We’re facing a content revolution the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

There are more than 500 million blogs across over 1.8 billion websites on the worldwide web. More than 2 million new blog posts are published daily. That’s right – 2 million. Every. Single. Day.

There are also more people turning to search engines for information than we’ve seen in the past. Before the pandemic, Google search traffic hovered around 3.6 billion searches per day. Since March 2020, it’s consistently been 6+ billion searches per day.

That’s enough to make your head spin! So much demand, so much new content… How on earth are you going to compete so your content makes it to the top of that information flood?

To start, do you know how to use keywords in your content correctly?

There’s a reason some websites consistently land prime spots in featured snippets and page one of Google’s results.

Want to know their secret formula?

Great content + strategic focus keywords + search engine optimization (SEO).

That’s it. Those three primary components are what separate the high traffic content from the bottom-of-the-barrel, lost-in-the-void content.

While you should absolutely learn as much as you can about SEO writing and how to produce phenomenal content, this discussion is going to focus on the keyword aspect of the ranking equation, including how to research and use keywords in your content.

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how to use keywords in your content

There’s a reason some websites consistently land prime spots on page 1 of Google’s results. Their secret formula? 👩‍🔬 ➡Great content + strategic focus keywords + search engine optimization (SEO).⬅ Learn how to use it on @ExpWriters: Click To Tweet

What Is a Focus Keyword?

Let’s start with the basics. A focus keyword is the search term you want your content to rank for in search engines.

This means, if you’re writing about creating click-worthy social media content, for example, you want your post to be one of the first shown in Google when someone types “how to write engaging social media posts” in the search box.

how to write engaging social media posts SERP

The best focus keywords are known as long-tail keywords. These are phrases that are longer and more specific than shorter, more common keywords.

In the example above, “social media” would be a broad, general search term, but “how to write engaging social media posts” is a highly specific search phrase.

When someone types that long-tail keyword into Google, their search intent is clear. They’re looking for instructional content. They don’t want the history of social media, or a link to Facebook, or instructions to reset their Twitter password, all of which are topics that could technically fall under the general “social media” keyword.

Long-tail keywords are niche-based. They have a lower search volume and therefore less competition, which means you have a much higher chance of beating out a dozen websites for the top spot compared to thousands of websites fighting over a more general search term.

The search demand graph below demonstrates how long-tail keywords earned their name:

search demand curve graph

It’s much better to be on page one for a long-tail keyword than it is to be on page 397 for a popular keyword.

Spoiler alert: Even if that popular focus keyword has a ton of traffic potential, nobody is going to click all the way to page 397 to find your content.

It’s much better to be on page one for a long-tail keyword than it is to be on page 397 for a popular keyword. 1️⃣📏🎯 Click To Tweet

Long-tail keywords also have much higher conversions associated with them. This goes back to search intent – people looking up long-tail keywords have a specific goal, especially if they’re starting their search with “how to.” There’s no guesswork involved. You know what your targeted visitor is looking for, and you can provide it.

Successful content marketers aren’t pulling random long-tail keywords out of a hat like magicians. They’re investing their time in keyword research related to their market niche so they can take a strategic approach when using those keywords in their content.

Hey, content strategy can be tricky. If you want to formulate a winning content marketing strategy with optimized keywords, we’re here to help!

How to Research a Keyword with SEO in Mind

Keyword research is a critical first step in any content marketing strategy, before you write the first word of your article.

Skipping this step all but guarantees your content will flop!

We talked about finding long-tail, low-competition focus keywords. However, those keywords MUST be relevant to your market niche if your content is going to perform.

keyword sweet spot

So, how do you find that optimal sweet spot between relevancy and low competition?

Start by making a list of broad topics that:

  • Genuinely interest you
  • Pertain to your industry, market, and/or niche
  • Are relevant to your audience

We’re not looking at long-tail keywords yet in this stage. All we’re doing is coming up with general search topics, and then we’ll get more detailed from there.

Once you have a solid list of ideas, start thinking about subtopics for each category. Consider the search intent of these terms – how will your audience likely be using this information? What are they searching for beyond just the general word or phrase?

Keyword research tools such as Semrush, KWFinder, and Ahrefs can help you analyze your subtopics to discover search volume, ranking probability, and synonymous keywords and phrases to target.

Another tip is to rely on the power of Google. Type in your keyword and scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP).

Here, you’ll find alternative phrases based on what people have been actively searching for on Google, so you know these results will be relevant.

related keywords on google

Ideally, you should have at least one primary keyword (the main focus) and one or two secondary keywords (related terms). If you choose a primary keyword that isn’t grammatically correct, make sure to tweak it so you can use it in your content without sounding like a robot trying to learn English.

For example, “content strategy how to build on website” isn’t going to work. There’s simply no way to properly fit that into a sentence. Go ahead and add conjunctions, prepositions, or other “helper” words to finesse it a bit. I.e., “Content strategy: how to build one on your website.”

You can also add in a few additional minor keywords, but don’t go overboard and try to cram 20 of them into your content. (Keyword stuffing is as outdated as cassette players.)

keyword pyramid

Let’s make a keyword list from the content strategy example we typed into Google earlier to see the related search results.

  • Primary Keyword (High Priority): How to build a content strategy
  • Secondary Keyword(s) (Medium Priority): What is a content strategy
  • Additional Keyword(s) (Lower Priority): Content strategy examples, content strategy framework, website content strategy

How to Use Keywords in Your Content: Where Should You Place Keywords for SEO?

Now that we’ve done our keyword research and have a short list of keywords ready to go, how are we going to incorporate them into our content?

There’s a little more to SEO than simply shoving a focus keyword in every other sentence. And on that note – DON’T DO THAT! Repeating your keyword over and over again is a quick way to annoy your readers and accumulate penalties from Google.

Keywords need to be placed strategically throughout your content. The most important places to insert keywords are:

1. Article Title

If possible, try to use the exact primary keyword. Google will recognize the match to the original search term, and your audience is also likely to believe your article will be relevant to them.

However, if the full keyword doesn’t sound natural, don’t force it. You don’t want viewers to think a bot wrote your content and avoid clicking out of fear that the entire article is going to be awkward and poorly written.

It’s okay to use a variation of your keyword. As long as the rest of your content is pertinent and optimized, Google will still be able to successfully index it.

2. Meta Description

A meta description is a short blurb, usually no more than 160 characters, that appears under web pages and articles on the SERP.

This is a prime place to insert your keyword! If possible, try to add both your primary and secondary keywords into your meta description to boost your ranking probability.

meta description in google SERP

3. Introduction (First 200 Words)

Here’s the thing about Google – the search engine giant isn’t upfront about revealing all of the factors in its ranking algorithms.

Content marketers are privy to certain information openly shared in Google’s own SEO starter guide and other sources, but in many cases, we’re left making our best educated guesses when it comes to certain SEO tips and best practices.

Google used to give priority to “content above the fold,” but Google’s own John Mueller has stated that it isn’t much of a ranking factor anymore. However, some content marketers believe that Google does still give preference to the first 200 words or so on a page.

Whether or not this holds much weight with search engines, it’s still a good idea to mention your focus keyword early on. It lets both Google and your readers know what your article is going to be about.

4. Conclusion (Last 200 Words)

Your keyword should also be used toward the end of your content as you summarize main points and tie everything together. If you can add your primary keyword to your call-to-action (CTA) at the end, do so!

5. Headings (H1s, H2s, H3s)

Your content should ALWAYS have headings. From an organizational and visual perspective, headings are essential to breaking up large sections of paragraph text and segmenting an article so readers can easily skim through the main points.

Headings are also critical to Google. They’re important ranking signals that help search engines index the content, understand critical points, and pull information for featured snippets on the SERP, as you can see here:

content headings pulled for featured snippet in google

Each of those points in the list is a separate heading in the article. Adding your keywords into H1, H2, and H3 headings helps emphasize those important phrases so you have a better chance of not only ranking, but also landing a coveted spot in a featured snippet.

6. Image Alt Text

Images are another important part of SEO. Your human readers and Google’s bots love to see multimedia instead of endless blocks of text.

The primary purpose of alt text (also referred to as alt tags or alt descriptions) is to show written copy in place of an image if the graphic fails to load. It also helps screen-reading tools for visually impaired users.

alt text

But alt text serves another important purpose – it helps search engines crawl, understand, index, and rank your website.

By adding alt text to your images, you’re making it easier for Google to identify your media as relevant when people are conducting image searches. Images – especially branded infographics – can be a less direct but still successful way to bring visitors to your website.

7. Throughout Your Content

Learning how to use keywords naturally in your content can be difficult at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will be to find the right balance between using your keywords too frequently or not enough.

Humans naturally tend to vary their speech. We don’t like repeating the same words over and over again.

This is why writers who aren’t factoring SEO into their process don’t get content ranked in Google. Search engines need enough repetition to successfully pick up on keywords.

Look for opportunities to slip your keywords into sentences. Your writing should still be natural – don’t force a keyword into your content if it doesn’t work. Your sentences should be grammatically correct and roll off the tongue without awkward phrases disrupting the flow.

For some writers, it’s easier to draft the content first, then go back and add the keywords in later. There’s no golden rule for the ideal number of times each keyword should be inserted, so use your best judgement based on readability and content length.

8. URL

Adding the primary keyword into your URL is the icing on the cake. It’s yet one more signal to Google that your content is highly relevant in a search.

SEO experts and content marketers often debate about how effective this practice really is, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Adding the keyword into your URL certainly isn’t going to hurt your ranking, and there’s a chance it can actually improve it.

Where should you place keywords for maximum SEO impact? For starters: 1️⃣ Article title 2️⃣ Metas 3️⃣ Intro 4️⃣ Conclusion 5️⃣ Headings (H1, H2, etc) AND don't forget 6️⃣ Image alt text 7️⃣ Throughout the content 8️⃣ URL Click To Tweet

Bringing Keywords Together with SEO Content

Remember the formula: great content + strategic focus keywords + search engine optimization (SEO).

Each facet is important individually, but the magic happens when they all work together. Once you master all three components of this winning formula and understand how to use keywords in your SEO content to rank on Google, your online presence is guaranteed to explode!

But it takes time, commitment, and perseverance to make it all happen. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results.

Believe me when I say it’s a worthwhile investment!

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how to use keywords in your content

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