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How to Use Keywords Effectively in Content Marketing

I assume you’re reading this to understand more about including SEO keywords in your web content, right?

Congratulations, you’ve come to the right place!

I’m also assuming that you’ve already got a good idea of what keywords are all about, and what yours are. But for the benefit of our other reader who is not as knowledgeable as you, let’s take a quick keyword tour.

Keyword 101

Keywords are the phrases that signify to your reader, and search engines, what your content is about. They act as a link between the terms people search on and your content.

 There are lots of different ways to determine what your keywords should be, including:

·         Checking subject emails that customers use to contact you

·         Using one of the many online keyword tools

·         Simply sticking in some phrases in Google search and seeing what alternative terms it throws up.

Clearly this isn’t an exhaustive guide to keyword research – we’re planning a separate blog on that soon.

For now, let’s look at how you can make the most of SEO keywords in your article writing.

Keyword stuffing = bad

Keywords have been around as long as the internet has existed. But the way they are used has changed.

Back in the day this article would have been short and sweet, along the lines of:

Think of as many SEO keywords that you can and stick them all over your copy. For example:

“We sell quality dog leads, dog leads that every dog will be want to be attached to. We lead the pack in dog leads. If you need a new dog lead, come to”

This practice is known as keyword stuffing and it used to work. But it doesn’t now.

In fact, it can drastically reduce the chance of your page ranking well.

So don’t do it.

Long tail keywords = good

These days it’s all about long tail keywords. They contain more words and target niche audiences, not the mass market. Long tail keywords need to be your new best friend when it comes to article writing – 50% of search queries are four words or longer.

Let’s go back to our dog lead example. I have a dog, Fraser, who is not particularly long in the leg. However, I’m door-ducking tall. Which means standard dog leads can be too short.

If I was buying a new lead I’d search for ‘dog leads for tall people’ or ‘extra-long dog leads’, not ‘dog leads’.

Yes, I’m a very niche audience. And yes, I should probably get a taller dog. But if you own a pet supply shop and use the SEO keyword ‘extra-long dog leads’ then I’ll be your customer.

Think like your reader

Whenever you write anything it really helps to have an ideal reader in mind. What is that they’re looking for? What terms are they going to use to find the article? What do they want to achieve by reading it? And, most importantly, how does your web content support their aims and needs?

A (good) collision of styles

Having strong, well researched keywords isn’t enough. They can help to get your target to your site, but then you need to create engaging web content.

To achieve this you need to combine your keyword and copywriting skills. Article writing that works well hooks the reader from the start, keeps them engaged and includes your keywords throughout. Find out more about how to do that here.

Where, and how, to place keywords

First impressions count, so it’s key that you get your keyword into the headline and the first paragraph.

Try and use them a couple of times in the top third of the piece, and make sure they are in either your H1 or H2  titles. (That’s headings and sub-headings in coding jargon).

After that it’s a case of using the keywords naturally throughout the text.

But how much text?

This is the question that everyone always asks – how long should my web content be?

And I’m really sorry, but there’s no magic answer as to how long an article should be.

The simple key to getting your page ranking is to make it better than a competitor’s.

As part of your keyword research you would have looked at what your competitors are writing about, and how much they’re writing. If they’re ranking #1 with a post that’s 400-words long, write more than 400, but not substantially more.

If they’re having great success with 1,500-word articles then aim for, say, 1,800. But make sure that each of those 1,800 words gives value to the reader. Three hundred words of padding will do you no favours.

What’s vital is that you understand your reader and their needs – if they’re happy with a 400-word article (as shown by your competitor’s page ranking success) then why give them 2,000 words?

What about keyword density?

Again, there’s no hard and fast rule on this. As a rule of thumb anything approaching a five per cent keyword density could negatively affect your ranking.

Plug-ins, such as Yoast for WordPress sites, can give you guidance on SEO keyword density, as well as other factors such as readability scores.

Free keyword density tool

You may not realise, but you’ve already got a lifetime subscription to the best keyword density checking tool – your voice.

Once you’ve got the first draft down on screen, read it out loud. Any sticky or overused phrases should make themselves patently obvious using this technique. Try it on my dog lead example above.

If you’re still not sure, get someone else to read your copy for you – a fresh set of eyes can give a valuable insight

And don’t forget…

… that keywords shouldn’t only be in your copy. It’s equally vital that you use them in the meta description. This is the chunk of text that appears in the search results, and is where search engines learn what your page is about.

You should also try to include an image for each page, and ensure that your keyword features in its alt text (the html code that tells a browser what the picture is of).

Again, there are various plug-ins which will allow you to amend the meta description and alt text, but if you’re not sure then an SEO agency or freelancer will be able to help with this.

Ian Manley is a freelance writer specialising in SEO copy. He’s also able to advise businesses on how to tap into the tall person market.

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