Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that today’s businesses live or die by the click of a mouse or a verbal question to Siri. And keywords are the common denominator in both instances.
Well-chosen keywords and phrases answer basic customer questions: Where’s the nearest dentist? What’s the name of the Indian restaurant downtown? What do I need to know before I hire a plumber?
Let’s say you’re an insurance agent. One of your potential customers is probably using a keyword right now, generating several pages of search results. The keyword (actually two words) is “auto insurance,” because that’s what your would-be customer needs.
Perfect; that’s one of the insurance products you offer. So why isn’t your auto insurance page on the first page of search results?
There are several answers to this question. Here are just a few:
- You’ve chosen keywords that are no longer trending or valid in your business category. It may be time for a refresher course in keyword research.
- Perhaps your page doesn’t link to other high-value websites and you need to spend a little time learning link building.
- Maybe your site has some phenomenal photos and videos, but very little text (Google can only search for text).
- Your content is lousy; e.g., unfocused, wordy, off topic, or duplicated from other Web pages.
Web resources like Copyblogger, WordStream, Moz and others exist to improve your marketing and writing skills. But what if your problem is simpler?
Location, Location, Location—for Keywords, That Is
Anyone played a good game of Monopoly lately? If so, you know how valuable certain properties can be. Everyone wants to own Park Place and Boardwalk. Of course, whether a player has the right strategy for the task is another matter entirely.
Choosing the right location for your keywords is like buying the best Monopoly properties. So—assuming you’ve made good, trending keyword choices—the next step is to place those words in Google’s sweet spots:
Title tags and meta descriptions
You probably know how important the title tag (shown as a blue hyperlinked phrase on a search results page) and meta description (the short blurb just underneath the title tag that describes the topic more completely) are for each Web page on your site.
But if your title tag is longer than 65-70 characters, including spaces, and your keyword doesn’t show up until the end, don’t expect to rank well. Here’s an example of a good title tag: “Find Auto Insurance for Less by Calling Mad Dog Insurance Today.”
See how the “auto insurance” keyword is close to the beginning, just behind the action verb? This tag now has the potential to rank well. (P.S., the character count is 63, so it’s a good length, too).
Feel free to optimize your meta description in a similar way, although the title tag matters more.
The next place Google looks for an optimally-placed keyword is the top heading of your page. Sure, you want a killer headline that grabs your reader’s attention and curiosity. But you also need to optimize the headline with your keyword.
Here’s an example: “Choose a Mad Dog Auto Insurance Plan for Any Budget.” Or maybe you want to highlight your comprehensive plan with a heading like this one: “Stay Protected with Mad Dog Comprehensive Auto Insurance.”
In both of these examples, your headline is relevant to the page’s content, includes a CTA, and appeals to customers’ needs. And it includes the key word.
The content itself
By now, your service page is really starting to look optimized. Now’s the time to engage your reader with compelling, actionable content and include your relevant keyword.
Although the idea of keyword density (number of keyword uses per total words) is much less important than it used to be, best practice still indicates a ratio of approximately 1 keyword per 100 words of content. If your content is 300 words, you’ll probably be fine with 3 keyword uses. Just remember that one of these is already in your headline.
As to the best locations for said keywords; there are no rigid guidelines, except to say that keywords are most valuable near the top of your page content. Target the first few paragraphs.
For example, a good rule of thumb is to insert the keyword in your headline, then once within the first paragraph if it’s possible to do so naturally. Your third location may be flexible. You may find it works well just somewhere above the fold or within a subheading. The final CTA is another good place for a final keyword.
This is a simple reminder to use your keyword when you write alt text for any images on your site. This will make it possible for Google to crawl all your images as well as your headlines and content.
How to Optimize Your Blog
All of these reminders about keywords are particularly critical for the static copy pages on your website. But what about keywords in blog posts?
If you have a blog on your website—and you should, since Google loves the constant inflow of fresh new content—you need to know how to optimize your blog, too. Although the keyword process is similar to that of copy pages, there are a few differences.
Let’s say you are a plumber. You have all your basic services (clogged drain repair, water heater replacement, frozen pipe repair, and the like) covered in your static pages. Next, you’ve begun a corporate blog page, and your first blog post is about common plumbing myths.
So far, you still need some preliminary keyword search. Google Adwords keyword tool can help you find keywords with low competition that still generate high search volume for your intended topic.
While you’re at it, be sure to include LSI (related term) keywords in your post. If your main keyword is plumbing myths, then your related terms may be things like toilet tank cleaners, clogs, soap, or fixtures. These are terms that relate to your intended topic, so they are searchable words your readers might use.
In your blog copy, follow best online writing practices like using lists, bolding, highlighted areas, and images.
Improving your rankings is not always an exact science, but placing your keywords in the right locations is a huge step in the right direction. Be the boss of the keyword scene and expect to see improved rankings and customer engagement.