When it comes to SEO project execution, Keywords have always been the king! However, the correct implementation of keywords on websites has transformed a bit over the years (1).
No longer is it as easy as stuffing them into every web page element, as Google is getting better about understanding the context around keywords and related topics. Therefore, it is now more important to write high-quality content first and then apply keywords.
Google no longer needs to see the exact keywords you have written mentioned a certain number of times anymore (2). It can look at the surrounding topical relevance of the content to see what is covered. In a nutshell, you still need to use keywords, but it is more important than ever to produce unique, valuable, and quality content.
The best skill you need to develop for your SEO project’s execution is to find well-performing or with a lot of business potential keywords and drive traffic with optimization.
Using Keywords in Content From Google
Earlier this week, John Mueller of Google answered several questions about keywords, such as how many times to use them on a page and the words mapping value to the topic (3).
(Watch John Mueller answers at the 2:16 min mark)
Keyword Count, Rations in Content
Is “Directive” specifying the use of keywords in the content outdated?
John Mueller first talks about the need that keywords must be mentioned in a certain amount in an article (4).
It refers to keyword counts, or rations, the percentage of times that a keyword phrase is mentioned on a web page.
There is a common belief that Google’s algorithm responds well to content that features the target keyword a certain percentage of times on the web page.
For instance, some content writing software crawls the top-ranked platforms, suggests keyword ratios for target keywords, and offers other recommendations.
The idea of mentioning a certain amount of keywords goes back to the earliest search engines, even before Google.
According to Mueller, it does not matter the number of times one uses a keyword on a page. When one is writing naturally, it automatically resolves itself.
While Using Keywords is Important, Don’t Over Focus
Mueller also talks about the importance of using keywords. However, he cautions writers not to obsess too much about it.
While Mueller didn’t disregard the use of individual keywords completely, he added that he would not over-focus on exact keywords. Hence, in particular, things such as singular, plural, and the different ways of writing different worlds. That is something one probably doesn’t need to sweat about it.
However, talking about what your platform is about and how you want to be found is something Mueller would still do.
For instance, what we often see when we take a look at things such as news articles, if a news site doesn’t understand SEO, they may write in a way that is more like literature that readers understand, but the exact words that are used on a web page won’t map to exactly that topic.
Hence, from an SEO point of view, you would still need to mention it on that page to rank for something.
While he asks writers not to go overboard with a number of mentions, synonyms, and different ways of writing a keyword, it always makes sense to mention it at least once.
From Mueller’s affirmations, we can say it is important for keywords used on a webpage to map the topic.
What is Keyword Mapping?
Keyword mapping (5) involves taking keywords of your choice and connecting them with the content you have written on your website. You need to map them together, optimize, and see what new things you need to build, write, and look for opportunities.
Take a look at all the keywords and pages you have built and see if there are any opportunities to improve the page, either with CTR or content. You can also look for content with no keywords or keywords with no content and push harder by looking for link-building opportunities.
Here is an example of a keyword mapping chart:
Keyword mapping can help you prioritize your work and allow you to think through the next steps. There are several page grading software like Moz and Marketgoo that can help you with the same.
Before we dive further into using keywords in your content for your SEO project execution, first, let’s discuss making great content.
Making Great Content
There are six pillars when it comes to writing great content to the keyword target (6).
- Quality: You need to offer information that people want and are looking for, which is unique to your website. It can be something new, interesting, exciting for your query and your market.
- Experience: It is about how your readers are interacting with your content. Is it well-organized, well-designed, easy to read, and communicate effectively? Everything you do with all the elements and tags outlined in Getting started is a must to create a good content experience. It makes them ranking signals, as they signal to search engines that the page includes quality content. It leads to better engagement and also more likely to get links back to it.
- Relevant Content: Your content needs to tie back to your keywords. Your keywords need to be user-focused. Even if a phrase has traffic, it doesn’t mean it is relevant. All of your keywords need to point back to your website’s overall purpose. It will help you contextualize your SEO strategy and ensure the traffic you get indicates people who want to be there.
- Purpose-driven Content: Your content is why people visit your website. Its purpose is what determines the type of content you need to create. People search online to find solutions to problems, answer questions, some trends and look for entertainment when bored. When making content for your SEO project execution, you need to think about the questions of your target audience.
- Relevant Terms: Your keywords indicate to Google that you have comprehensive coverage of a topic. For instance, for iPhone, you need to have keywords such as apps, technology, iOS. These keywords indicate to Google that you have a breadth of information related to the main theme.
- Proof Terms: Proof terms are keywords that you must use when discussing a topic. For instance, for iPhone, you would need terms like mobile, phone, app. These phrases prove to Google that you are covering the topic.
You will need to use both proof and relevant terms to get ranks for any keywords. It is important to write naturally as keyword research. You can look at Google autocomplete, Google searches related to a feature, keyword tools such as Google planner to see related terms, and competitors’ pages to back up your research.
Additionally, it is always good to update content (7). While the importance of fresh content differs from queries to queries, one can bet that it is never bad to offer an update with a new sentence, section, image, or paragraph, especially if it can benefit from the update.
Using Keywords in Your SEO Content
How Many Keywords On a Page
When we talk about how many keywords you should focus on in a web page, as Google’s Mueller stated, it depends a lot on the keywords you are looking to use, how related they are with each other, and how they can help you push your message forward.
When it comes to keyword research, it should not be too hard for you to come up with at least five to ten keywords. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should focus on all of them.
Hence, first, take a look at the keyword hierarchy rules. There are three main types of keywords for SEO content (8):
- Primary keyword
- Secondary keywords
- Additional keywords
The primary keyword should be your main focus of the entire content; ensure your title and content reflect that. You can’t write great content about two separate topics. Hence, you should only use one primary keyword to drive your content forward.
Your secondary keywords should complement your primary keyword with some slight variations. Often, the main topic will include three to five main talking points. Hence, it makes sense to use a handful of secondary keywords.
Additional keywords are other related keywords spelled or phrased differently from the first two but have the same meaning as our iPhone example above. It is a catch-all net to get different variations of your primary keyword and try to rank for one or all of them. You can also include long-tail keywords in this category.
Now, How Many Keywords?
Typically, it would be three to eight total according to the content length. It breaks down to one primary keyword, one to three secondary keywords, and one to four additional keywords. It would give you a good chance to start ranking for one of them and then offer you the opportunity to reoptimize.
Using over eight or so keywords, assuming that you don’t have either irrationally long content or exceedingly short content, can come off as spam. It is incredibly tough to incorporate several keywords for SEO into the content naturally and, as Meuller pointed out, is unnecessary.
You will find that related keywords will automatically and naturally come up when writing the piece based on a few great keywords. Doing more than this would hurt your readability and stick out to readers and Google page crawlers.
Where Can You Use Your Keywords for SEO?
While it is easy to say “you need to add keywords for SEO,” implementing it is an entirely different matter. There are some rules and practices for adding keywords to a sire to make sure your SEO efforts are worthwhile.
Here are some tips for inserting keywords into your content:
Add Keywords in Meta Description
It is one of the most basic ways to add keywords for SEO. However, people often overlook it. The meta description is a simple summary to describe the content. Hence, placing the keyword there helps Google to filter your results better. It is a powerful way to get one or two of your most important keywords attached to the part of your web page that is directly served up by search engines (9).
For the unversed, a meta description is a 160 character or 20 to 25 words description of what your page is all about. It is a description that is displayed under a page name and URL when users search for a keyword phrase on Google.
Below is an example of a meta description as it shows up on the SERPs, Search Engine Result Pages.
Using Keywords for SEO in Meta Description
It is essential to have the right tools first. If you are using WordPress, try using the Yoast SEO Plugin. It will allow you to optimize your content for readability and SEO and offers you spots to enter your meta description and SEO Title Tag (we will talk about it next).
Remember to use the keyword at least once, but not over twice when using SEO keywords in the meta description. Ensure to prioritize an enticing and helpful description over keyword stuffing, as it is the first thing someone will read before visiting your website.
And you know you are killing it when it comes to using keywords for SEO if you can get both primary and secondary keywords in your meta description.
Add Keywords in SEO Title Tag
It is about your SEO title page and not your main article tag. It is also known as a meta title tag. The title tag is similar to the meta description, the page’s name that users will see on SERPs when they search a keyword phrase. It will be clickable and will take users directly to your web page (10).
Like meta descriptions, you only have about 50 to 60 characters to use when writing your SEO title tag. Hence, ensure your title tag is your primary keyword and your company name. It is the most user-friendly, SEO-friendly, and concise way to execute it.
Add Keywords in Article Title
Put the keyword in your content’s title if possible. Since Google ties the title header with your meta description to summarize your content, having the keyword in the title can be pretty useful as long as you can use it naturally.
If you can’t use your keyword naturally in the title, you can use a variation that still gets the article’s point. Something is better than nothing!
Add Keywords in the First 200 Words
Several experts believe that Google emphasizes the first 200 words of content (11). Usually, the first 100 to 200 words of an article is where content writers introduce what will be discussed. Since most readers only continue in an article if the introduction is good, it stands to reason that it could also be a ranking factor.
Google examines the first 200 words of content; it is important to ensure that you put your primary keyword within the first paragraph or sentence, if possible, without compromising content quality. Similarly, you can also use at least one secondary keyword in the first 200 words; however, not in the first sentence.
Remember that Google tries to get an overview of what your article is about. Hence, ensure to lead Google to the keywords you wish to focus on and not confuse it when optimizing your content for keywords. It means your primary keyword should be present in all the important places, followed by your secondary keywords and then your other additional keywords.
Add Keywords Naturally Throughout the Article
In an SEO-focused digital era, it is easy to forget that your readers come first. Never compromise your readability with bad keyword placement in your content (12).
Here is one solution that can help you write your keywords naturally in the content.
Using stopwords in Awkward keyword phrases
One way you can naturally add keywords is to utilize stop words in your writing. You can add these words within keyword phrases to help your readers read more naturally without decreasing their ranking value.
For example, if you had a keyword phrase you were targeting that reads “best startups India,” there is no way you can insert it into your article exactly without it either looking like a blatant keyword insertion or a typo. The better way to add SEO keywords is to use a stop word in that phrase (12). You can add the stop word “in,” making it read “best startups in India,” which can be more easily and naturally inserted into your writing.
Add Keywords in the Last 200 Words
Like how an article’s introduction is important for keyword writing, arguably, conclusion, or the last 200 words are just as crucial, if not more. Hence, try to include your primary keyword again near the last or second last paragraph. If possible, also include a secondary keyword.
It is also good to include a CTA, call-to-action in the last paragraph for blog posts (13). It would be great if you can use your primary keyword there.
Add Keywords in Headings Like H1s, H2s, H3s, etc.
Most text editors offer headings, a formatting tool, to allow writers to break their text. They are a must-have from a visual standpoint as well.
Readers often find huge chunks of paragraphs with no end in sight intimidating and often completely skip it. Using headings to break up content allows writers to visually move readers to important points or those they are interested in.
From an SEO perspective, headings are even more important. The HTML tags you use to identify headings are also ranking signals for Google to know what is important in the content (14). And adding keywords to these headings can be the best way to try to rank for multiple keywords. The more content you will have, the more headings you will have. Hence, in a way, longer content will have better ranking chances than a shorter one.
When you use a keyword in headings, it focuses on the importance and meaning of the keywords. It allows search engines to know how relevant these keywords are to your content.
Here is an example of where to find heading formats in a text editor:
Remember, H1 or heading one is reserved for the main title. Include your primary keyword here.
H2s are where you can insert the bulk of keywords. They are the headings that break up your article’s main sections and usually come at every couple hundred words. For a 1000 words article, you can have about three to five H2s. Include your primary keyword again in one of them and reserve your secondary keywords for the remaining.
Writers often use H3s to break up and list individual points in the main section. It is another good place for secondary and additional keywords. While you can also add your primary keyword here, it is not always recommended.
Add Keywords in Anchor Text Links
When a writer uses a keyword as an anchor text link in his content, it indicates that there is a place to find more information about that word. It helps place added emphasis on the keyword and its relevance to the linked content.
While it doesn’t apply to your current article, it can help other pages on your website. It is also known as creating an internal link structure indicating Google where the most important articles are for the exact keywords. You can use anchor text links to certain keyword phrases to drive the authority of your other “pillar” articles (15).
However, it is not recommended to use your primary keyword or its variation in anchor text.
Add Keywords in Image Alt-Tags
It is always recommended to use images in your content as it offers a visual cue to help engage, inform, and educate your reader. Content writing, images, and videos are a perfect marriage when it is about user engagement.
Put images in your articles and add your keywords in alt-text for SEO.
Add Keywords in URL
Last but not least, when you add keywords to your site, always try to put your primary keywords in the URL of your article.
And if you have followed the above steps and put your primary keyword in your article title, it should be automatically added to the URL when you publish it. Or you can always tweak your page URL.
Avoid Stuffing Keywords
The part of optimizing keywords in your content skill including showing restraint, never overuse keywords for SEO (16).
As we discussed earlier in the article, Google is much smarter than its early years. Today, it can easily tell if you are stuffing keywords for SEO or legitimately using them to help readers find relevant information.
If Google suspects that you are stuffing keywords for SEO and not for users, you may get a penalty. It usually means that it won’t index, rank, etc., your content. It is not worth it!
Refine and Use Different Keywords If Needed
Lastly, don’t forget that you can always go back and reoptimize your posts (17). Give your content about three months before you decide to make big changes, then go and see what keywords it is ranking for and what has gained traction and reoptimize from there. If your content is ranking better for an additional or secondary keyword than your primary keyword, switch it up for SEO!
Be careful about making big changes, or you may end up capsizing the entire board. Make small changes and see if you get favorable results. Do this repeatedly, and you will have fine-tuned content for your SEO execution.
It is everything you would want to know about using keywords for SEO execution in your content. If you have anything to add about using keywords for SEO, let us know in the comments!