We’re big fans of Keyword Research. Huge. We include it in our SEO Audit because we know how a brand can benefit from targeting the right audience with its site. It’s pretty obvious how a client can use keyword research for Paid Search; bidding on suggested terms will prompt the display of a relevant ad to the searcher. If implemented strategically, the campaign will direct paid clicks to keyword-specific landing pages.
How do I safely use keywords on my site?
What many clients don’t understand, however, is how to use keywords for organic search. Recent updates in Google’s algorithm penalize websites that try to manipulate the system. One example is the creation of thin content; webmasters will build out thousands of pages containing one or two paragraphs. These pages provide very little value to the visitor; rather, they exist only to house keywords and trick Google into thinking the site is authoritative on a subject.
If your site has experienced a sudden drop in traffic, it could be the pages are in violation of Google’s policies. Before you lose all hope, let’s look at some best practices for organic keyword usage. We can fix this.
The web address of a page is a critical element; it conveys to Google a summary of the content on a page. We definitely recommend using a keyword in a URL, preferably close to the domain. The URL doesn’t necessarily have to match verbatim the title of a page or post, which is helpful for blog posts especially.
Much like the URLs, the title tag is a very important element; it reinforces the subject of the page. Every page should have a unique title tag that contains a keyword close to the front. Because title tags show in SERPs and typically play a significant role in helping searchers decide whether to click through or not, we also recommend adding a branded phrase, such as a company name, to the title tag. Make sure to keep everything under 70 characters.
These elements are also found in SERPs, but search engines donat take the contents into consideration when ranking a page. Still, people searching for a solution rely on meta descriptions to deliver a sneak peek of a page, so it’s a good idea to use keywords when relevant.
It’s fairly easy to build pages that arenat overstuffed with keywords; just make sure you are writing for humans and not search engines. Paragraphs should sound natural when read aloud. Additionally, ask yourself if any new content you’ve added to your site is serving a real purpose. These litmus texts may seem elementary, but they will help you develop a new mindset of what it means to create quality content on the web. Finally (and this should be a given) a do not duplicate content in order to switch out keywords. This is an outdated practice that doesn’t fool anyone, including Google. The only time repeated content is acceptable is when A/B testing multiple landing pages (but in this case, the variable pages should be assigned “no index” attributes).
Here’s where you need to be careful. Penguin, Google’s most recent major algorithm update, punished an extraordinary number of sites that engaged in unethical linking tactics, such as link buying, cloaking, and abuse of keywords in anchor text. The first two mentioned are quite obviously sketchy practices, but the last one can be more difficult to catch. When a site has too many links that are tagged with keyword-rich anchor text, Google will perceive this activity as intentionally manipulative.
For example, if your site is trying to rank for tax services, it would be a huge red flag for the pages to be swarming with link after link called “tax services,” “tax services,” “tax services.” First of all, a link like that doesn’t help visitors understand what the page will cover (aside from the broad topic of: tax services). Keywords are completely fine to use; just try to vary the words used in the full anchor text. So instead of “tax services,” use “tax refunds for small businesses,” (assuming that’s relevant to the page, of course).
It’s really challenging to produce valuable content, especially for brands in less-than-exciting industries that struggle to deliver solutions in new ways. One underrated use of a keyword list is as a search tool for specific queries. The keyword “grass seed,” for example, would be typed into Google, followed by “a,” then “b,” and so on. Google Instant Search automatically fills in a query as you type, revealing common long-tail searches that relate to a keyword. It’s not always a home run, but it certainly can inspire new content ideas that will answer specific questions for segmentations of your audience. Below is the result that populated for “grass seed t.”
This method is fantastic because it’s showing real questions that real potential customers are asking online. It provides your brand with a chance to create something from it, whether a detailed blog post, landing page for a product, or even a visually dynamic infographic.
Keyword research is still a critical element of attracting customers to a site. Why wouldn’t we want to know what industry-relevant terms are frequently typed into Google? The problem with keywords is when brands greedily try to either rank for unrelated (or hardly-related) phrases AND when brands try to rank for relevant terms in unethical ways. Hopefully this post will help you remember to focus on customers’ needs when generating new content pieces and optimizing your pages. If you’re feeling left out because you don’t even have a list of keywords to refer to, send us a note. We’d be happy to do the research for you. We’re really good at it.