When you sit down to write a blog or update your web content, you probably think about keywords to include. “How much do keywords matter?” is a question I hear very often from my clients. Well, they definitely matter in content marketing, but not like they did in the old days. Let’s break it down.
Keywords are important for search. Potential customers type keywords that describe your business into search boxes, usually Google’s.
If you’re struggling to identify exact keywords to include in a blog on a particular topic, don’t worry. While keywords are important, search engines have gotten smarter and smarter and are looking for relevant content that reflect those keywords as well as similar words.
If You Write It Well, They Will Find It!
Google and other search engines want to find well-written content that answers a user’s search question. They are in the business of delivering the best possible search results for a user’s query.
Remember, search engines are focused on:
- Looking at the quality of the writing on a webpage among the sources it finds.
- The authority of the site and/or author behind it.
- How closely it believes content matches the intent behind the search.
That first point – quality of writing – has become more important to Google in recent years.
If you’re writing about a topic you know well, the keywords will come naturally. You don’t have to force certain words because you understand what potential clients are looking for.
Think about recent searches you’ve done. What came up first?
- Paid advertisements. Search engines are very focused on matching paid advertisements (which do rely heavily on keywords) for search.
- Organic (unpaid) results. These come from blogs, articles and other web content the search engine recognizes as worth your time to check out.
Google’s algorithm has become very sophisticated. It uses more than 200 signals to find the best results for each search. Then it ranks the results, giving preference to:
- “Terms” (which it doesn’t define as keywords) used in the search
- Content freshness: newer content may rank better than older pieces
- The region where the content comes from
- PageRank, a tool it uses to examine the past behavior of the person behind the search.
That last factor is really important. As you probably know, search engines, particularly Google, collect a lot of information about each person who signs in to their services. By collecting and analyzing the clicking behavior of each user, it can predict what kind of results will be selected.
What Will Make My Content Stand Out?
Your job is to write well and with authority. Here are ways you can boost the likelihood that your content will be noticed, shared and gain authority:
- Be accurate. Write clearly about what you know. This will also underscore your services when you create marketing content.
- Pick words carefully. There are times when jargon can be considered very specific keywords. Still, you should limit its use to when it’s appropriate for your target audience. If you’re writing for more general audiences, avoid jargon unless it’s helpful for education purposes. If used, be sure to define it.
- Write often! It’s hard to get into this habit but being a regular contributor will help search engines notice you and encourage readers to share your content.
- Write where you’ll be noticed. Put your content on websites your audience visits and drill down from there. Look for appropriate groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, subReddits, boards on professional websites, and even comment sections in specific publications.
Don’t use content as an overt way to advertise your work. Strong content sends the message to readers about your expertise and capabilities.
Avoid anything remotely spammy, including:
- Keyword stuffing. Don’t use the same terms too often. Google your topic and look at the additional search suggestions that appear at the bottom of each results page. These amount to good similes.
- Poor grammar and misspelled words. These practically scream “spam!”
- Long-winded. Long, run-on sentences and paragraphs are difficult to follow. Also, more people than ever read on smartphone screens where text can easily look crammed.
- Boring and repetitive sentences. There’s a lot of competition out there. You probably close out boring content; so do people looking for your products or services! Make sure your content is engaging and enlightening.
Don’t forget SEO, either. Here are a few very useful practices:
- Use <h1> headers and <h2> subheaders. For very long posts, <h3> headers break up content and make it easier to skim and read.
- Create your own snippets. Search engines will default to the first 100 or so characters for snippets. Website software like Yoast let you create your own.
- Use metadata. Add captions and alt text to images.
- Use readability tools. Yoast and WordPress both use the Flesch-Kincaid scale. You can decide what grade level to use, but pay attention to warnings about sentences and paragraphs that are too long and repeated words and phrases