Many business owners are told that they need to use keywords on their websites to improve their organic search engine ranking. Unfortunately, some either don’t know why this is important or don’t know how to do it to get the rankings that will bring in customers naturally.
In this article, we’re going to define what keywords are. Then I’ll show you how to select keywords and add them to your site in a way that doesn’t seem forced.
First do keyword research
Let’s start by making sure we are on the same page with our definition of keywords.
The easiest way to think of them is that they are the words and phrases your prospective clients type into a search engine such as Google or Bing as they’re trying to find businesses like yours. If you want your website to show up when they search, you’ll need to add these words and phrases to your website.
Search engines match what people are searching for with websites that contain those terms.
The first step is to identify the keywords that you can use to improve your search ranking. You should know that most people don’t look beyond Page 1 of search listings, so that’s where your business needs to appear. Page 2 or 3 just won’t cut it.
Using keyword tools
To start the keyword process, grab the URLs — https://ca.godaddy.com for example — of your competitors and paste them into SEMrush.
The goal here is to find the most popular pages on your competitors’ websites — in other words, the pages that get the most visitors. Especially if they’ve been at this for a bit, they’ve probably picked keywords that are working well, so we can piggyback off their keyword research.
Next, take those same URLs and put them in Ahrefs to see how many links each of these pages have. Link-building is hard, so by finding out which one of your competitors’ pages have the fewest links, you know where to start your efforts. The keywords used on these pages are ones your competitors are leaving open.
If you start out by going after their highest-ranking pages with many inbound links, it’s like planning to run a marathon with no preparation.
By starting with the pages your competitors are not focused on, you can build your organic search authority.
Another great tool is Google Search Console. This tool will give you a report on all the keywords that your website is currently ranking for — right down to where you appear in the search results. As long as these keywords are in the area you’re trying to grow, keep putting effort into increasing your ranking for them. If you haven’t already added these words to the page elements listed below, do it now.
It’s so much easier to raise your ranking for a page that is already on Page 1 of search results than to take a page from page 10 and get it on Page 1.
Editor’s note: No time to do keyword research and optimisation yourself? Let the experts at GoDaddy do it for you. 80% of clients who follow their advice achieve Page 1 rankings within six months.
How to add keywords to your site
Once you have some keywords chosen, it’s time to add them to the individual pages on your site. If your keyword is “industrial electrician” then you should add this to:
- The page headline and title tag.
- The first paragraph of text on the page.
- One subhead.
- The body text (roughly once for every 100 words).
- The page URL (e.g. https://www.gov.mb.ca/wd/apprenticeship/discover/mbtrades/industrialelect.html).
- Meta descriptions.
When you add images to your site, you should make sure that the ALT text for them contain your keywords. A content management system like WordPress makes this easy by providing a place to add ALT text for every image you add to the site.
Making audio and video files visible to search engines
For any content that is not text-based, it’s essential to include a text version.
If you have a bunch of audio on your website and no text to go alongside it, the content is invisible to search engines.
Likewise, if you videos on your site, make sure that you provide a text-based summary of the material. Include the keywords and phrases that pertain to the video in the summary, so it shows up in search results. Remember, if your content is not text-based, then you have no content unless you add some text to it for search engines to read.
How to write keyword-rich titles and meta descriptions
As mentioned above, it’s not enough for you to find good keywords for your website. You have to add them to your:
- Website titles
- On-page content
- Meta descriptions
The next time Google crawls your website, it will make note of the keywords and (hopefully) start sending people looking for those topics to your website.
If you want to get more mileage out of your keywords, here are some tips:
- Use primary keywords in your titles and URL slug – The title of your article or page should use the same keyword as the URL for the page. This will immediately tell search engines what the page is about and allow the search engines to index your new web page properly.
- Always use secondary keywords in the H2 and H3 titles – Headlines on web pages come in different sizes, with the H1 size reserved for the main headline. When you’re writing the H2 and H3 titles — the secondary and tertiary headlines — always ensure that you’re adding additional keywords to these titles. Search engines will scan the H2 and H3 titles for more information about the page and pick up any keywords they find.
- Use keyword phrases throughout your on-page content – As you’re writing the text for your page, try to add the keywords naturally. For example, if you were creating a page about ‘shoes for running,’ you could use a sentence like “Here’s our top 10 list of the best shoes for running.” When the search engines next crawl your website, they’ll add these words to their list for your site.
- Always write your keywords near the top of the page – As you’re writing the text for your page, always make sure that you write your primary keyword within the first 200 words on the page. This will ensure that the search engine will see your primary keywords during its initial crawl of your page, allowing your website to rank quickly for the primary keywords.
- Avoid being spammy and keyword stuffing – While you want your website to rank for the keywords that you’ve placed on the web page, you don’t want to overdo it. Search engines hate when website owners add too many of the same keywords to their website (keyword stuffing) to manipulate the search engines into ranking their website high.
Beef up your content
One effective way to build authority for your keywords is to create more content with those words in it.
As you get questions from your customers, answer them by adding frequently asked questions (FAQs) or blog posts to your site. Be sure to work the keywords you’re trying to rank for into the text. Choosing to leverage the questions of your customers can be a great content strategy — one that works for both customers and search engines.
I tell my clients that if they get a question three times, they need to write about it so they start to show up in organic search results for that topic.
Answering the question can also head off customer support requests because they can find the answer themselves.
Related: Learn how to blog in 5 simple steps
Bring in more leads through your website
Search engines and organic search rankings provide an excellent channel for your business to bring in customers. By spending some time looking at your competitors and finding the green fields of keywords that they aren’t effectively targeting, you can build a strategy to start bringing in new clients.
By spending just a bit of extra time as you create content — articles, blog posts, videos — you can ensure that all are working as hard for you as they can. Adding a bit of extra text that includes your keywords to your site will help you with your search rankings. Going back to older content that’s ranking well and adding your new keywords to it will help lend authority to your site.
Keyword research and development doesn’t take a huge effort. A bit of work consistently on your keywords will reap rewards for your business over the long term.
Leighton Burley contributed to this post.
Finding keywords for your website — Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we’ll answer some of the FAQs about finding keywords and adding those keywords to your website.
Here are some of the top FAQs about website keywords:
What are keywords in SEO?
Keywords are the words and phrases people use when looking online for a particular website, service, news article or product. It’s important to use keywords on your website because it allows your website to show up for relevant search queries.
For example, if you were looking to purchase a pair of shoes, you may use a term like “men’s shoes” or “women’s shoe size 8” in an attempt to find the product that you’re looking to purchase.
If you were looking to find a local business to build a deck, you might use a term like “deck builder near me” or “construction company” to find a business that can solve your problem.
What are the types of keywords?
In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), there are nine types of keywords that you can use for your website. These types of keywords are:
- Short-tail keywords (three words or less)
- Long-tail keywords
- Long-term keywords
- Product defining keywords
- Geo-targeting keywords
- Customer defining keywords
- Intent targeting keywords
Each of these types of keywords has its own strengths and weaknesses and can enhance your SEO efforts when used correctly.
Related: Local SEO for Canadian businesses
What are short-tail keywords?
The term ‘short-tail keywords’ refers to the use of a very broad keyword and doesn’t consist of more than three words used to create the keyword. Short-tail keywords are quite broad, so there’s a lot of search volume, making them popular to target.
For example, if you’re looking to purchase shoes, you may use a short-tail keyword such as ‘brown shoes’ or ‘men’s leather shoes’ to find a pair of shoes you are willing to purchase.
What are long-tail keywords?
The term ‘long-tail keywords’ refers to keywords that use three or more words to specify what the user is searching for.
The long-tail keywords often have less search traffic because they are very specific, but they’ll have a higher conversion rate because the user knows what they’re looking for.
For example, if you’re looking to purchase shoes, you may type in a long-tail search term such as “men’s leather shoes size 11,” or ‘women’s high heels size 8,” or “best shoes for running long distances.”
As you can see, the user knows exactly what they’re searching for when they use long-tail keywords and are more likely to buy when they find the product or service they’re searching for.
What are good keywords?
You’ll need to target good keywords to compete in the online world. The best keywords to target for your website will be based on several factors such as:
- Search volume
- Domain authority
When you’re finding keywords to target, you’ll want to ensure that the keywords have high search volume; otherwise, you won’t get much website traffic once your website ranks for the search term.
A keyword with 1000-10,000 in monthly traffic is a good bet if you are hoping to attract organic (free) traffic. Anything above that is likely to require paid ads to be successful.
Once you’ve found search terms with adequate search volume, you’ll want to ensure that the search terms are relevant to your website. If the search terms are irrelevant to your website, you’ll have a hard time ranking for those search terms and have a low conversion rate from the website traffic that comes from those keywords.
After you’ve found relevant keywords with search volume, you’ll need to analyze how difficult it is to rank for those keywords. If your competitors are already ranking for those search terms, you’ll need to ensure that your website has good domain authority (DA) so you can compete for the exact keywords.
Domain authority is a search engine score used to determine how powerful a website is and how likely it is for that website to rank for a given search term. You’ll want to ensure that your website has similar or higher domain authority to your competition if you’re going to outrank their website for keywords they rank for.
When you’re searching for good keywords for your website, always eliminate keywords that:
- Have no search volume
- Are irrelevant to your website
You can target difficult keywords to rank for, as long as you continue to build your website’s domain authority so that one day you can rank for those keywords.
What is search ranking, and why is it important?
Search ranking refers to a website’s position within the Search Engine’s Results Page (SERPs). You’ll need to focus on many factors if you want your website to rank higher on SERPs.
Your website needs to rank higher on SERPs because it will gain more visibility and increase website traffic from ranking higher on SERPs. With the increased traffic, you’ll have a higher chance of converting website traffic into customers for your products, services or organization.
What is organic search?
Organic search refers to website traffic that comes through unpaid search results. The search results positions cannot be purchased like pay-per-click (PPC) ads (these are the listings tagged with the word “AD”).
Organic search traffic is also one of the sources of website traffic that marketers focus on because once you succeed, you’ll get long-term traffic that is genuinely interested in your website and what you offer.
UPDATE: This keyword article was first published on 1 November 2018 and updated 27 July 2022.