Quick, which is more important to your SEO—keyword research or site content? It’s actually a bit of trick question. Keyword research and site content actually work together to create a well-optimized site. Conducting keyword research won’t do much good if your site is full of low quality content. Meanwhile, great content needs some help appealing to the search spiders, which is where having the right keywords comes in handy. One without the other means your SEO if off-balance, like a table with one short leg. But when it comes to writing content and conducting keyword research, which tactic deserves priority seating?

On-site optimizing starts with having great content.

The main reason you need to make sure your content is in good shape BEFORE you start conducting your keyword research is because you will select your keywords based on your site content. Search engines rank individual pages, not your site as a whole. This means that each page needs to be optimized for itself by choosing the keywords that most accurately reflect the content.

If you were to do it the other way around, trying to write content that fits your pre-selected keywords, you end up writing for the search engines and not for humans. That is probably one of the worst SEO mistakes you can make! Content should always be written for a human reader. Writing content around your keywords might make your site read disjointed or haphazard, as well as seem like you are trying to stuff keywords in as frequently as you can.

You should also write your content first because you don’t always know exactly how each webpage is going to develop. You may find it beneficial to add new pages while condensing or deleting others. Choosing your keywords first may limit your creativity and effect the overall flow of your site.

When you weave your keywords into existing content, the key is to do so naturally. You’re aiming for 2-5 unique keywords per page, but that doesn’t mean you have to force them all in. Depending on the page’s content, certain keywords may make more sense or flow better than others. That’s fine! You don’t want to stick keywords in haphazardly where they don’t belong. For instance, a Boston-area Thai restaurant should be targeting “Boston Thai restaurant” and “Thai restaurant Boston.” These are two different keywords with two different search results. However, the restaurant owner may find he uses “Boston Thai restaurant” more frequently because it works better with the existing content.

“Content is king” is a popular SEO mantra for a reason. Keywords won’t help make a bad piece of content good.