First: a refresher on keywords
Keywords are single words that represent your page or post topic. Search engines use keywords to understand your purpose and direct traffic to your site. Each page or post has a designated keyword (aka head term), which indicates its primary focus. To support the head term, there can be secondary, tertiary, and long-tail keywords.
Keywords appropriate for my website include WordPress, websites, designer.
A focus keyphrase is one to two words that more precisely define the purpose of a specific page or post. I enter a focus keyphrase for each page and post in the Yoast panel.
The focus keyphrases for my website include About me, Services, and Projects. Focus keyphrases for my library posts include Mailchimp Social Cards, Archive Pages, and Color Blindness.
Long-tail keywords are generally three to five words in length and are more specific than single keywords. Unlike the focus keyphrase, long-tail keywords are used in the body of the page/post.
Long-tail keywords appropriate for my website include WordPress website design, website designer in Buffalo, and woman owned business.
Long-tail keywords are better at attracting a narrower audience: people who are specifically looking for you and your products. More focused clients = greater rate of conversion. Simply put, long-tail keywords have the benefit of putting you in front of niche markets: your peeps.
Why are keywords important for SEO?
Keywords are imperative if you want search engines to direct traffic to your site.
If your site has an extremely limited or private purpose, keywords aren’t something to worry about. Say your website contains a family tree, password protected so it can only be seen only by people you’ve given the password to. You don’t want search engines to send strangers knocking at your door, so you’re not going to spend time on SEO and keywords aren’t a priority for you.
But if you’re selling something, you sure as heck need to use keywords, and you need to use them with intent. Keywords are important for search engine optimization and online marketing because they help search engines understand your content. People who are directed to your website via long-tail keywords are specifically looking for your product. These folks represent a higher-quality lead.
Including multiple long-tail keywords in your copy helps, too. Here are some long-tail keywords in my site: woman owned business, queer website designer, Western New York, WordPress website designer, and Mailchimp certified.
How do I research keywords?
If you were searching for the service you provide, what words or phrases would you use? Do a search for your own product, and see what words naturally comes to mind. Google those words and see what comes up. Use search results to find keywords and develop long-tail keywords. Take notes, screenshots, whatever you need so you can remember what you got. You want to employ keywords your audience will look for.
There are plenty of tools out there that offer keyword research services. I’m sure they’re great but I run a small, one-person studio and have not prioritized paying for keyword services.
I use Neil Patel’s Answer the Public to search for my topic. This website offers three free searches a day, and that’s usually enough for my posts. If it’s not, I’ll go back the next day and do more searches. Call me cheap, that’s fine. I’ll own it. After all, it’s free 😉.
Here’s a good keyword hack
Another hack is to Google your keyword and do two things with the results. First, look at the sites you’re offered: are they aligned with the content you’re creating? If so, that’s great – you’re on the right track. If not, maybe you want to rethink your focus keyword. Second, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see Google’s suggested searches. Here, you might just find an excellent long-tail keyword to include in your copy.
How long does keyword research take?
When researching my library posts, I spend about 20 minutes building a keyword list. That being said, my posts are short. I have spent a lot more time researching keywords for my pages than I do for each post. In fact, I regularly edit my pages to tweak long-tail keywords, with the intent of helping search engines match me with the best leads.
How to use keywords
Once you’ve identified keywords, use variations on them, and use them to build long-tail keywords. Your long-tail keyword strategy will be built on this research.
Use keywords a few times in your post; repetition helps search engines understand how important the word is. More than a few, though, and you’ll be practicing what’s called keyword stuffing, which is over-using keywords and keyphrases. Keyword stuffing makes for an awkward read, so avoid doing that. You want to find a harmony of using the keyword multiple times but not too much.
Use long-tail keywords naturally by working them into complete sentences. I regularly build whole paragraphs around a long-tail keywords.
As I’ve mentioned, I use Yoast on all of my websites. It offers metrics for measuring keyword use, and will let you know if you should up it or remove a few.
How I incorporate keywords
Once I’ve chosen a post topic, I do my keyword research and jot down the ones I want to incorporate. I keep that list at the top of my document, and each time I use one in the text I highlight it.
I add my focus keyword to my SEO title, the slug, the snippet/excerpt/meta description (sheesh – could we please coin a few more terms for the same thing?), the first paragraph, and in image alt text. After that, I use it naturally in my sentences.
When I’m done with my first draft, I go back to my keyword list to see which keywords I’ve used. If I’ve left out some that I think are important, I’ll incorporate them in my second draft.
Conversion – the point at which a goal is met, i.e., someone browsing your online store buys a product. They have converted from being a potential customer to being a paying customer.
Excerpt – a sentence or two that summarizes a page or post: a synopsis of sorts. Also called a meta description or snippet. Yes, this is not the traditional way to use this word, but what can I say? Someone at WordPress decided it applies and we’re stuck with it.
Focus phrase / focus keyword – a word or two that best describe the essence of your page or post.
Head term – the primary topic of a blog or website.
Keyphrase – a synonym of keyword.
Keyword – a word that indicates the intent of your page or post, also called a keyphrase or search term.
Long tail keyword – a phrase of (usually) three to five words that more precisely describes your product or service.
Meta description – a sentence or two that summarizes a page or post: a synopsis of sorts. Also called a snippet or excerpt.
Search term – a keyword used to find content on the internet.
Snippet – a sentence or two that summarizes a page or post: a synopsis of sorts. Also called a meta description or excerpt.