If you’re lucky, keywords will occur organically throughout your content, but when they don’t, you’re left with the burdensome task of making them sound natural, as though you would use each word in a conversation with a friend. This job can be a writer or editor’s worst nightmare. Still, using keywords in your web content is necessary. They have the ability to attract valuable readers to your website, but they also have the power to turn them off and kill your message if you ignore the following six-point plan.
First – and Always – Consider the Searcher’s Intent
Don’t overthink it. Why is the searcher looking for your content? And what do they expect when they land on your page? Let that guide your writing.
Winning Point #1 – Remember and Embrace Semantic Search
Before Google adopted semantic search, content writers felt hampered by trying to use keywords and key phrases exactly without variation. This led to some awkward and clunky writing.
Now, Google considers the searcher’s intent rather than trying to match content to the user’s search phrase exactly. That is, your content does not have to explicitly include the phrase back pain car accident to rank for that key phrase. Google understands that a user searching for back pain car accident is looking for information about back pain related to a car accident.
So if your content includes related — and more natural-sounding — phrases like back pain after a car accident or car accident caused back pain or other similar phrases, Google will understand that your content meets the searcher’s intent. Phrases like spinal injury, hurt your back, car wreck, auto accident, etc. sprinkled throughout the content will help Google understand your page is related to the user’s query of back pain car accident.
This is what we mean by “semantic search.” A 2001 article in Scientific American by Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila describes semantic search. “Adding logic to the Web – the means to use rules to make inferences, choose courses of action and answer questions – is the task of the Semantic Web community at the moment.”
David Amerland’s 2014 book Google Semantic Search effectively summarizes the Berners-Lee paper: “There he explained that the essence of semantic search is the use of mathematics to get rid of the guesswork and approximation used in search today and introduce a clear understanding of what words mean and how they connect with what we are actually looking for in the search engine box.”
So the shackles are gone, so to speak. Users can ask Google long-tail questions and get good search results that address their query, even if the pages in the results don’t explicitly include their search phrase. And content creators can write using more natural language and still rank for search queries not explicitly included in their content.
Winning Point #2 – Know How Your Customers Find You
Build a foundation. Start making a list of keywords your customers use to find your product or service. If you’re a lawyer in Little Rock, start out with the obvious — lawyer in Little Rock. What do you practice? Start adding your areas of practice. Car accident lawyer in Little Rock, medical malpractice lawyer in Little Rock, Little Rock medical malpractice lawyer, etc. Do you practice in other locations? Optimize for those keywords too. North Little Rock personal injury lawyer, Sherwood medical malpractice lawyer, etc.
Do your keyword research to see what search volume there is for these keywords. Our favorite keyword discovery tools are SEMrush and StoryBase.
You can start your keyword search with foundational keywords (e.g., lawyer in Little Rock), then start identifying long-tail keywords. For example, start with long-tail keyword lawyer in Little Rock and use related search queries to create more content (e.g., can I afford a lawyer, how can a lawyer help me with my car accident case, who is the best car accident lawyer in Little Rock, etc.).
A long-tail keyword usually consists of three or more words forming a phrase that targets specific topics and geographical areas. Long-tail keywords, because of their specificity, are often less competitive.
Examples of long-tail keywords include:
- Content marketers Fort Lauderdale
- How to install a rear-facing car seat
- Hypoallergic orthopedic dog bed
Make a table to keep yourself organized.
lawyers in Little Rock AR
personal injury lawyer Little Rock Arkansas
Little Rock lawyer
Little Rock car accident lawyer
car accident lawyer Little Rock
Don’t forget your readers. Survey them; see what they type in when searching for a lawyer.
Winning Point #3 – Selecting and Prioritizing Keywords
Now let’s bring the concept of searcher intent home. We now understand semantic search and how that relates to searcher intent. And we understand keyword research to create a list of keywords searchers use to find your product or service. Now we need to decide which keywords to target on which pages.
According to Jordan Kasteler, SEO Director of Hennessey Consulting, “When doing keyword research, ideally you should be grouping keywords based on the part of the conversion funnel they best fit.”
Are they in the informational, research, transactional/buying, or navigational stage?
- Informational: How to install a rear-facing car seat
- Research: Best rear-facing car seat
- Transactional/buying: Buy rear-facing car seat
- Navigational: Graco rear-facing car seats
Before you start writing, begin by creating a content strategy that outlines the pages you will write and the keyword(s) each page will target. As Kasteler suggested, group keywords by their location in the funnel. Then decide how to prioritize. Buy rear-facing car seat probably has a higher conversation rate than Best rear-facing child car seat so the former will likely take higher priority than the latter in your content strategy.
Never Force or Stuff Keywords into Your Content
It’s easy to go a keyword crazy. “Well I want to rank really high for a particular keyword, so I should just use it as many times as I can, right?”
Not really. While you should try to add your keyword where it fits naturally, you should never force it. And definitely don’t be guilty of keyword stuffing. This can make your content awkward and, even worse, Google might flag you for black hat SEO, which can get your site banned.
Essentially, you need to hit that sweet spot. Bruce Clay, one of the SEO forefathers, reminds us that how many keywords you use and where you use them matters. “Too few mentions of your keywords can leave the search engines wondering what you’re about; too many repetitions tell the search engines you’re a spammer.”
So how do you find that sweet spot in practice?
Winning Point # 4 – Write for the Searcher, Not the Search Engine
Start by getting in this mindset. Some website owners are so obsessed with ranking that they forget to write for their readers. Let’s forget for just a moment about the Google penalty for keyword stuffing. Let’s pretend Google doesn’t mind. Even in this alternative reality, keyword stuffing isn’t worth it because it turns off readers. And disappointed readers are quick to hit that back button.
Consider the following two paragraphs targeting the keyword optimize for keywords. Which is more readable? Which more clearly communicates the main ideas? Would you trust a website with the keyword-stuffed content in the first example?
1: One of the cornerstones of creating quality content that ranks high is knowing how to optimize for keywords. If you don’t know how to optimize for keywords, you might write great content that no one will see because you did not optimize for keywords. To optimize for keywords, consider what audience you are targeting and what they might be looking for. Let that guide how you optimize for keywords.
2: One of the cornerstones of creating high-ranking, quality content is knowing how to optimize for keywords. First, consider your audience. Who are you targeting? What are they looking for? Do your research to identify keywords that are most appropriate for your content and audience.
The first example is hard to read. It is awkward, clunky, and uses the phrase optimize for keywords five times, which is distracting. The second example uses the keyword once and is easier to read, making it more effective.
But there is no natural way to integrate the keyword. This is a common complaint. Ideally, you can keep your keyword intact. But remember the very first point about semantic search? Google understands user intent. It knows that even if your page does not use the searcher’s query word for word, your page may still provide answers or information the searcher wants. Thus, Google may still rank your page for the user’s query.
So even if your content includes slight variations of a keyword or uses stop words when the user doesn’t, it shouldn’t drastically affect your ranking. “Google’s really good at recognizing question intent and natural language,” Kasteler reminds us.
That leads us to our next point…
Winning Point # 5 – Use Related Keywords
Using semantically-related keywords is a great way to prevent sounding like a robot without sacrificing search ranking.
If your keyword is how to install a rear-facing car seat, you might use that a few times in your content while working in other keywords. Find places in your content where the related keywords installing a car seat and how do you put a car seat in a car fit organically.
You could also search your primary keyword on Google to identify related sub-topics you could write about on the page. Let’s say you search how to install a rear-facing car seat in Google; you find various related search phrases at the bottom of the results page, including:
- how to install a rear-facing car seat without base
- how to install a rear-facing car seat with base
You might include separate sections on your page about installing a rear-facing car seat with and without a base, titling each of those sections as indicated above. Google might ultimately rank your page for those phrases too. Alternatively, you might write separate pages targeting each of those phrases.
Winning Point # 6 – Get Your Keywords in the Places That Matter Most
Use your keyword (or a slight variation of it) in your h1, page title, and URL. And remember, you can add a stop word if necessary.
For example, if your keyword is back pain from car accident, consider making your page title, “Getting Compensation for Back Pain from a Car Accident” and your heading, “How can I recover compensation for back pain after a car accident?” You’ve managed to use your keyword (or a slight variation) and sound natural.
Don’t worry about keywords too much in the meta-description. While Google and other search engines will scan your meta-description for your keyword, use the meta-description primarily to get searchers to click on your page in the search results. You want your meta-description to make a great first impression, which you might not be able to do with a keyword. If you are able to include it, that’s great. If not, just use your meta-description to be as informative and inviting as possible.
You could even use parts of your keyword in the meta-description (e.g., if your keyword is rear-end car accident, use car accident and the semantically-related struck from behind in your meta-description).
What is the key takeaway for using keywords naturally?
Remember, keywords are important for ranking high in search engine results, but you need to consider how that affects user experience. The most important part of content creation is quality, not forcing keywords to rank higher.
For help with SEO and content writing, give us a call: 888-521-3880.