When search engines first ruled the internet, everyone was crazy about ‘keywords’. Keywords, or ‘meta keywords’ were a string of topics or phrases that you wanted people to find your web page for. Soon after this method of getting found was established, the web went crazy with keyword stuffing and all sorts of unnatural games for tricking the web into sending you traffic.
Major search engines quickly mitigated against this and a game of cat and mouse ensued between these search engines and online marketers trying to stay ahead. So, what happened to keywords and how should you use keywords on your website now? Below is a list, in order of importance, of ways to approach using keywords on your website. We’ll also list some great, free tools to get you working like a pro Search Engine Optimization specialist.
Six Ways to Use Keywords on Your Website
1. Identify a Keyword Strategy
A keyword strategy is essential to understanding how you should use keywords throughout your website according to the below tips. Forming a keyword strategy is an excellent exercise in understanding your business and your audience. Ask yourself, “What would my ideal client search for in Google to find what I offer?” It’s important to be honest here because we often wish our site would rank for keywords that are either too generic, have possible alternate meanings, or aren’t a core offering of your business.
If you a contractor who specializes in sidewalk repairs, you will want to focus on ‘sidewalk repairs’ rather than ‘contractor’ as a keyword to target as it better reflects the search intent of your audience. Keyword strategies often lead to a niche approach to reaching your target market as a broader search term will cost more money and take more time to impact. Think of it as the difference between advertising in a known trade journal versus an ad in the New York Times.
Once you form a keyword strategy (and write it down!), you may end up with multiple keyword lists for different audiences, or say, a list of 4 different service areas and keywords that relate to each. This list becomes a checklist for optimizing or growing your website. It is generally good practice to anticipate optimizing for one keyword per web page and we’ll see why below. Your home page may end up ranking for more than one keyword, but that’s a result of the rest of the work you will do on other pages of your site as well.
2. Get a Keyword Rich URL
If you are creating a new website or a micro-site for your latest campaign, you will want to consider getting keywords into the url. This can be quite tricky with limited .com domains out there for a reasonable price. You are also keeping your branding in mind when choosing a domain name.
Let’s use our sidewalk repair company for an example again. Their name may be ‘Smith Modern Concrete’ and they want to rank for ‘sidewalk repairs’. Which domain should they choose? Smithmodernconcrete.com or sidewalk-repairs.com? Well, I would recommend purchasing both, but using the keyword rich option for our current purposes. They are still likely to rank when someone searches their business name, since it is unique, and they can make inroads on their keyword strategy with the other domain.
If you can’t get a keyword rich domain, do not despair! Remember that you can create pages with unique url’s to compensate. For example, if the company was stuck using smithmc.com as their domain name, they could easily work keywords into their page urls. Instead of standard page urls like smithmc.com/about-us, they could easily use smithmc.com/about-sidewalk-repairs.
3. Use Keywords In Page Titles and Headings
Now that we have a strategy and a page to optimize, we will want to make sure we create ‘agreement’ between the page url, the page title and the headings on the page. The page title is not just the text you see at the top of the page, though that is important as well, but instead the text that displays in the tab of your browser. This is the text that Google sees first about your page and displays in search results. Make sure your page title leads with keywords, is readable for search results, and connects clearly to your business.
Our sidewalk repair company might want a page title like ‘Easy Sidewalk Repairs | Smith Modern Concrete’. Page titles are also a great place to work in a location focus with city names.
Page headings are vitally important as well, not just for organizing content on the page, but telling Google what else is on your page. The Heading 1 or h1 tag in your web page code should contain something similar to your page title and should definitely reflect your chosen focus keyword for that page. Ultimately, this creates agreement between url, Page Title, and Heading 1 in a way that focuses for your keyword strategy per page.
4. Use Keywords in Your Content
This seems obvious, but even I forget to use keywords in my content once I get writing. Repeating your focus keyword not only shows Google that you know what you’re talking about, but helps keep you on topic, and your reader focused on what you have to say about that topic most directly.
5. Use Keywords in Image Titles and Alt Text
If you are going to add images to your page, it is worth finding a way to integrate your focus keywords into the alt and title tags for those images. Your web authoring tools should provide these options, otherwise a developer may be needed. Try to be sure that your text is logical and explanatory of the image in use as well since these tags are also used by screen readers for accessibility purposes. Don’t label a picture of a dog as ‘concrete repairs’. Instead, try ‘Lucky the Dog, our Sidewalk Repair Mascot.’
6. Create Keyword Rich Link Text
If you want to create strong internal linking practices, be sure to link your keywords to the pages focusing on that content throughout your website. Obviously, I should link the phrase ‘web design services’ to my page on web design. You can link to external sources as well, just be aware that you will be contributing more to that websites strategy than your own. If the links are helpful, than go ahead and do it! Your readers will appreciate it.
Bonus Tip: Keep It Natural
All of these tips should be taken together with the general goal of creating natural, helpful content for your audience. This is Google’s goal and their algorithms are focused on directing traffic as such. The most awesomely optimized site that comes across as unnatural or manipulative is more likely to face possible penalties or suffer in the user experience department and therefore not make you the money back you spent on those services.
Get started on your keyword strategy today with the following resources and be sure to reach out if you need any help in the process.
Google Trends – A great place to start your research between similar keywords. Are their more searches for ‘broken sidewalk’ or ‘sidewalk repair’? Find out here.
Spyfu – If you don’t know where to start with your keywords, but know who your competitors are, check them out on spyfu.com and you’ll have a huge amount of data to get you started.
Yoast SEO – Yoast SEO (Formerly WordPress SEO) is a non-negotiable for any site I build on WordPress. The tools for managing your Keyword strategy are so straight forward and well-supported that I couldn’t run a site without it. They also offer a free tool that captures Google auto-suggest results.
Moz – Moz offers a suite of tools focused on managing your SEO, but recently launched a new keyword tool. Go ahead and drop your most obvious keywords in to get the lay of the land as well as alternative keyword suggestions.
Happy keywording and contact us for consulting, Digital Marketing Services, or WordPress Web Design.