Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published on August 5, 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Using the right keywords in your content can mean the difference between ranking on the first page of Google…and the 10th page of Google. It can mean the difference between tons of traffic…and very little traffic.
But you’ve got to be smart about how you use keywords. Keyword stuffing (the practice of loading a bunch of keywords into a webpage unnaturally) is not the answer. Not only will Google penalize your site for this, but keyword stuffing will also degrade your content quality—and you definitely don’t want that.
So how can you optimize your content for keywords the right way?
Here are four steps to doing that:
1. Brainstorm Topics
Before even determining what your content should be about, you need to find out what search terms your audience is typing into Google.
Start by coming up with about 5-10 topics that are relevant to your industry. They should be topics that your audience would be interested in.
Take a look at TransferWise, a money transfer service that allows people to send money abroad. Their content doesn’t just revolve around global finance (although that is one thing that they write about). It also revolves around life abroad and studying abroad. Why? Because they know that their target audience is interested in reading about those things and might be searching for information related to those topics.
2. Brainstorm Keywords
Once you come up with a few topics, brainstorm a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords that you think your audience might be searching for.
Short-tail keywords are the generic keyword phrases that usually consist of just a word or two.
These may be good sources of traffic for many companies but short-tail keywords are also more competitive and harder to rank for. Another downside to short-tail keywords is that you generally don’t really know what the user is searching for.
For example, if someone searches for just “Brazil,” you have no idea if they’re interested in moving to Brazil, traveling to Brazil or just learning a bit more about the country and its history.
Long-tail keywords are the longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors use to find your products or services. They have fewer searches than short-tail keywords, but the upside is that you can generally get a better idea of what the user is searching for. People who type in long-tail keywords also tend to be farther along in the sales cycle, typically closer to making a purchase.
So, for example, one of the TransferWise topics is “life abroad.” A long-tail keyword for that topic might therefore be “how to get Spanish citizenship.” Someone searching for that keyword is someone who has a high intent of living abroad, and therefore using the TransferWise service, so it might be a good idea to create a piece of content revolving around that particular topic and keyword.
If you’re struggling to come up with potential keywords, you could try typing a few keywords into Google and see what suggestions pop up at the bottom of the page.
You could also head to SEMrush to find out what search terms your competitors are ranking for.
3. Research Your Keywords
After coming up with a list of potential keywords (and potential content ideas), it’s time to find out if those keywords will actually be effective.
Use SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner to find out if people are searching for the keywords that you compiled.
4. Write Your Content
Once you’ve determined the keywords that your audience is searching for, it’s time to come up with a list of content ideas that are related to those keywords.
When writing your content, you’ll want to use your keyword in the:
- Meta title
- Meta description
- Alt text
- First paragraph
- At least one subheading (h2 or h3)
- 2-5 times in the body
Just remember: Never sacrifice the quality of your post for the keywords. Always write for your readers first.
If you follow the above steps and optimize your content for the right keywords, you’ll be that much closer to ranking on the first page of Google and bringing the right traffic to your website.
Need a little help optimizing your content for keywords? Get in touch to find out how we can help.