Choosing good keywords and using them correctly is more than a strategy, it’s a lifeline for your investment in content and can keep traffic flowing indefinitely.
When you’re in the business of content, search engine optimization isn’t just a hip thing to do, it’s a necessity. Think about how much time your team spends every day on social media. Every time they promote a new article, they’re starting from scratch. That’s a lot of time spent every day. How much time are they spending looking for good keywords and writing about them?
The benefit of SEO is that when it’s done right, it promotes itself. You can spend the extra 20 minutes to search-optimize an article, and that article could send thousands of visitors to your site every month for years if it gets ranked on the first page of Google. A one-time investment on all of your articles can pull the weight of driving traffic for years to come. And for many of our clients, it does.
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We’ve written plenty of articles on search-optimizing your articles, and I suggest checking out our blockbuster post SEO scorecard for the full shebang on optimizing posts for good keywords, but today let’s talk about using those keywords in all the right places.
In all of our SEO trainings, we talk about targeted or primary keywords, and we also talk about proximity keywords. Generally you pick one primary keyword, and then you pick several proximity keywords, which are related keywords that help tell Google what your article is about. Those get sprinkled within the post.
Your primary keyword will, however, usually bear the greatest weight on your SEO results. And you may get found on that keyword and many more variations of it, but in order to establish structure for search-optimizing a post, you need a goal, and your goal should be, at the very least, to optimize your post for a single keyword.
Picking good keywords for an article
We’ve talked about picking good keywords in this post here, so I’m going to skip to the next step, assuming you have a radically awesome keyword. It has high search volume and low competition. High and low, usually differs for different publishing businesses. For us, we’re in a very tight niche, so high volume might be 900 searches per month and only 84,000 competing pages. That’s a keyword that we could rank on fairly easily, and has a good chunk of search volume to send our way.
However, if you’re a larger publisher with more Google rapport, you might seek a search volume of at least 2,500 and you might consider 300,000 pages a low number, and easy to rank on. You can find out by looking at the keywords that send you the most traffic. Google them in quotes and see how many other pages Google says are competing for that exact term. Using an average, you should be able to determine how risky you can get with picking keywords.
Using good keywords in your articles
1. In the title (H1)
Your targeted keyword is the keyword phrase you are hoping to get ranked on in your post. That’s why it should always be in the title of your post. And not some silly variation of the keyword, because they might have completely different volume in search and competition. The reason why this position is so important is because your title should also be formatted as an H1 tag, which is first thing Google reads in an article, when it comes to content. This is deemed the most important, descriptive section of the page, and it’s also what Google lists in search results. Ideally, your targeted primary keyword will be at the beginning of your title, and not the end, but sometimes it just makes sense a few words in.
2. In the subtitle (H2)
In your subhead, you should re-use your targeted primary keyword phrase, and you should also format it as an H2 (or Heading 2) tag. This tells Google it’s the second most important part of the page, and after it reads the H1 tag, it will read the H2 tag. If it’s around 150 characters, your subhead can also double as your meta description (more on that later.)
3. In section heads (h3)
Throughout your article, you may add section heads which divide up content into different sections and make the content easier to read. If you include your keyword in these section heads and also format them as H3’s (Heading 3), you will be telling Google that after reading H1 and H2, your H3 is also important to read. We don’t usually get into H4’s and H5’s for SEO, although you can.
4. In the first paragraph or first 100 words
Now let’s get to the body copy. We suggest including your primary keyword within the first 100 words. Ideally, it’s in the first paragraph, and if you use a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO, you probably recognise this instruction. Don’t be lazy and jam it in there without reading to make sure it makes sense, but make room for it and make it part of the story.
5. Within the body of the post.
Although the old days of SEO put strict guidelines on keyword density, we’ve always been against keyword stuffing. So we use this metric as a way to keep you from over-optimizing a post, rather than a way to get you to stuff it to the gills. From the data we’ve collected on the top 100 posts from all of our clients, we find that they are on average in the 1-3% range. Here’s how you can figure out the keyword density of an article:
Keyword Density = (# of times used divided by number of words in article) multiplied by# of words in keyword phrase.
This is an equation to tell you how many times you can use your keyword phrase in an article. So for example, if you write a 800 word post on “apple pie recipes” you can easily include it 6 times and it would be a 2.2% keyword density.
6. In the URL
WordPress automatically creates URL strings for you, but sometimes it cuts it off, or removes words like “a” or “the” which you’ll want to add back in if it’s part of your keyword phrase.
7. In the meta description
If your subhead is optimized and around 150 characters, it can double as your meta description. You can usually find a field for this in any content management system.
8. In the alt text of images
This is pretty easy. You upload an image, and WordPress gives you fields to describe your image. Lots of publishers just use their title in the “alt text” field, because it’s already optimized.
9. In the image filename
If you’re uploading images to your post, it’s great to include the keyword in the filename of your image. This, along with alt text, can help images show up in Google images, which ultimately link back to your site. I know this is a pain, especially when you’re downloading stock photography and forget to rename your images, but just go ahead and add this to your list of to-dos.
Now it’s your turn to share. What have you done to streamline this process, make it easier, or create a habit of optimizing posts for a primary keyword?