Let’s start today’s post with a game: spot the keyword.
It’s a sunny day today.
I’m so pleased it’s a sunny day today because I can sit on my porch swing and greet people as they wander up to my Little Free Library.
I think I’ll finish work outside since it’s a sunny day today.
Even after just these three sentences, you’re likely rolling your eyes and thinking, “yes, it’s a sunny day—we get it!” And, in this exasperated (and completely called for) reaction, you find the target keyword phrase obvious: it’s a sunny day today.
But, as you experienced, repeating the exact phrase in three consecutive sentences didn’t do readers any favors. If anything, it may have made them bounce from the post and enjoy their own sunny days (see what I did there?).
Keywords don’t have to be an incessant ring in your audience’s ear. In fact, when done right, your audience won’t consciously register the keywords you’re targeting, but search engines will—that right there is your keyword sweet spot.
Consciously implementing keywords into your content is another way to take your website, and your rankings, to the next level.
Get excited to learn more about,
- What keywords and keyphrases are in the first place.
- How you’ll know when you’re using the “right” ones.
- Effective ways to intentionally incorporate keywords into your content.
What is A Focused Keyword or Keyphrase?
A focused keyword or keyphrase is a specific term you want your page or post to be known for. So, whenever someone searches for your target keyword phrase online, you want your resource to pop up. You can set a focused keyword(s) or phrase(s) for your website pages, landing pages, blog posts, and more.
Keywords can be as broad or narrow as you want, though you’ll find, the more general you go, the more competition you’ll have for the top spot. Here’s an example using an excellent free keyword analysis tool, Ubersuggest.
So, you want your website’s home page to organically (not-paid) rank for the keyword “financial planner.” Spoiler alert: so does everyone else.
As you can see, there’s undoubtedly a sky-high search volume for this term, but it’s accompanied by an equally tricky organic ranking score—with this tool, the higher the number, the more competition. Even when you factor in paid searches, it will be tough to land on the first page of search engines. For many small businesses, that’s just not achievable.
But, say you refined your keyword, even just slightly to “comprehensive financial planner.” Now, look at the difference.
While the search volume is less, the SEO difficulty is less than half, simply by adding one additional descriptive word about the type of service you provide. This quick example shows that your keyword selection should be specific to your brand, audience, and goals.
Two Keyword Categories Short and Long-tail (Plus, Which Is Better?)
Keywords come in all shapes and sizes, but there are two broad categories:
- Short-tail keywords
- Long-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords are the more general of the two and are often only a couple of words. Since they aren’t as descriptive, their search volumes tend to be higher, and the competition fiercer. So, the “financial planner” search from above was an example of a short-tail keyword.
But, not every person searching for “financial planner” will be a good fit for your firm. Additionally, short-tail keywords aren’t often as effective at helping you reach your ideal client. So what type of searches may help weed out these not great client fits?
The trick is to get more specific by targeting long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords bring more detail to searches and are often around three to five (or more) words. An example of a long-tail keyword is “comprehensive financial planner Durham.” This phrase specifies the type of financial planner and provides a location, two factors that could be important to firms and their audiences alike.
Long-tail keywords open up the most opportunities for small business owners to rank organically for their selected phrase. While more extended and specific terms may be less popular, there’s also less competition and a better opportunity to capture the market.
You can think of it in terms of the red ocean and blue ocean strategy. Coined by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne, this strategy is about understanding saturated vs. untapped markets and diving headfirst into uncontested market space. Doing so opens up opportunities to reframe the idea of competition—not playing the current game but starting a new one altogether.
So, which is better?
Both short and long-tail keywords have their place in your marketing strategy, but it is often more fruitful to focus your efforts on long-tail keywords. Doing so enables you to get more specific and genuinely capture your ideal audience.
Keywords Aren’t Just About Ranking, Searchability Matters, Too.
As with most SEO best practices, catering to the search engines themselves is only the first step. There’s another equally critical component of keywords: their searchability.
Think about it like this,
What is your audience typing into search engines?
Mirroring some of the language customers use to find answers to their questions can give you a leg up in the keyword game.
Your ability to accomplish this task takes a deep understanding of your audience: who they are, what they care about, what stands in their way to reach their goals, and the solutions they need to improve their lives.
For example, say you’re a financial advisor who specializes in financial planning for small business owners. Think through the types of questions your ideal clients may be asking themselves: When should I sell my business? Can I still have a role in my business if I sell? I have three kids, and none of them want the company; what should I do?
From these questions, you may develop a list of keyword and keyword phrases like, how to sell your small business, exit plans for small businesses owners, generational wealth and family business, etc.
How To Find The Right Keywords For Your Content
But, how will you know what your audience is searching for? There are a few ways you can check how searchable your keywords are, so consider the following.
- Try Google’s keyword planner. This tool can help you conduct keyword research, stay on top of market trends, and provide insight that enables you to select the correct terms for your business. Leveraging a tool like this can offer unique data to launch your keyword strategy. From there, you can refine and build other keywords into each new piece of content you create. You don’t have to use the exact keywords for all of your content. It’s actually more beneficial to target different keywords in the same family–again, it’s all about cohesion.
- Explore Google Trends. Get ready to see what people are searching for! All you have to do is type in a topic, and it will generate data about audience interest, topics searched, and related ideas. If, for example, you type “finance” into the search bar, you’ll see that the top related search was “nft art investing.” That may tell you that people are interested in speculative and alternative investments and perhaps want to see more content in that area.
- Use a keyword analysis tool. There are so many SEO keyword tools available, like Ubersuggest and SEM Rush. Most offer a limited free version, which can provide excellent insights when you’re just starting out. As you grow, if you want to increase your keyword acumen, you might consider a paid subscription. But that all depends on your brand, niche, audience, and growth goals.
- Google your keyword! Do you want to know what pops up when you search “comprehensive financial planner near me”? Then, type it into Google (or another search engine) and take a look at the search engine results page (SERPs). What type of content pops up on the first page? How does your content fit in with these top searches? Is there a way you can make your content even more relevant and stand out among the crowd?
- See how your current pages are ranking. Your website host likely has an SEO plug-in (free or paid) to help you see how your existing content is doing keyword-wise. Analyzing your current rankings can help you create a plan for intentional next steps.
The keywords you choose should be a descriptive extension of your brand and your desired audience. This two-pronged approach (rankings + searchability) helps you create cohesion throughout your entire content strategy.
5 Must-Know Tips To Use Keywords While Keeping Your Content Readable
You’ve worked so hard to find keywords that represent your brand and are relevant to your audience. Now what? Here are five tips to strategically bring focused keywords into your content.
1. Create an Intentional Keyword Strategy
Building a cohesive strategy around your keywords will keep you from haphazardly sticking the word “money” all over your articles and calling it a day.
A keyword strategy can also help you brainstorm content ideas. If you want to target specific keywords, consider the various topics, questions, studies, etc., that come from those keywords.
Below are some general best practices for building a comprehensive keyword strategy for your business.
- Get clear on your ideal audience. It’s rare to get through a digital marketing article without at least one mention of your audience because, to be frank, it’s all about them. Knowing your audience gives you a better understanding of what they want, need, care about, and look for online. That knowledge equips you with the information you need to know what they’re searching for, how they’re searching for it, and the words they use along the way.
- Do your research. Take some time to research potential keywords to see how they fare. You can use some of the tools discussed earlier, like Google trends, keyword analysis tools, and more, to help!
- Organize your keywords by subject. A content strategy that converts starts with organization. You can think about keywords as existing in content clusters—a springboard for content ideas and preparation.
- Set clear keyword KPIs. You won’t know if your keyword strategy works or not without proper key performance indicators (KPIs). Look at keyword search frequency, SEO difficulty, relevance to your business, etc.
- Write high-quality, engaging content with those keywords. You’ve been planning, planning, and planning, and now it’s time to write! Use the keywords you’ve identified and start putting them into your content.
- Track, update, and repeat. Once you give your content time to settle, review your analytics (quarterly usually offers the most robust results). Did you see an increase in organic traffic on specific pages or blogs? Where can you better capitalize on current momentum? Are there any changes you need to make?
2. Use Keywords in Blog Headings, Introduction, and Conclusion
Where should your audience find your keywords? Here are a few general guidelines:
- In your title (preferably at the beginning)
- Throughout your headings
- Within the first 200 words of your piece
- Within the last 200 words of your piece
Checking these boxes may not always be easy, and you can skip a couple depending on the type of post you’re writing.
3. Keep Keywords Present Throughout The Article
For search engines, it’s usually not enough to just have a focused keyword in your title and then move on.
Your selected keywords should appear naturally throughout the post. You don’t need to have the entire phrase in every other sentence or section, just ensure you intentionally weave it into the narrative.
You can even include related phrases, so the piece doesn’t feel robotic or stiff.
4. Don’t Forget About Your Meta Descriptions and Tags
Remember your search engine name tags: meta tags? You can also place your keywords there, though doing so won’t directly raise your SEO clout. For meta tags, it’s more important that your keywords are geared toward providing the reader with context for your page.
5. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
The “it’s a sunny day” story game from above is a perfect example of what not to do with your keywords, and there’s an excellent name for it: keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is a big marketing faux-pas, not just for your readers but also for your SEO credibility. Essentially, people placed keywords excessively throughout their content, meta tags, and more, with no thought to the readers.
This tact became so prevalent that Google’s algorithm penalized websites for overt keyword stuffing with no emphasis on readability. See, even Google wants you to write like a human.
Keywords Are Great, But Your Readers Still Come First.
Keywords are an important part of your content marketing strategy. Properly using keywords throughout your content can help you reach your target audience and keep search engines happy—a true win-win.
But keywords shouldn’t be your top priority. Creating valuable, quality content your audience needs is your top priority. With a robust content strategy, you can attract quality leads, help them answer their questions, and keep them engaging with your brand.
Keywords are like salt in a recipe—a little goes a long way, but you’ll definitely notice when it’s not there.
Continuing the metaphor, an under-salted dish may be palatable but bland, whereas an over-salted dish becomes lip-puckering-tart and inedible.
The bottom line? Don’t over-salt your content with focused keywords.
If you’d like to bring more intention to your keyword strategy, set up some time with our team. We’d love to help you elevate your content.