Using Keywords in My Website Content
Google didn’t kill the keyword when recent updates handed over more power to contextual language and long form content, but using them does require more finesse than before. During the early days of SEO, practices like keyword stuffing and link exchanges (where one website would agree to link to another in return for the same) were commonplace and quite effective.
Google now knows better, and it will punish the old ways while rewarding new ones, but just because you can’t stuff keywords into a footer and call it a day doesn’t mean that keywords are completely meaningless either. They’re arguably more valuable now than ever before.
This guide will show you how to pick the right keywords, use them naturally and efficiently, and create content that is both engaging and optimized.
Put Content First
Using keywords should take a backseat to creating compelling, engaging content that visitors actually want to read. A website could be perfectly optimized with every link, keyword, and header tag in place, but if the content is bad, then the site won’t see the front page anytime soon. Keywords are like the spices in an excellent dish—the main ingredients still matter most, but the spices make a great meal even better.
Put great content first and integrated keywords will happen naturally. Putting keywords first could create content that turns away visitors and doesn’t rank well with Google in the end.
Target the Right Keywords
No website, even one as popular as Facebook and Amazon, can rank well for every desired keyword or phrase. A site that shoots for everything will get nothing. The key is to gather, prioritize, and move forward:
- Gather. Do some research and find out potentially beneficial keywords for your website. It doesn’t matter what they are, just see what’s working out there. Raven Tools has a comprehensive guide on keyword research for your site.
- Prioritize. Work through the keywords that matter most to you. Start with the low hanging fruit that already ranks for your site and add in words or phrase you want to target.
- Move Forward. Focus on these designated words and these words only. Any other organic ranking is just icing on the cake, but your optimization efforts should rest solely with this short list.
The most effective place to use keywords is in your domain. In the hierarchy of ranking, Google places the domain name right at the top. But like anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to put this method into practice—and the wrong way could cost you a spot on the front page.
Let’s say your company sells funny t-shirts:
- The Right Way: funnytshirts.com
- The Wrong Way: funny-t-shirts-for-sale.com
The above examples are a generalization, but they prove a point. Even in the competitive landscape of .com domains, forcing in keywords with hyphens and lengthy domains will only hurt rather than help. If you can’t find a way to use your favorite keyword in the domain, don’t sweat it. There will be plenty more opportunities to use it on your site.
Header tags are the HTML code which tells web browsers and Google that particular text is part of either a header or a sub-header on a web page. Since these headers are some of the more important text on a page, Google gives them more weight when indexing websites. And like authoritative domain names, there’s a right way to use keywords in a header.
- The Right Way: “5 Ways a Funny T-Shirt Improves Your Day”
- The Wrong Way: “5 Funny T-Shirt Ideas for the Funniest Funny T-Shirt”
Not only is the second header objectively worse than the first, but trying to “trick” Google with keyword stuffing only makes optimization worse. Google’s algorithms are excellent at catching this sort of thing, and the method hasn’t worked in years.
Always Use Sub-Headers
Break up your body copy with relevant sub-headers that describe the upcoming content. Even if you’re not using target keywords in each one (another place not to force it), it’s visually appealing to readers and helps optimize your page.
While domains, headers, and subheaders can be finely tuned for optimization, the body text is the place to just let good content drive your traffic. It’s lot like watching water boil—sometimes you have to just walk away from the pot or else it will never start boiling.
If you write body copy with keywords constantly in the back of your mind, then your content will suffer. But if you write authoritative copy relevant to your industry, then those keywords will take care of themselves (assuming you picked the right ones when you gathered and prioritized).