For those of you who’ve heard SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is dead, let me assure you reports of its demise are premature, at best. While content marketing is increasingly important in driving traffic to your website, some elements of traditional SEO remain important — especially backlinks, but only organic, relevant, and real ones, PageRank, and keywords. But, how to choose keywords?
Keywords, or, more commonly now, long-tailed keywords (keyword phrases), impact SEO because they determine WHERE you’ll show up. Use the right keyword (phrase) and you’ll show up in relevant searches. Use the wrong keywords and you’ll fight to show up in the first couple of pages. Use old SEO techniques, like keyword stuffing, and you might never show up.
How to choose keywords
Well, the first step in choosing the right keywords is to ignore keywords — yes, ignore them. Write great content. Share your expertise, opinions, interviews, stories, and don’t worry about keywords. Otherwise, your writing tends to feel stilted or your content gets skewed so it’s not valuable. Write first.
Then, think about the keywords. What’s your post about? Now, you can use tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to find optional keyword phrases. I also use Scribe, a Copyblogger product to help explore keyword phrases and find links related to those keyword phrases. Technically a content optimizer, Scribe helps your overall Search Engine Optimization by providing reports such as the one below.
As you can see, both the number of searches (popularity) and competition are important factors in choosing keywords. Notice, search engine optimization is the most popular search term, but also faces the highest competition, although, at 45, the competition is still reasonable for a good keyword. Note, you can choose several keywords within your content, you don’t have to stick to just 1.
Next, think like a prospective customer. How will they frame a search? Here, a little research might help. For instance, you might ask current customers how they think about your product to understand the words they use. And, think broadly.
I have a client who provides entertainment for parties. Previously, he was using keywords related to his services. Thus, he only showed up in search results when the hosts looked for his specific type of entertainment. I suggested he change his keywords so he now focuses on keywords related to the TYPE of parties where the hosts might hire him. His content focuses on the parties — planning, hosting, finding entertainment … He also posts content related to his target audience and tangentially related to his services. That way, potential clients find him in related searches and may come back when they’re planning a party.
If you’re still not sure how to choose keywords that support search engine optimization, check out this tutorial from Moz.
Search Engine Optimization
Learning how to choose keywords is only part of search engine optimization. You’ll also need a plugin like Yoast for WordPress (or another plugin or website coding) that stresses your keywords. Commonly, you’ll want to use your keywords in the title, alt tags (on images), in headings, and multiple times in your content.
A word of caution, however. Beware of using your keyword too frequently (I’ve heard recommendations of 1 keyword/ 100 words of copy) or using them when the keyword phrase just doesn’t fit. For instance, dropping in your keyword phrase when the paragraph (or even the entire article) has nothing to do with your keyword. Also, ensuring your keyword fits with your site is important for search engine optimization.
In general, you want your site to contain multiple posts across 15 – 25 keywords (or related keyword phrases) to support the ranking of your site. Thus, choosing keywords for the entire site should also be part of your search engine optimization strategy. You can then use these keywords alone or some combination for nearly every post on your site.
Test, test, test
Of course, learning how to choose keywords is only 1 part of search engine optimization. You also need to test keywords frequently to see which ones are working. About a year ago, Google Analytics removed keywords from Google results. Yahoo and other search engines still provide them, however. Another option is to spend a little money on AdWords to see how well keywords perform in terms of driving traffic and generating conversions because you not only want to increase visitors, you want the RIGHT kind of visitors — the ones who spend money.
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