When you’re writing online, it pays to be literal.
To reach the audience that’s looking for the information you’re providing, you need to spell out the exact words they’re searching for, so search engines can make the connection for you. That’s where keywords come in.
Keywords are those words and short phrases – often written in that every-so-slightly awkward vernacular of the search field query – that tell the search algorithms that your content is the answer to what their users are trying to find.
As you prepare to publish an article or blog post, it isn’t always crystal-clear what keywords are going to be best suited for site optimization. Sometimes, you have content relevant to a particular audience, but you know the audience might not be aware of the correct jargon or technical terms related to the information they’re looking for.
Choosing the right keywords can be the difference between your content being found by the people who need it most or getting lost in obscurity.
Knowing how to plan keywords for a website doesn’t just bring in more traffic – it brings in the right kind of traffic. When you correctly leverage keywords, you get visitors who genuinely want what you’re providing.
For this reason, it’s always worth doing some research or using a keyword planner before clicking “publish” on new content.
What Makes Keywords Effective
The basic objective with keywords is to include words and phrases in your written content that match the terms people are typing into search engines. The shorter and more generic a keyword is, the harder it is to reach the top search results for that keyword.
For example, if you run a website for a restaurant, it’s never going to be in the top ten hits for “restaurant,” no matter how good your reviews may be. However, if you’re trying to be the number one hit for “best tapas restaurant in south Fairfield,” well, that might be an attainable SEO goal.
The trick is to understand your potential audience and the search terms they’re most likely to use, to find what they’re looking for. Educated guesswork and common sense can usually point you to some of the more obvious keywords to use.
But sometimes, it’s hard to predict what keywords are going to be used in search queries, when audiences don’t already know how to find what they’re seeking.
Using Google’s Keyword Planner
Google’s AdWords contains a Keyword Planner that can be very helpful in identifying relevant keywords for whatever you’re writing. You can find it under the “Tools and Analysis” menu, where it opens up a wizard-type interface to help you search for keywords and generate estimates of search results, based on keywords you provide.
Google’s AdWords is one option for crafting clever keywords
The Keyword Planner also lets you “multiply” lists of keywords to get search result estimates, based on different combinations of keywords.
While this tool is built around optimizing results for advertising purchased through Google AdWords, it can be an extremely effective way to brainstorm keyword ideas for your blog posts and other content.
Beyond AdWords: Keyword Research Tips
If you don’t use AdWords, there are other ways to do keyword research:
- Check your referrals. You should be able to see what search terms are already driving traffic to your site.
- Run test searches. Type your keyword ideas into Google and see what comes up. How good is the signal-to-noise ratio of the results? Do any good leads pop up under the related searches?
- Try out other keyword tools. Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t the only game in town. You can try out other tools to discover what option works best for your business and budget.
You can’t always tell in advance which keywords are going to be the most effective for you. Highly specific keyword phrases are sometimes called “long tail” keywords, because their uniqueness keeps them relevant long after SEO trends have shifted around more generic, commonly-searched keywords. Over time, however, those long tail keywords can steadily generate the kind of traffic that converts to engagement and sales.
Where Do Keywords Go?
Once you’ve figured out which keywords you want to use in your content, you might be wondering how to fit them in, and how often you should use them. Search engines keep getting smarter, so the days of stuffing headers full of keywords and overloading the body of an article with repetitive phrases are (thankfully) over.
Keywords are best used in context, in a way that flows with the rest of the prose and connects to related – but not keyword-laden – language, which helps the search engines properly categorize what you’ve written.
Nevertheless, titles remain important for SEO purposes. As such, it’s still a good idea to use important keywords in the titles of the posts and web pages you’re writing.
Good writing will keep your audience reading and engaged, once they’ve clicked through to your site. However, it’s also essential to educate with your content, so that the client gets an answer to what she or he has been searching for.
Deciding how much to let keywords shape your content and vice versa is always a challenge when it comes to effective online writing, but knowing what keywords are likely to appeal to your target audience gives you the best chance of striking that perfect balance.