SEO is important because 90% of people using search don’t click beyond the first results page. But SEO also has a lot of nuance that can make it frustrating for marketers whether they’re new or experienced. A question that often comes up when discussing SEO best practices is where to use keywords for an SEO campaign. There are a lot of places where keywords are important, for both search engines and readers. But just like any other part of an SEO strategy, how often you use keywords and where you place them can be a little tricky.
Why Are Keywords So Important For SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your content and webpages so it ranks better on search engines. This allows people to find it more easily and create more organic traffic for your site. Strategically using keywords is one of the most important aspects to an SEO campaign. That’s because it tells search engines and readers what your content is about and where it should rank on the search engine results page (SERP).
Do Keywords Have To Be Exact?
Google has sophisticated algorithms that recognize the keyword you’re targeting in content and what search query it should match with. But Google also has other tools and machine-learning techniques that search for the intent and relevance of the content outside of the target keyword.
In fact, in an interview with John Mueller, a Trends Analyst at Google, he went on to explain that keywords in content, in his opinion, no longer need to be exact. “And this is something that I think SEOs have seen kind of maybe subconsciously over the years as well, where they realize oh you don’t need to have singular and plural versions on your page. You don’t need to have all of the common misspellings on your page.”
So, when adding keywords to your content, don’t worry about making sure you hit every possible variation of it. Just focus on the content’s intent and quality.
Where To Use Keywords for SEO
Here are some of the most common and effective places to use keywords in your content for SEO using common SEO terms:
1. Page Titles
A page title, or heading one, shows up at the top of your webpage to inform visitors and Google about its content. Putting your keyword in the page title is a great way to show Google the main topic of your page so it can index it accordingly. If you don’t put the keyword in the title, it might not be perfectly clear what search query it should rank for and it might also take longer to show up at the top of the SERP.
2. SEO Titles
SEO titles are the titles of your article or webpage that appear in the SERP. It’s important to include your keyword in this title as well, so search engine users can immediately identify what the page is about.
Your SEO title and page title can be different or exactly the same. But sometimes, it’s helpful to make the SEO title more clear and concise so people feel more inclined to click on it in the search results. Then, you can make your page title a bit more engaging to get them to stay. It’s also good to make sure your SEO title is short, so it doesn’t get cut off in the search results.
Headings help to break apart your content so readers can view it and consume it more easily. They also have different levels (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.) so that readers and search engines can better understand the structure of a webpage. Search engines also know that headings typically summarize the main topic(s) of the page.
So, they often use them as a guide to understand what the page is about. That’s why it’s crucial to include your keywords in your headings throughout your webpage. Just make sure not to include them too often, as search engines might see that as a red flag.
Though headings are important, it’s just as important to include keywords in the actual content of your page. As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to include the exact keyword you’re targeting. Adding your keyword in a few strategic places and making sure the topic of your content is clear are all search engines need to understand your page’s intent. The main area you want to include your keyword, outside of the titles and headings, is the introduction paragraph. From there, it’s just important to make sure you don’t include it more than once for every 200 words you write.
But above all, the most beneficial thing you can do for your content is to ensure it’s written for humans – not for search engines. Though optimizing your content is essential for an SEO campaign, if it isn’t high-quality and beneficial to your audience, it’s probably not going to perform very well. That’s because if someone clicks on your content, realizes it’s not high-quality, and then clicks away, Google sees that and judges your ranking accordingly.
5. Image Alt Text
Adding keywords to an image’s alt text is important for several reasons. First and foremost, including image alt text makes your content and website more accessible-friendly, especially to those who use text-to-speech software. That’s because the alt text describes the images that are on your page and helps people fully understand your content and engage with it.
Search engines also use alt text to pick up keywords for image searches. Adding your keyword to the alt text can help it appear in image search, providing another area for people to find your content and site. However, it’s important to ensure the keyword fits into the description of the image and it’s not crammed in. Remember, write for humans first. That means including a helpful description, whether or not it includes the keyword you’re targeting.
Just like almost every other part of SEO, URLs help search engines and readers better understand the content’s topic. That’s especially true when navigating to that content from another website or webpage. If the URL is too long, or if it’s a string of random numbers and characters, it can turn people off from clicking on it. Having a short, descriptive URL that showcases the keywords you’re targeting can help you boost your SEO efforts and ensure your webpage is attractive and click-worthy.
7. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are text that describes what your webpage is about. It often appears on the search engine results page as well as social media posts that include the content’s link. Though search engines no longer use keywords in a meta description as a factor for ranking, it’s still important to use them. That’s because search engines might highlight the keyword or search query in the description, which can immediately draw a user’s attention when scrolling through the search results.
8. Anchor Text
Using keywords in a link’s anchor text can help Google better understand the intent of your article and the main keyword you’re targeting. However, it’s important to vary the anchor text you use. Spamming your keyword for every link you add to your content can actually be a red flag for Google and other search engines. That’s why it’s a good strategy to simply make sure your anchor text accurately reflects the webpage it’s leading to.
For example, let’s say you’re sending people to an article that talks about how to change a tire. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to make the anchor text “car troubles” or “car help”. Instead, it might be better to use the anchor text “changing tires” or “help with a flat tire”.
Looking for More Marketing and SEO Advice?
Marketing is complicated enough without adding SEO strategies and nuance on top of it. That’s why it’s helpful to talk with marketing experts, like those at Randall Reilly. We have the experience, the data, and the tools to help you heighten your marketing efforts. Whether you’re hoping to generate leads, build a list of prospects, or create a long-term content strategy, we’re here to help. Contact us today to see how we can help you boost your marketing campaign.