SEO Keywords: How they Work and why they Matter
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most powerful methods of digital marketing. If you would like to improve your website’s ranking on search engines like Google and Bing, understanding how SEO keywords work is critical.
What are SEO Keywords?
SEO keywords are certain phrases within your website’s content that reflect what people type into search engines. They make it easier for search engines to find and rank your website when users search for relevant keywords.
Why are they Important?
To explain the importance of keywords, let’s use an imaginary example.
Pretend you’re the owner of an Italian restaurant on Long Island, New York. You just launched an awesome new company website, which features your menu, hours of operation, location and appetizing pictures of the food you serve. Now, you just need people to find your website so they’ll visit your restaurant and eat.
Think about what people may search for on Google when they’re hungry. Probably something like “best restaurants on Long Island.” Maybe they’re more specific, and they search for “best Italian takeout on Long Island.”
The more closely your content reflects the language hungry searchers use, the more likely Google is to recommend your website.
How to use Keywords for SEO
Choosing the Right Keywords
Optimizing a webpage for a keyword sounds easy enough. You just think about what your customers are most likely looking for and use those search terms throughout the page, right? Not exactly.
Ideal SEO keywords have the following characteristics:
- High search volume. You want your website to rank for keywords that a solid number of people are searching for.
- Low competition. The more websites that publish content about a given keyword, the harder it is to reach a high Google ranking for it.
- Not too broad. Optimizing a webpage for something like “restaurants” is useless. There are millions of websites that already use that word in their content. The chances you’ll rank for it are extremely slim.
- Not too specific. You also don’t want to pigeonhole your keywords into highly-specific terms that nobody will ever search for.
Also, you’ll want to use a reliable keyword tool in order to conduct accurate research on search volume and competition.
Use them Appropriately
Jamming your keywords into every single sentence of your content not only makes for poor writing, it can actually harm your search rankings. The SEO experts at Yoast recommend a keyword density between .5 and 2.5 percent.
You can also use keyword variants, which are similar phrases to your focus keyword. For example, if you are optimizing a webpage for the keyword “best Italian restaurants on Long Island,” consider using these variants in addition:
- Authentic Italian food on Long Island
- Long Island Italian dinner
- Italian restaurants in (insert town name)
- Italian takeout on Long Island
Since these variations are so similar to your focus keyword, they may help you rank for it.
Optimize the Whole Page
Keywords extend beyond just written content. You’ll also want to include them in the following on-page SEO elements:
- Title tag
- Image alt text
These factors are vital to helping search engines find and index your website.
Keywords are a cornerstone feature of SEO, but they’re not the only aspect. The overall health of your website is also a critical ranking factor, so don’t think a few SEO keywords are going to score you the top spot on Google.