The Writer's Guide to SEO Keyword Usage (Part 2) - How and Where to Place Your Keywords
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Once you have done your research (See Part 1) and know whether you should be using short-form, long-form, or question type keywords, you are then going to have to figure out where to place them. Everyone will tell you something different and which strategy is best, and most likely there is some truth and reason behind each opinion. We want to bring all of them to life though so that we can teach our audience how to choose and decide which works best for them.
Keyword Stuffing - What Not to Do
(No, I won't tell you to do this!) Previously many writers liked to use a technique known as “keyword stuffing.” This practice meant using your keyword(s) as many times as possible throughout the content to help Google recognize what it was about and pick up on it. Unfortunately, while stuffed articles and writings may have a wealth of information, it's pretty obnoxious to read the same word over and over and over and over again. It hurts the author's credibility more than anything too because the reader often won't bother seeing the piece through to the end.
It shouldn't be forgotten that Google rankings are based on a mix of factors like keywords, backlinks, bounce rates, etc. Just because an article is easily found doesn't mean anyone will link to it, share it, or stay on the page for more than a few seconds, but each small piece will affect the articles ranking. An article that is quickly cast aside will fall to the next page just as quickly as it showed up at the top.
SEO is as much about making a search engine find you as it is about building a happy audience around it, at least it should be.
The technical side of the issue with keyword stuffing is that Google caught on, or rather, their team did. The point of Google is to help you find the most relevantly informative content as quickly as possible. Poorly written blogs are not what you want to be reading, so neither does Google! Because of this, keywordingly (< my word) stuffed articles have been nixed from the top-tiered shelves without ever having the chance to try to find their place on a Google throne. If they pick up as too much repetitive content, you probably won't get very far.
Exact Match Keywords
Exact-match keywords are exactly what they sound like. These are used when writing content but are also often used in advertising. When paying for Google Ads you can use exact match keywords and pay for your content to rank when someone types it in exactly as is on Google.
Exact match keywords are advantageous when working in niche markets if you can find one that is often searched, but few people are trying to compete for. An example would be something like a modern bed and breakfast in the south, jewelry made of wood shavings in London, or a doggy skirt for 6 LB poodles. Ok, so these are just examples and probably not searched for often (though I didn't check, I may have just hit a goldmine) but demonstrate that the more specific you get, the more likely it is you are one of few, or the only, who will be ranking for it in a search. This is particularly helpful for small or niche businesses and for you as a writer of SEO to realize. If you are creating content for a doggy clothing designer, you will find the field slightly competitive, but if you narrow it down to poodle clothes, or even better an exact size or type, you will be the top-ranked on the page if you place those phrases and keywords correctly.
The key here is the correct usage. We discussed in the previous article (Part 1) how people search differently, so once you've narrowed down your target audience and how they search, you can then research those niche keywords and phrases to include in your writing. The problem I see a lot is that the reason one keyword phrase might be searched a lot but have low competition is that it doesn't fit well into writing. For people who search with short phrases, the content may sound funny when placed in specific parts of your text. An example would be "gastroenterology doctor session Dearborn MI.' While the phrase may be searched a lot, it is going to be very difficult to try and use without sounding tacky. Carefully thought out keywords are worthwhile, and learning techniques to use both those separate phrases, "gastroenterology doctor session" "Dearborn MI" will help you immensely.
Manipulating the Machine (aka Google Bots)
SEO isn’t supposed to solely be the practice of tricking Google into making your content show up first, it is sometimes used in that way though to generate traffic for less than worthy writings. In using techniques like stuffing, it makes it look like you are getting more visitors to your site, product, etc. than you are (in real visitor terms anyways) which puts your content higher on the page for a minute. However, Google researchers are pretty smart. They do a lot of work specifically to make sure that users have the best searching experience possible. That now includes making sure you don't end up with fake irrelevant content full of nothing but boring keywords created by a wannabe Googling manipulator instead of an informative source. Hence the tossing of the keyword stuffing and other similar techniques.
I am not saying that optimization isn't about doing what you can to rank as much as possible, but eventually an extreme attempt at tricking the system will be caught on to and that content you worked so hard to write in that particular format will quickly become irrelevant if done specifically for that reason and nothing else.
For a writer who is seeking to help or inform others with true content, the Google team is there for you and your audience. They don't want to toss away your hard-earned hours, so work with them! Who wants to write a bad article anyways?
The bottom line is that too many of the same words will actually most likely hurt your rankings rather than help them, especially in the long run, and the poorly-placed use of exact keyword phrases will appear just as tacky. Two or three keywords in your text surrounded by useful content may be all that is needed to send you to the top! If the content isn't worth reading, then it doesn't matter anyway.
Create relevant content. Only use keywords if they fit the context (manipulate your text to fit the keywords), and do not make it obvious that your article is based solely around SEO usage. Give back, your readers will do the same.
Keyword Minimizing - What You Should Do
Thanks to the smart guys, keyword stuffing is now recognized as a standard and harmful enough practice to writer's and reader's goals that it hurts your search rankings more than anything, along with your reader's attention spans. The newest versions of SEO techniques like to practice keyword, use but in a more subtle way.
I'd always recommend adding a touch of elegance to grab a person's attention. Writing used to be considered an art, and it still should be. Why are some books more popular than others? Firstly they probably had the right publisher that knew marketing, but they were also well written. THAT is your goal.
Where to Place Your Keywords
When writing content, such as an article, an easy way for an author to utilize keywords is to place them in each piece of the material they are writing. Headings, paragraph bodies, and images all come together to create content. Where does one place the keywords then? Basic answer:
Heading 1 ( Title)
The body texts (paragraph)
Heading 2/3/4/ etc. (H2,3,4)
Any images (Alt Text)
Placing your keyword once in each one of these areas will notify Google as to what the content is about. In a standard short 300-500 word article, this could mean that a keyword is used only two or three times, and that should be all you need. A great visual example that we like to use for explanations surrounding this type of keyword use is right here on the "About Us" page of our LingoWriters website. Notice the keywords in the title and the body of the text and which ones match. Not only did we use these keywords on this page exclusively, but throughout the site, the other ones were placed in relevant title and header tags to create something of a rounded experience.
Google not only uses your keywords but also recognizes and analyzes the other relatable words popping up next to them. The previous “NFL Sunday Ticket on Apple TV” example in Part 1 would bring up more accurate search results than just “NFL Sunday Ticket” or “Apple." Together in a search, they come up with much more relevant content results. There are many different techniques used to hint to the engines that the relevant content should be placed together as one. Combining the keyword groups can help your SEO immensely when done correctly. This is called Latent Semantic Indexing and deserves its own category. The key to having a small number of target keywords (approximately 3-10, or 1%), not overuse them, use other relevant words, and to have everything naturally flow within your text.
Creating Visually Appealing Content
Appearance and legibility are just as crucial to the ranking of your content, if not more, than your keyword placements. Would you read this article if I hadn’t broken it up into smaller parts? There are thousands of words here, and most people wouldn’t read halfway through (or even a tenth probably) if it were just one large block of text. Writing to make your content visually appealing is just as crucial as keyword placement.
1. Break up text into easy to read segments. 2. Use headers correctly. 3. Utilize listing functions (bullets, numbering, etc.). 4. Keeping fonts and coloring to a minimum. 5. Add in those keywords, but only if they fit.
The Secret to SEO Usage
So, what’s the secret? Relevant and well-written content. A poorly written piece with all of the keywords used in the same way as a well-written piece is going to rank lower. Why? Because Google not only looks at what your article is about, it also runs a popularity contest to decide which items rank highest. If more people view and share and like it then obviously it must be more famous for some odd reason, (duh) and Google recognizes this. The site it is written on can also be a factor. Popular magazines with thousands of articles are going to rank higher up there too compared to those with great content but only a few articles, unfortunately. Have you started a blog and are feeling discouraged? Don't. The more you write, the better it will get (writing-wise and ranking ability-wise).
THE SECRET TO SEO Well written content. Relevant content. More well-written content that is relevant. While this seems like a joke, it isn’t. The better you write, the more you write, and the more places you share and add your content, the more likely it is to be recognized, SEO use, or not. A popularity contest is not exactly what we are going for, but it wouldn’t be an inappropriate description. Strategically adding keywords to a text with well thought out placement never hurt anything either though!