need to optimize your keyword planning. In particular, our Keyword Magic Tool builds a master list based on the keyword you need to rank for, so you have a myriad of related keywords right at your fingertips.
SEO tools can help by showing you metrics associated with different keywords and related keywords, allowing you to narrow down your choices effectively and find the right target keywords for any piece of new content.
6 Keyword Optimization Tips
Proper keyword optimization can improve the odds of getting your content among the top search results and, subsequently, earning more traffic, leads, and customers. To help you with your keyword planning, we’ve created a list of six keyword optimization tips for your content strategy:
1. Audit Your Current On-Page SEO
First, you should see where you stand by performing an audit of your current on-page SEO strategy. The following are things to look for during this audit:
Title tags: These tell Google what your pages are about. Ensure they’re unique and of the appropriate length (50 to 65 characters).
Meta descriptions: These are short descriptions (100 to 155 characters) that show up below your webpage in search results. The meta description should be concise and paint a clear picture of your page’s content.
Header tags: Ensure your page has properly formatted headings and subheadings (H1, H2, etc.) in HTML instead of headers in bolded regular text. Search engines give special weight to words that appear in header tags when determining what your site is about.
URL structure: Ideally, the URL for any page on your site should be short and simple and contain relevant keywords (such as those appearing in the content’s title).
Images: Both the image file names and alt text for the image are factors considered by search algorithms when determining how to rank and classify your content. Not only that but these increase the accessibility of your site. Ensure the image file name and alt text are relevant and aligned with the content.
The content itself: Is it engaging and relevant, or could it use some sprucing up? Is it at least 300 words in length? Quality content tends to rank better than poor content that won’t keep a user on the page for very long.
Check links: If you have links to other content, make sure those links still work. It’s generally best to avoid linking to competitor content and often a good idea to have a few high-quality internal links attached to relevant and descriptive anchor text.
Social media: If marketing is an important part of the website, make sure social media profiles and share buttons are linked to your pages.
Once you’ve audited and made adjustments to your current pages and strategies, you can begin to zero in on keywords more specifically.
2. Find Keywords for Your Site
Either by trying different search terms in different browsers or with the aid of an SEO tool like our Keyword Magic Tool, you’ll want to do some research on all possible keywords you’re considering using for your site.
You might begin by brainstorming a list of keywords and phrases associated with the content and then systematically entering each keyword into a search or tool.
Keep track of the analytics associated with each word on your list. Which ones have the highest searches? Which ones have the best conversion rates? SEO tools can also help you find additional related keywords.
3. Map Your Keywords
Keyword mapping is a strategy that occurs across a website. Once you have a list of keywords relevant to the website’s content, you can then map out which page on the website each keyword should go to.
The idea behind keyword mapping is that it prevents you from loading all of the keywords on the front page only or using identical sets of keywords for each page.
You should decide where to use each keyword depending on the content of each page on the site. Determine what makes each page distinct from every other page and arrange the keywords to align with this.
It might help to analyze related terms for each keyword or enter each into a Google search to see what pages show up. For a given keyword, you want to use it on a page with similar content to the top search results.
4. Add Keywords to Your Site
Once you’ve chosen your keywords and determined which pages they should go, it’s time to add them to the existing content or modify the content to include them.
For some keywords, this is straightforward.
For example, if you have an article on marathon running shoes, and you want to include the keyword phrase “best long-distance running shoes” it might be as simple as changing an H2 subheading from “Which Shoes are the Best?” to “The Best Long Distance Running Shoes.”
Other times, including a particular keyword seems almost impossible without creating awkward sentences, which brings us to our next tip.
5. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the practice of loading an article with keywords but at the expense of the content. It’s important to avoid doing this. While it’s true that more keywords often result in higher search rankings, if those keywords are overused and the content is poor, the effect will be the opposite.
Google and other search engines have learned to look out for keyword stuffing and don’t rank stuffed pages highly because their content tends to lack. Search algorithms are always evolving to return relevant and valuable content to a searcher. As such, content quality should always trump keywords.
6. Don’t Forget Your Target Audience
As mentioned, your target audience is important in this process. Imagine that you did everything in your power to optimize a page so that it shows up as one of the top search results, only to discover that people who search the terms in your content are looking for something else.
If you miss your target audience, two things can happen.
First, many people who aren’t your target audience may find their way to your page, see that it wasn’t what they wanted, and quickly leave, possibly avoiding your site as a source in the future.
Second, your target audience may never see your site appear in a search result.
It’s important to eliminate keywords leading the wrong audience to your site and incorporate the search terms that your target audience wants instead.
Get More Insights Into Your SEO
As with any specialized field, SEO can be tricky, and it can take some practice to become good at it. That said, tools exist that can enable anyone to become an SEO professional, even without the expertise.
For example, Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool allows you to enter a keyword and get a whole list of related keywords to use with associated metrics, such as search volume, trends, cost per click (CPC), and search engine results page (SERP) features.
Using the tips above, you can optimize your keyword strategy to reach your target audience, possibly increasing organic traffic and sales.
Keyword Optimization FAQs
If you still have questions, you’ve come to the right place! Check out the following FAQs for more information.
How Do You Write Keywords for SEO?
The basic process is to choose words or phrases that align with your content. From there, you can research these words and phrases by utilizing a search engine, free online tools, or platforms such as Semrush.
SEO tools can provide you with additional keywords and their associated metrics, which can help you zero in which keywords will best work for your content.
What Are the Key Areas for Using Keywords to Optimize Webpage Ranking?
Including keywords in titles, headers, subheaders, title tags, meta descriptions, image tags, and alt text are often good practices.
Keywords should also be sprinkled throughout the body of the content, and including primary keywords near the top will usually rank a page higher.
How Many Keywords Are Good for SEO?
There is no exact answer to this. You should have at least a handful of target keywords and use them whenever it makes sense. Increasing the keyword density on a page just to include more keywords isn’t a good idea because it can diminish the quality of the content.
While keywords help a page rank in searches, if those keywords aren’t used effectively and the content isn’t of reasonable quality, the keywords won’t matter. Use as many as you like as long as you aren’t keyword stuffing or contorting the content to make it fit.