Search Engine Optimization (SEO) offers marketers and businesses an undeniable edge over the competition. By optimizing content to better adhere to search engines’ criteria, SEO increases online visibility and helps produce valuable leads.
At the center of SEO stand keywords, as they’re the foundation of high-ranking content. Whether you’re a marketer, business owner, or digital entrepreneur, your keyword choices will largely determine the success of your SEO efforts.
However, keywords are a complex subject. Appropriate ones are difficult to uncover, and there are ample ways in which one can misuse or under use them. With this in mind, we will share some fundamental keyword optimization tips for SEO to get you started.
The Fundamentals of Keywords, Types, and Uses
If you’re exploring this subject, chances are you’re familiar with SEO more broadly. However, you may not be as familiar with the keywords themselves. If that’s the case, here we can first discuss the foundations, which will then contextualize the tips that follow.
Keywords primarily come in three main types, which may then see specializations into subtypes. Each of the main three comes with its benefits and unique characteristics to consider.
The first, shortest, and most broad type comes in short-tail keywords. As the name suggests, these are short, up to three words, to be exact. They are typically broad, “women’s shoes,” for example.
Short-tail keywords have the advantage of being broad and, therefore, more likely to attract wider audiences. Any customer looking for any kind of women’s footwear might search for “women’s shoes” using the above example.
There lies their drawback, too; short-tail keywords are often very competitive. They’re thus expensive to bid on for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and hard to rank organically via SEO. As such, while regularly appealing, short-tail keywords might be best avoided – unless you’re prepared.
The second, longer type comes in long-tail keywords. True to their name, such keywords typically tend to be longer, over three words. In turn, they tend to be more specific; “women’s shoes for rainy weather,” for example.
Now, keyword optimization tips for SEO can’t overlook this type for a few different reasons. For one, the benefits of long-tail keywords are substantial. Not only do they increase content visibility, as Digital Dot finds, but they also attract more engaged audiences. In the above example, a user searching for “women’s shoes” may just be searching casually. A user searching for “women’s shoes for rainy weather” has a specific pain point and a specific need to meet. As such, long-tail keywords tend to have higher conversion rates.
Second, long-tail keywords tend to be far less competitive. Therefore, if you’re willing to settle for less search volume with higher purchase intent or are operating on a tighter budget, they can be distinctly more affordable.
Local or Geo-Targeting Keywords
Finally, come local or geo-targeting keywords. These also tend to be longer, but their primary focus is not long; it’s specificity and locality. For example, “women’s shoes in Cleveland, OH” and “women’s shoes for rainy weather in Cleveland, OH” would both fit this type.
How competitively such keywords can be done depends on the local market, but they are often invaluable to local businesses. They best cater to local, “near me,” and mobile searches and can benefit tremendously from existing local SEO strategies.
Much like long-tail keywords, searches for local keywords also typically carry higher purchase intent. Understandably, users searching for “women’s shoes” near them or in their area are typically prepared to make a purchase.
Keyword Optimization Tips for SEO
With the above in order, we may now delve into specific keyword optimization tips. So, without further ado, let’s begin. In order, consider the following five steps and practices.
#1 Audit Your Existing Keywords and Keyword Strategies
The initial step should include an audit of your ongoing SEO and keyword endeavors. This allows you to more accurately determine exactly what kinds of optimizations you need or may benefit from.
Keyword-wise, you may initially consider placement. On-page, and beyond your text itself, keywords can be placed in the:
- Title tags
- Header tags
- Meta descriptions
- Image files names and alt text
- Page URLs
Next, content-wise, you may examine your content’s performance in relation to your keywords. Which keywords seem to have historically performed best? What do your audience insights have to say about your keyword choices?
If you’re using content marketing software, this process should hopefully be all the easier. If you’re not, you may consult our article on the matter for ideas.
#2 Use Keyword Tools
With your audit’s insights, you may start optimizing your keyword choices and uses. The former does entail challenges, however; Google searches and the “People Also Ask” feature can certainly help, but only some. As such, you may best resort to keyword research tools.
SEMrush is an excellent choice for this purpose, but you may also consider ones like:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Long Tail Pro
Thankfully, most such solutions come with built-in keyword optimization tips for SEO of their own. Features will vary across them but will typically include keyword search volume, ranking difficulty, and other notable metrics.
#3 Target Keyword Types That Are Appropriate for You
Next, before committing to keyword optimizations of any kind, you may take a moment to engage in some introspection. As highlighted above, different keyword types best suit different purposes.
For this step, you may initially consider the following:
- Your market position
- Your budget
- Short-term and long-term business goals
- Your ideal audience and their search intent
- Your propositions
In combination, these factors should best determine the types of keywords you may best focus on. For instance:
- A powerful market position and a large budget can fuel short-tail keywords for brand awareness
- Conversion-minded campaigns and a realistic market position will favor long-tail keywords
- A strong local focus will dictate local keywords to enhance local SEO efforts
These do ultimately hinge on you and your business, but this remains a substantive step. Too often, the higher search volume of short-tail keywords will have marketers overlook other keyword types – ones that may suit their business or current goals better.
#4 Focus On User Search Intent and Your Audience
By this stage, you’ve most likely settled on your ideal keywords. However, there are two very notable pitfalls to avoid before committing to your optimizations.
The first one, which keyword optimization tips for SEO cannot overlook, is losing sight of your audience. Namely, for some notable examples:
- Who they are; demographics, psychographics, etc.
- What they need, their pain points, purchase habits, etc.
- Why they’re searching; their search intent behind looking up your keywords
This is why user, audience, and customer insights are invaluable assets toward better SEO. For this step, you may employ such assets as:
- Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution
- Google Analytics and other insights tools
- Built-in or third-party social media audience insights tools
- Website heat maps
With them in hand, you may maintain a firmer grasp of your audiences’ sentiments, interests, needs, and habits. In turn, this should better inform your keyword choices.
#5 Avoid Keyword Stuffing at All Costs
The second pitfall, and one notable enough to conclude on, is keyword stuffing. In simple terms, this is the practice of stuffing content with your keywords to the point where it looks unnatural. This may seem like a logical practice, putting your valuable newfound keywords to full use – but it’s anything but.
Writing content for search engines sways human visitors away, for one. Keyword stuffing makes text appear unnatural and typically doesn’t make for a pleasant user experience. As such, it can have the opposite effect of what you intend.
Second, this practice displeases search engines too. Citing Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, the Search Engine Journal confirms that “Google demotes pages filled with an unnecessary number of keywords.” Needless to say, this directly harms your SEO – and, by extension, your business.
Therefore, it’s vital that you use your keywords organically and place them where they make logical sense. You should, by all means, focus on them, but never do so at the expense of content quality and cohesion.