When I started blogging, I simply wrote a lot of articles without caring so much about the keywords I was targeting.
I just wrote and hoped for the best.
As I quickly found out, this approach led to no visits to my blog because my posts only ranked for keywords with very low volume, if at all.
But as I got more and more proficient in SEO, I discovered a blueprint that keeps putting my site at the top of Google every time.
This blueprint, combined with some solid keyword research is all you need to also rank at the top.
In today’s post, I will show you how you can easily find keywords to target and how to include those in your posts effortlessly to increase your traffic and rankings.
Want help with your site’s SEO audit and campaign? Hire me for a consultation.
I will also explain what keywords are, how to use them, what not to do (very important!), and the one deep, dark secret to getting Google’s attention.
In the Beginning… The Start of Keywords
When the internet started there was no good way to find the information or websites you wanted. In fact, everyone had to keep a list of the web address that they liked.
Then search engines came along to fix this problem.
The very first search engine was called Archie. It was created in 1990 by Alan Emtage at McGill University in Montreal. It was, in essence, a database of file names that one could search to find what they were looking for.
In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee invented the concept of the World Wide Web. It was a system whereby information could be transferred easily and quickly.
Related: Read about the history of blogging
It didn’t take long for a bunch of search engines to show up. Each of them, including Google, are based on some simple principles.
A spider goes out and looks for web pages. Those pages are scanned and cataloged.
How does the spider understand what the page is all about?
It uses keywords and keyword density to figure out the main topic of the page. With this information, the spider tags the page and clusters it in a category such as “health care” for example.
What are keywords?
Keywords and their use on websites is really not an unfathomable idea. In fact, when you step back from it a bit, they are quite simple.
Dictionary.com defines a keyword as, “a word or concept of great significance.” It goes on to say, “an informative word used in an information retrieval system to indicate the content of a document.”
Keywords are words in any document that tell you what the document is about. In fact, it’s not that hard to demonstrate, particularly when you’re looking at non-fiction items.
Let’s consider the following passage, scanning only the keywords highlighted:
“Michael Jordan (born February 17, 1963) is a professional American basketball player, Olympic athlete, businessperson and actor. Considered one of the best basketball players ever, Michael Jordan dominated the sport from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. He led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships and earned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award five times. With five regular-season MVPs and three All-Star MVPs, Jordan became the most decorated player in NBA history.” – (From Biography.com)
Here is a list of potential keywords: Michael Jordan, basketball, basketball players, championships, NBA.
With these keywords the spider might make the following associations (as explained in my RankBrain article):
Michael Jordan <-> basketball, basketball player <-> NBA <-> championships
By simply scanning for keywords Google can clearly understand what that passage is all about and start ranking that site for keywords like “who is michael jordan?” or “michael jordan championships”
So in short, keywords give us the main topic of an article.
So now that you know what keywords are and what they look like, how do you decide what keywords to use on your website? How can you maintain great keyword usage throughout the site?
How to find the right keywords
Here are 3 simple ways to find good keywords for your site
- Write a list of what your website is about
- Look at what Google and other tools say about those words
- Steal keywords from your competitors
I will go in depth about each of them now.
Step One: Make a list
I’m going to use a single example throughout the rest of the article to make it easy to track the progress of a single website.
The business: Frank’s Plumbing and Heating
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
The first thing that Frank needs to do is a make a list of words that are relevant to what he does. It’s simply a list of nouns and verbs that relate to his business.
- Emergency service
Those are all words that relate to Frank’s plumbing business. That’s not everything, but it’s a great start. Armed with his list, Frank is going to see what search engines have to say about what he does.
Use Ubersuggest for More Keywords
One thing that you can do now is to take your list to Ubersuggest. It’s a free tool that will take your main keywords and expand on them.
All you have to do is enter a keyword and Ubersuggest will show you a list of related keywords that you can try.
The Ubersuggest list can also be used to estimate how good your initial list was in terms of volume, CPC and competition. (Related: here are the highest paying Adsense keywords)
This list can be compared to the tool that’s next, Google’s Keyword Tool.
Step 2: Use Google Keyword Search and other Keyword Research tools
Since Google is the big dog, I will speak about Google most of the time. Everything you do for Google will work well for Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and every other search engine. Google is used for nearly 68% of all internet searches.
Another important note is that only 15% of all searches are unique. That means that 85% of all searches are repeated. That’s why keywords work well, but at the same time exact-match keywords are not as useful as they used to be.
Google offers a great and free keyword search tool: its Keyword Planner.
If you are new to Adwords, you will need to open an account to use it.
Follow their instructions to set up an account. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend money. You only need to promise to think about it.
After you’re in, you’ll see this page:
You will want to search using a phrase, for now.
Frank is just going to type “Plumbing” into the search box:
There is a box at the bottom that he can use to focus on Iowa City. Since he doesn’t have a national business, he will put the city name in there. Frank doesn’t speak Spanish, so he is going to use English words.
Now we have a list of keywords:
By clicking on the “Avg. Monthly Searches”, you can arrange the keywords that Google supplies you in order of the most searched.
Note that the first result, “plumbing supply,” isn’t useful to a plumber, so Frank eliminates it from his list. The next few words, though, are perfect Frank’s needs.
Here are other tools you can use to do keyword research (and more, like backlink building).
Step 3: Stealing keywords
The next thing to do is to ‘steal’ keywords from your best competitors.
Frank will Google, “plumbers near me.” The first three or four listing, as long as they are actual competitors will work great.
We’re going to use a new and somewhat simpler tool: https://www.semrush.com/features/domain-vs-domain/
Both of these companies offer a very low introductory price, so you can get started with this and also check out the massive suite of SEO tools that each offers.
The first plumber on Frank’s list came up as: https://hawkeyesewer.com/.
Simply put the website URL and hit enter.
The page will give you results of the keyword density on the Hawkeye Sewer website.
Here you can see what Hawkeye Sewer is doing right. Do that with two or three more websites, and you have a great keyword list to work from.
Using Google Search to Find Suggested Keywords
At the bottom of the first page of Google searches there is always a list of related search terms that you can look at.
When Frank types in “plumber Iowa City”, we can see that Google makes suggestions of other searches that you can use.
These search suggestions can be incorporated into your list of keywords and phrases so that you can try to capture that traffic as well.
Put it all together
Now, you can just put it all together, copy and paste all the keywords into an Excel spreadsheet that weight the words based on keyword density on different sites, as well as the monthly search information from Google. You can sort this by Volume or Difficulty and get writing.
One thing that you can do to make your life easier is to discover the “keyword difficulty” of the primary keyword or phrase that you’re using.
One tool that you can use to figure this out easily is KW Finder.
When you type in the keywords there, you’ll see keyword difficulty numbers. The higher the number, the more difficult it will be to rank for that keyword. It simply means that there’s a lot of competition.
If you have a website that is already getting a lot of traffic, you can reorient your text to that word.
On the other hand, if you have a new website, you might look for a number that’s low (<10-20). It will allow you to rank in a smaller niche. Later, when you’ve gotten traffic from the new keyword, you can go for the harder words.
Additionally, you can find a wealth of other keywords at Ahref’s Keyword Explorer.
When we type a keyword like “hire a plumber” we can see that it’s difficulty is 18 and that we need about 20 backlinks to rank in the top 10 results for this keyword.
You will also see various search suggestions and other keyword opportunities you might have missed.
Some More Tools You Can Use
Here is a list of great online tools that you can use to look up keywords, check on competitors, and improve your page ranking.
- Google Trends – free – Google Trends tracks keyword usage in real time. This allows you to see what keywords are on the rise and which ones aren’t as popular. You can focus your energy writing on new keywords because presumably there isn’t as much in-depth content about that topic yet.
- Wordstream – free – Enter your competitor’s URL, industry, and location and you can see what the searches are in that are for their keywords. It’s a powerful free tool that allows you really see what’s going on.
- Moz Keyword Explorer – paid – Moz is one of the leading resources for SEO tools online. Their keyword explorer is designed to make the data simple by showing you how tough the competition is for any given keyword.
- SEMRush – paid – SEMRush is mostly an advertising platform, but that same data is used for SEO and marketing your website. SEMRush has some great keyword tools that you can use to dominate in your category.
- the Amazon Search bar – free – If you go to Amazon.com and type a product keyword, the auto-suggest feature will show you a gold mine of keywords that have commercial intent.
- KeywordsEverywhere – free – This chrome addon will show you volume, CPC and competition scores for each keyword search you perform.
- Quora – free – If you go to Quora and analyze the wording of the questions that people ask over and over, you can find keyword patterns to include in your next article.
How to Use Keywords in your Blog Post or Article
Have you ever read some text on a website that constantly repeats a single phrase over and over, awkwardly? “Best plumber, Iowa City” is put in every few lines. There are some things that you can do that don’t affect SEO, can make reading the text much more pleasant.
In fact, this is often the hardest part about using keywords on your page. Many people end up hiring a professional writer to do the writing, just so they don’t have to try to figure it out.
Here are a few things that you might know about or heard of that can make using keywords harder. Follow these guidelines and it’ll be much easier.
Stop words are common words that appear throughout a language. “A”, “an, “the”, and “and” are all very common in your language. In fact, “the” is the most commonly used word in the English language.
For many years, “stop words” were just that. They were words that would stop Google from reading on. “Frank the Best Plumber in Iowa City” would only be read as Frank. Google has improved this over time. In fact, the Hummingbird upgrade on the Google algorithm was designed just for that.
Today, you can use stop words in your keywords and your text. So “Best plumber, Iowa City” can be written as “the best plumber in Iowa City” without losing SEO juice.
Another place that text on a web page can get strange is with punctuation. Google ignores most punctuation. So a phrase like, “Many people are looking for the best plumber. Iowa City has many qualified people, but Frank is the best,” will be read correctly by Google.
Use Keywords in your URL, Alt text, Headings, and Meta
These are all elements of your writing and your SEO. It’s best to keep the titles clean. Here are some other ways you can improve your On-Page SEO.
Use LSI Keywords
Latent Semantic Index (LSI) Keywords simply refers to synonyms or variations of your main keyword. For example instead of repeating “best plumber in Iowa”, you could use “highest rated plumbing service in Iowa”. Not only this will help you rank for tons of related keywords (thanks to Google’s Rankbrain algorithm) but will also make your text more readable.
The GIANT SECRET about SEO and rankings
Here’s the big secret. The one that’s at the heart of everything that Google is doing. This is worth millions of dollars in SEO work and data analysis. And it has to do with a very simple white hat SEO strategy.
The simple secret is to write great content.
When you write content that is valuable (like this post!), people will spend a lot of time reading it, people will organically share it and all of this will boost your site to the top.
What not to do (unless you want to piss off Google)
1. Doing Keyword Stuffing
The biggest no-no for Google with keywords is ‘keyword stuffing.’, which means simply putting your keywords as often as possible in your text.
“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.
Examples of keyword stuffing include:
- Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
- Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for
- Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example:
- We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Many, many websites, early on, used keyword stuffing to try to get Google’s attention. It worked, for about a year. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to look around today and still see websites with a bunch of keywords packed on a page.
One of the biggest examples is lists of the towns that you work in. If you’re a plumber, you might work in 20 towns and cities. Many web designers will put a huge list of all the towns at the bottom of the page. That’s not only not going to get you the results you need, it’s likely to make the Google bot mark your site down.
If you want to list the towns, create a nice, separate page for each town and list them on your site. Your developer can even make the pages invisible to people, but visible to Google.
Keyword stuffing isn’t a positive way to get Google’s attention. It is considered a very bad blackhat technique
2. Using Irrelevant Keywords
A plumber shouldn’t have a lot of references to football, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s day, and other things that have nothing to do with the business. The more focused and targeted your keywords, the better.
3. Picking Keywords That Have No Traffic
Don’t make the mistake of working on keywords that don’t get any traffic. Very often, people will go with their instincts. Do the research that I talked about above.
4. Placing All your Eggs in One Keyword
Making only one keyword the focus of your website is a huge mistake. So often people, especially ones who are specialists, will get too focused on a single keyword because they’re worried that they will get calls from people that want things that they don’t offer. It’s a good thing to say to people, “Sorry, I don’t do that, but let me refer to you to my friend,” rather than looking at a phone that never rings.
Summary Of All Need to Know About Keywords
I went over a lot in this post. Here’s a quick recap about keyword research:
- You need to make sure that you do proper keyword research. Don’t skip this really important step in building a website or even posting a blog post.
- If you are new, focus on keywords with lower competition.
- Picking the right keywords is just half of the battle, the other half is creating the best post ever.
- Write for real people. Don’t be too obsessed with how Google will interpret your post. Write so that real people will want to read it. This will generate you tons of business.
- Don’t make the blackhat mistakes above, especially keyword stuffing.
- No matter what happens, put up the best website and content that you can. Here are some of the best website builders that can help you with both.
If you enjoyed this post and have found new ideas to find keywords, please share it with a friend and drop a comment below. I read them all.
(And additional benefit of dropping a comment is that you can build a very quick and easy backlink to your site)
Be sure to also check out:
- My collection of best articles about SEO
- What is SEO? (Intro for beginners all the way to advanced)
- How to do white hat SEO and be a nice guy in Google’s eye
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