Why did I write a content marketer’s guide to keyword strategy when there’s already so much out there written about keyword strategy?
Well, keyword strategy is critical for SEO and it seems content marketers don’t know enough about keyword strategy. As evidence, I receive a number of guest post submissions every week. Every writer knows my editorial guidelines require keywords and every single submission is missing an effective keyword strategy. This happened so much I realized there was disjoint between content marketers and SEO experts in their understanding of keyword strategy. So, I decided to fix it.
What are keywords
When you search for something on Google or another search engine, you put in words related to what you’re looking for. Those are keywords. The better you are at entering keywords … the more specific the keywords … the more closely the search results match what you’re looking for.
Let’s say you wanted a dress for a family wedding. You wouldn’t just put “dress” into the search bar and Google searches through all the listings it has for dress. It returns a list of possible matches that include: sundresses, dress shoes, work dresses, doll dresses, dressage, and all kinds of dress things that didn’t match your needs.
So, you think about what kind of dress you like, what you have in mind for this event and you refine your search terms. Now you put “wedding dress” into the search bar and get all kinds of dresses for the bride. Yuck. Still not what you wanted.
Undeterred, you go back to Google and enter “blue, calf-length evening dress” into the search bar and, behold, the results match what you’re looking for. If you’re anything like most users, you pick one of the first 3 links (most likely, the first one) and click to find your perfect dress. Google uses a complex algorithm to determine which company shows up in which order in response to a user’s search. Use the link above to learn more about this.
Why keywords matter
If you’re a retailer, you want users to find your products when they search online. So, you don’t want to use dress as a keyword, because then you’re competing for attention with all the other retailers selling doll dresses, sun dresses, and dress shoes. That means you’re a lot less likely to be one of the first 3 links to show up in the user’s search.
Instead, you want to limit competition to just those retailers who sell the kind of dress your potential customers want. Now, you’re more likely to show up in the first 3 results.
Using the “long-tail” keyword, which is a phrase like “blue, calf-length evening dress” means you limit your competition and suit the customer’s needs more exactly. That’s keyword strategy.
Selecting the right long-tail keywords means, first and foremost, understanding your customers, how they search, and helping satisfy their needs.
For instance, about half of searchers enter just a few words that express their needs, while the other half form pretty much full sentences, according to a study.
A content marketer’s guide to keyword strategy
So, if keyword strategy is so simple, why do content marketer’s need a guide to keyword strategy?
Because it’s not that simple.
First, you have to do your research, find keywords that best fit your company and the persona’s representing your customers and prospects. You’ll need a list of 15-20 keywords, at a minimum.
Guide to keyword strategy: research
One of the most frequently cited ways to do keyword research is using the Google Keyword Planner that’s actually part of its Adwords platform. The tool is free and offers a lot of insight in choosing keywords such as the amount of competition, the number of searches, etc.
What you want are keywords with moderate competition and a high number of searches, so sort the keywords using these columns to find your keywords. You can also get terms related to your original search to help expand the keywords.
Now, that type of keyword research works, but there are other ways … ways more focused on your customers. For instance, use terms heard frequently by your customer service staff or mentioned in forums. Social media is another good listening device to hear how customers talk about products you sell. If all else fails, use focus groups to identify how real people talk about products you sell.
Guide to keyword strategy: optimize use of keywords
Using the keyword once, even if it’s a long-tail keyword, probably isn’t enough to earn you one of the coveted top 3 positions in the Google results.
You need a good keyword density–the number of times you use the keyword in your content. And, this is where most of my guest writers fail miserably. In almost all cases, they’ve only used a keyword once or twice. Instead, you want a density between .5% and 2.5% according to Yoast. Going to low means you’re not getting enough keyword juice, going to high risks retribution from Google. In the bad old days, content writers used to “stuff” their content with keywords, whether they belonged there or not. A major change to the Google ranking algorithm brought that practice to a screeching halt, in part, to ensure content was written for human beings, that it provided value and was readable.
- And, the placement of keywords matters, as well. Your keyword should be used early on, preferably in the first paragraph, which lets the reader know up front what the article is about.
- Your keywords should be used in at least one of your H2 tags–the headings within your content
- Your title should contain your keyword
- Keywords should be part of the URL of the post
- A hyperlink should display the keyword
- Images should include your keyword in their alt tags
- Your meta-description should include your keywords
Guide to keyword strategy: Monitoring
It’s not enough to develop a keyword marketing strategy. It’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing. Instead, monitor performance of your keywords. Constantly update your strategy by deleting keywords that aren’t performing well and add some to test them out if they might perform better.
And, track performance across the entire marketing funnel, using something like the Google event tracking funnels shown above, not just in bringing visitors to your site. A keyword that’s particularly successful at bringing visitors to your site, might bring the wrong kind of visitors–those who prefer kicking tires to actually buying your stuff.