Too many businesses cling to the idea that cramming keywords in their web copy is the best path toward search engine optimization.
Writing web content for search engines? Really?
That’s so 2005. And a really bad idea today.
First, Google wants to provide people with accurate and relevant search results. That’s why the company changed its ranking algorithm in 2011 to penalize sites that engage in keyword stuffing. The idea is to ensure that websites providing quality content for people—not web crawlers—receive priority ranking. Stuff your website with keywords, and you risk falling from the rankings or failing to rank altogether.
Second, keyword-stuffed copy is almost always bad writing because it doesn’t reflect natural, conversational English. And since the goal is to connect with people, obvious attempts to manipulate search engine results will turn your audience off.
This doesn’t mean you should stop using keywords in your content. Rather, use them wisely.
Identify your keywords
Suppose a medical center wants to create a website or e-book for patients about the benefits of cancer clinical trials. Let’s run through the keyword identification steps.
Google wants you to use multiple related keyword phrases in your content. In general, don’t select single keywords because they’ll be too broad to apply toward a meaningful Google search.
To begin, identify a primary keyword phrase. The most obvious is:
- Cancer clinical trial
Next, identify several secondary multiple-word phrases related to the primary phrase. Some that might be worked into the copy are:
- Cancer research
- Oncology clinical trials
- Cancer trials
- Clinical studies
- Clinical research
- Medical trials
- Cancer clinical trial phases
Then there are longtail keyword phrases. Identify 10 to 12 sentences or questions your target audience would likely enter during a Google search. Think like your audience—what would they search for? What words would they use? What are their concerns or questions? Here are a few longtails using the cancer clinical trials example:
- Can clinical trials cure cancer?
- Are cancer clinical trials worth it?
- Are clinical trials a last resort?
- Do cancer clinical trials use placebos?
- Current clinical trials for cancer patients
- Cancer clinical trials near me
- Cancer clinical trials at [insert hospital name]
It’s hard to place longtail questions into the main copy. You might consider saving those for a FAQ page. Avoid awkwardly phrased longtails that read like keyword junk (“cancer clinical trial how does it work?”).
Google is an excellent tool for identifying keyword phrases. Start typing in a sentence and the Google autocomplete feature will finish your thought by populating it with the most popular search phrases.
Insert your keywords
When you’re ready to write, keep your keyword phrases in mind, but don’t refer back to your keyword sheet while writing—this will only slow down the process of completing a draft. Instead, focus on finishing a rough first draft and include the keyword phrases naturally. When you’ve finished the draft, do a keyword search to see how many you’ve inserted.
A good rule of thumb is to use your primary keyword phrase in 1-5% of your copy. Higher total word counts allow for more frequent keyword phrase inclusion. (If the website has just 500 words, aim for the lower percentage rather than using “cancer clinical trial” 25 times.)
Use secondary keyword phrases one time each where they fit naturally and conversationally. Save longtail questions for a FAQ page.
Take a second and third pass through your copy and see where it makes sense to include additional keyword phrases naturally without being repetitive.
This SEO approach will not only build website credibility, it will also help your target audience find your site using Google. Select relevant keyword phrases, insert them judiciously them in your copy, and you should achieve solid SEO results without resorting to manipulative search engine tactics that went the way of the dodo bird.