How to Use Keywords Correctly for Search Engine Optimization

Depending on how new you are to content marketing and search optimization, you may have a healthy understanding of what keywords are and how they work. Assuming that you don’t have the slightest clue, keywords are the bread and butter of the SEO world. These are the words that the search engine web crawlers read within your content and then use to index and rank your site.

Proper keyword selection and implementation are crucial to an effective SEO strategy. You can have the most original content, with a site totally optimized for SEO, but if you’re targeting the wrong keywords, you’ll never see the light of the first page of SERPs (search engine results page).

In the ever-changing world of Google algorithms, optimizing your content with relevant keywords is one constant that remains vital to SEO year after year. While true keyword optimization is a marathon rather than a sprint, here is a brief breakdown of how to use keywords for search engine optimization.

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

The first battle in nailing keyword optimization in your content is choosing the right keywords for SEO. While it may seem that the majority of content pulls keywords out of thin air, the most effective phrases are mined from thorough research. So why is keyword research so important, and what exactly does it entail?

Very generally, keyword research is determining what your target audience may search for in order to locate the topics covered by the content on your website. Why is this important? When people head to the Internet to search for a topic that you specialize in on your site, you want them to be able to find you. Effective keyword research is vital if you want your ideal audience to find you.

Imagine your website and its content are designed for travelers wanting to backpack through Europe. What questions would these travelers have? What phrases and words would they type into Google? What information would they be on the hunt for?

  • Brainstorm as many questions as you can that relate to your content and the people that will be searching for it online.
  • Make a list of all the words and phrases that come to mind. You can also use the Google Keyword Suggestion Tool to help you think of keyword ideas. This vital tool will show you related keywords based on the roots that you enter. Add these to your list, as well.
  • Narrow down your list down to the most relevant for your website. Ask yourself, if a web searcher types in these keywords into Google and clicks through to your site, will they find what they're looking for?
  • Determine how difficult it will be to rank for each keyword. Google's Suggestion Tool gives you access to this data. If certain words are extremely competitive, you may want to niche down to increase your site's chances of making it to the top of the results.

Whittle away at this list until only the most relevant and plausible keywords are left. This list will drive your content strategy for your site.

Don’t Force Keyword Optimization

Once you’ve determined which keywords you should target, you’ll want to create content based on these words and phrases. Don't go crazy here, adding keywords to your website with wild abandon. Keyword usage has to fit naturally into your content and flow evenly throughout the page. This can be a challenge.

Creating unique content with its own personality and voice can be difficult when you have keyword constraints. Oftentimes, certain phrases just don’t want to fit into the flow and rhythm of your copy. While tempting, simply stuffing the keywords into your content is pretty pointless. Search engine bots are wise to content that employs keyword stuffing and bumps it down the rankings.

Keep Keywords in the Right Location

By now, you have a general idea of the keywords you would like to target and the content where these words will be included. Now you may be wondering where and how to add these keywords to your website. There are few areas on your page where keywords can be implemented.

Be sure to include your primary keyword in both the header and body of your page. The header is hidden in the HTML code of your page and tells search engine crawlers what is covered in your content. The header includes the information that shows up in search results, like meta descriptions, title tags, and meta keywords.

The body of your page is the all of the copy site visitors see after they click the search result link to your page. This is the valuable information that a site visitor clicked through to read. Your primary keyword should be included in the headline with an H1 tag at the top of your page. You can also include secondary keywords in H2 and H3 subheadings throughout the page.

The first 200 words of this content are prime real estate for SEO. This section of text gets the most attention of web crawlers as well as of human visitors. Be sure to include your primary keyword here, as well.

Add descriptive alt text with your keyword included in images. This alt text gives a description of on-page pictures, which allows the search engine bots to "see" them.

What Is the Recommended Keyword Density?

You're probably wondering, "How many keywords should I use?" Keyword density, by definition, is the amount that each keyword appears in the text. Recommended keyword density is a stumbling block and discussion for many digital marketers. It’s comforting to think that there is a specific ratio of keywords to content that maximizes SEO effectiveness, but this simply isn’t the case.

Most suggestive information on keyword density was made null by Google’s Hummingbird update. This refresh to the search ranking algorithms deflated the importance of frequency.

Instead of focusing on a number of times that you stuff a targeted word into your writing, use keywords in an intelligent way, implementing related variations and words associated with your target phrase. You can add these to your list of keywords to incorporate naturally into your content. Don't write for the search engine bots. Focus on the overall subject of your keyword and how the topic can benefit your reader. When you approach your content this way, your keyword will occur naturally.

Using keywords for SEO is a necessary skill for driving traffic to your site. You'll ensure you target the most effective keywords by understanding what your site offers and who may be searching for this information. If you create valuable content based on these keywords, your site will soon reap the benefits of topping the search rankings.