Search Engine Optimization: Choosing & Optimizing Keywords
Choosing Good Keywords for SEO
Once you have completed your keyword analysis, you should choose one or two keywords/keyword phrases to for the primary focus of your optimization. These are the keywords that you want to rank well for and appear at the top of the search results when someone searches for them. You should still incorporate the rest of your keyword list into your post when appropriate.
Tips For Choosing Good Target Keywords
- Keywords should either have a high number of monthly searches or have fewer monthly searches but low competition. It may be easy to rank well for keywords with low competition, but that is because not many people are searching for these keywords. Use your judgment to determine if it is worthwhile to optimize for low competition keywords.
- Avoid optimizing for broad terms, even if they are highly searched. Broad terms are usually high competition keywords that will make it hard to rank well, or you may attract irrelevant people to your page who are searching for something else.
- Optimize for highly targeted keywords, or a combination of low and high competition terms. For example, the keyword seo blogger is not highly searched with relatively low competition, but the keyword seo is highly searched. Optimizing for seo blogger allows you to optimize for both keywords simultaneously.
- Keep in mind that the Google Keyword Tool measures advertising competition, which is only probably a good indicator for content competition. However, you can examine content competition by doing an exact search using quotation marks in Google’s search engine. Are there many or relatively few exact matches?
- If you have a purchased membership with Moz, you can check your keyword difficulty directly with their keyword difficulty tool. This tool gives you a percentage of difficulty for ranking for a particular keyword. If the keyword difficulty is high, or your search based on the above tip yields many results, you may want to rethink your keywords.
Optimizing for Keywords
There are several practices that can make your keywords more visible to search engines.
- Always position your target keyword phrase(s) at the beginning of your post title. Don’t repeat your target keyword more than twice in your title, and keep your title between 40 to 70 characters including spaces.
- Include your target keyword phrase(s) frequently throughout the body text, but it is especially important to make sure the keyword appears recurrently near the top of the post.
- ￼Search engines will check your post for keyword density – percentage indicating how often your keyword phrase appears on the page (no. keywords/no. total words * 100). Use your keywords as much as possible when appropriate, but if it seems like it’s appearing too much then search engines will pass over your page. The recommendation is that your keyword should appear once every 100 words, but don’t get too hung up on analyzing the word count.
- Bold keywords
- Italicize keywords
- Put your keyword in bullets
- Write keywords in Title Case when appropriate (capitalize first letter of every word).
- Place keywords in heading tags (<h2>Keyword</h2>)
Changes to Keyword Optimization
Since 2012, Google has been shifting its algorithms to focus more on how humans (that’s you) experience SEO and articles that have been optimized according to tactics like those above. A variety of changes has occurred, making SEO less of an exact science than it previously was.
Although many of the tips above still hold true today, they tend to have less weight than they did. This is especially true of the keyword density. You should still use your keyword frequently throughout the post, but not to the point that you’re adding instances in. Google is also more likely to rely on related keywords found in a post to help with its rankings.
Semantic Search Keywords
These related keywords are often called semantic search keywords. These are keywords that are related to your keyword and may strengthen your page rank if used.
Let’s return to the florist example explored in a previous post. You started with the idea of Christmas flower arrangements, then, with the help of your keyword research, decided to focus on Christmas floral arrangements with amaryllis. If you search that term, you’ll notice at the bottom of your first page of results a list of related search terms. Below, you’ll see the terms I got when I searched for the keyword.
Obviously, some of these keywords are not ones you’ll want to include in your post. Writing about Halloween or Easter arrangements in a post about Christmas arrangements would just pull focus. But including a section on silk floral arrangements? Worth considering! So are the more specific types of arrangements called out in these search terms (church and wedding appropriate arrangements).
If your post encompasses all of these keywords, search engines will look lovingly upon your work. You don’t have to reuse these semantic search keywords.