Effective use of keywords

In the Intro to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) course we explore understanding keywords, researching them, and using them throughout your site. But let’s take a moment to dig a bit deeper.

Is the term “keyword” something technical?

The term “keyword” can feel technical and mysterious. But as search engines have evolved and matured over the years, the role of keywords has in fact been simplified. While keywords can form one aspect of your site’s SEO strategy, they’re no longer entirely about behind the scenes metadata and descriptions intended for the sole use of search engines. For the average content creator, keywords are far simpler than you might realize.

Boiled down, keywords and phrases are simply about making more deliberate choices in the language you use when creating your content. In our SEO course, we teach you how to find the words and phrases that real people are actually using when they open up a search engine to find the information they’re looking for.

They’re called “keywords” because these are the words and phrases that you’ll  want to build consistently into your content in a way that feels natural rather than forced. They’re “key” because these are the words and phrases that people are actually searching for, and if you can include those words and phrases organically in your content, it’s going to improve the visibility your content will get from search engines. They’re also indicators to your readers that they’ve found the content that they were looking for.

What does effective use of keywords really look like?

Effective use of keywords is nothing more than using natural and strategic language in your content. If you’re writing a post about chocolate chip cookies, then understanding what types of phrases real people are using when they search for information about chocolate chip cookies will allow you to phrase your writing in a way that meets the needs of the people searching for it.

Taking an example from the Keyword Utilization lesson, if you had a sentence that said:

I’ve adapted my baking methods to come up with a chocolate chip cookie recipe that the kids can make.

And you’ve learned through research that a good keyword phrase for your content is:

chocolate chip cookie recipe easy for kids

(Note that it’s a good phrase because your research has shown you that this is the exact phrase that real people are typing into search engines to find information.)

Then you could reword the original sentence to:

I’ve adapted my baking methods to make a chocolate chip cookie recipe easy for kids.

The sentence still makes sense, it reads well (often better), it conveys the same point you were making, but now you’re using the same language that your readers are actually looking for. You may also notice that in this example, it doesn’t feel like a keyword. It’s nothing unusual, or special, that stands out like a sore thumb. It’s natural and flows well.

Which is exactly the goal. You want to include strong keywords and phrases within your content in a way that reads naturally for humans.

Using headings

You can also use some keywords in the section headings that you use to help divide up your content on a particular page or post. Dividing your content up into sections, especially on long-form posts, helps to make it more digestible for your audience. While not all headings are a good fit for keywords or phrases, some may fit in rather nicely. In the chocolate chip cookie example, it might make sense to have a heading of:

Easy for kids

Followed by some information about why it’s easy for kids. Notice that this heading example is a portion of the longer keyword phrase we discovered above – and that’s okay too.

Overusing keywords

Is it possible to overdo it when it comes to keywords? In theory, yes it would be possible, especially if you’re doing what’s been labeled as “keyword stuffing”. This is the practice of throwing in a handful of specific keywords repeatedly throughout the content without ensuring that it makes sense.

Ultimately, this comes down to being authentic. Certain topics are going to flow more naturally for a higher volume of keywords than others. But you’ll want to focus on the quality and readability of your content for “humans” rather than stuffing it with keywords for search engines.

So, if the keywords don’t flow naturally, don’t add them in for the sake of having them. If you feel like the content is starting to sound repetitive, it could be an indicator that you’re saying the same thing too many times.

It’s often harder to get enough keywords into a piece, in a way that reads naturally, than it is to overdo it. You’ll want to make sure that you’re being strategic with your keywords and not missing opportunities, while focusing on making sure that the overall piece is good quality.

Module 3 on Creating Great Content in the Intro to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) course is where you can find a ton of additional information and tips for using keywords within your content.

Published by Tanya Thibodeau

30 years ago I was teaching people how to play piano, now I teach people how to play computer! I'm a techie who speaks non-techie and my passion is helping beginners. I write YA/Fantasy novels, play the piano, and love to read. I also love animals, which is a good thing considering I have 3 cats, a rabbit and a dog. I've been a Happiness Engineer with WordPress.com since 2018 and I'm currently the Courses Coordinator for WP Courses.

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