Having decided how many keywords to target and which keywords are best for you to target, based on relevance, commercial intent, search volume and competitiveness, you then need to correctly use those keywords on your website. The aim with this is to keyword optimise the pages on your site without anyone (who doesn’t have knowledge of SEO) being able to tell that you’ve done so. If you achieve this then you’ll please both visitors to your site and Google.
These days, keyword optimisation, due to keyword spamming in the past, has been reduced in importance. It’s purpose is only to tell Google that, for example, this page is about x, and you want them to include it in their search results when people search for x and variations of x. Lessening the importance of keywords is very different from disregarding them altogether though.
Keywords are still a factor in how Google ranks websites, however, you shouldn’t expect to optimise your website with keywords and then see your site rise to the top of the search results for those keywords. You still need to, at a minimum, create content based around your keywords that deserves to be top of Google and to build links to your site to boost it’s trust and authority.
Still, whilst just using keywords correctly on your site isn’t enough to get you good rankings, if you poorly optimise your site for your target keywords, you rule out any chance of ranking highly for your chosen keywords. So, you need to get the balance right between optimising and over-optimising – i.e. using a keyword on a page but not using the exact same keyword, in as many different places as possible, and as many times as you can.
These are the three issues to consider during the keyword optimisation process:
- Where to use keywords
- How to vary keyword usage
- How often to use keywords
There are 8 places that you can use keywords on your website to signal to Google which pages on your site you want to rank for which keywords:
Page Title: The page title, also known as a title tag or title element, is written in the coding of the page, like this – <title>Mention Your Keywords Here</title>. The page title isn’t displayed on the page itself, but is shown in the search results and in the web browser. You definitely need to add your the keyword for a page here, but don’t just put the keyword and nothing else. At the very least, put your business’s name either before or after the keyword.
Url: The web address for the page (i.e. www.yoursite.co.uk/mention-your-keywords-here). This is a good place to add keywords as you can use them without needing to use them in a catchy or enticing way like with the page title or H1 tag. Using keywords in your url isn’t possible when trying to rank your homepage though.
H1 Tag: The main header tag for the page. This is normally the title at the top of a page that tells the reader what the page is about – like an article title in a magazine or newspaper. This should ideally grab the interest of visitors to your site, to make them want to read on, so you need to balance using your keyword with making it interesting.
Body Content: The main written text on a page, such as a product/service description or an article. You only need to mention the keyword once, though you can mention it more times if that happens naturally when you’re writing. You definitely don’t need to aim for any kind of keyword density (2%, 5%, etc.).
Site Navigation Link Text: The text that forms the links in your top navigation bar or sidebar. Using your target keyword in its exact form here can look spammy, and can negatively affect the user experience, so normally you’ll have to use a shortened or alternate version of it.
In-Content Link Text: The text that forms the links on your pages that link to other pages on your site (e.g. this links to a page on this site about SEO for internal links). Mix up your usage, by sometimes linking up the exact keyword and sometimes linking up a partial sentence that the keyword is in. Always keep the user experience in mind with this.
Image Tag: The html code used to add an image to the page (i.e. <img src=”file-name-including-keyword.jpg” title=”Title of the image including the keyword” alt=”Description of the image including the keyword”>). This text won’t show up on a page, unless, for some reason, the image itself doesn’t load. If there are multiple images on a page, you can add variations of the keyword to each of them.
Meta Description: The snippet of text that gets displayed in the search results to describe the content of the page. Search engines don’t use this as part of their ranking algothrim, however, they do highlight/bold any keywords used here, which makes your site stand out more in the search results and seem more relevant.
Google no longer takes into account the meta keywords tag (i.e. <meta name=”keywords” content=”Keyword 1, Variation of Keyword 1″>), as it’s too easy to manipulate and spam. As they don’t pay attention to the tag, it makes no difference at all to your site’s rankings if you use it or not. Some sites still use it, some don’t. If anything, you’re better to not use it, as doing so makes it easier for competitors to pinpoint what exactly keywords you’re targeting.
You can target multiple keywords on 1 page but, unless they’re very closely related, it can be difficult to do. The best approach is to have 1 main keyword target for each page, and then to also target variations of that keyword with that same page. Keyword variations will typically be the main keyword with one or more extra words (online, service, review, buy, cheap, London, Yorkshire, etc.) added.
If the only difference between keywords is the order of the words, a minor word (a, an, in, on, to, etc.) or plurality (s, ies, etc.), then you can target those keywords on the same page as multiple main keyword targets, as Google recognises each of those variations as being nearly the same, and will generally return pretty much the same set of search results for each of them.
So, if you wanted to rank a page on your site for ‘Birmingham accountants’, you could try and rank that same page for…
- Accountants Birmingham
- Accountants in Birmingham
- Accountant in Birmingham
- Birmingham accountancy firm
- Accountants near Birmingham
- Best accountants in Birmingham
- Birmingham accounting company
- Birmingham chartered accountants
- Chartered accountants in Birmingham
…by using variations of the main keyword in the keyword placement options listed above. For example, use….
Page Title: Birmingham Accountants
H1 Tag: Birmingham Chartered Accountancy Firm
Body Content: If you need a chartered accountant in Birmingham…
Image Tag: – John-Birmingham-Accountant
Meta Description: We are one of the best accountants in Birmingham…
That would be preferable to using the main target keyword (i.e. ‘Birmingham Accountants’) in the page title, h1 tag, body content, image tag and meta description. As well as removing the risk of, and a penalty for, over-optimising for ‘Birmingham Accountants’, it improves your rankings for those keyword variations that you use. So, not only is it not necessary to use the exact keyword repeatedly, it’s actually more beneficial for you not to do so.
You also don’t only need to use keywords (main or variations) in their exact form or in isolation. You can, and again it’s beneficial to do so, use them as part of a phrase or use dividers, like dashes (-) or pipes (|). This can make your keyword usage look more natural to both visitors and search engines. Sticking with the ‘Birmingham Accountants’ example, you could do the following…
Page Title: “Birmingham Accountants | Name Of Company” or “Name Of Company | Accountants | Birmingham”
H1 Tag: “We Are An Accountancy Firm Based In Birmingham” or “Name Of Company – Birmingham’s Best Accountants”
The page title is by far the most important place to add the keyword for a page, so make sure, at the very least, you use the keyword there. If you need to make it part of a phrase, change the order of the words, or add a divider or two, so as to make it look more professional or to target more keywords, then that’s fine – it won’t prevent you ranking 1st for that keyword.
In addition to using the keyword in the page title try to use it, or a variation of it, in at least 2 of these 3 places…
- H1 Tag
- Body Content
…and at least 2 of these 5 places…
- Site Navigation Link Text
- In-Content Link Text
- Image Tag
- Meta Description
If you do that, then your keyword, or variations of it, will be in at least 5 of the 8 keyword placement options, and it should be clear to Google what keywords to rank that page for. You can safely use your keyword in all 8 places, however, if you do so, it’s essential that you use multiple variations of the keyword. If you list the exact keyword target (e.g. ‘Birmingham Accountants’) in each of those 8 places, then you’re really risking an over-optimisation penalty.
You don’t have to use a keyword, or variations of it, x amount of times to be able to rank a page for that keyword – there’s no magic number to aim for. What you should not do is let the quality or professionalism of a page suffer because you’re trying to force a keyword in a couple more times. You should always place the readability and usability of your site above keyword usage.
If, for whatever reason, you can only use a keyword in a couple of places on a page, that doesn’t necessarily mean that ranking well for that keyword is impossible – it just makes the process of ranking it a bit more more difficult. You can still rank 1st in the search results for that keyword if you have better content and more high quality backlinks than your competitors.
Good Example 1
Target Keyword: Boutique Clothing
Page Title: Boutique Clothing | Online Store | Name Of Company
H1 Tag: Boutique Clothes & Fashion
Site Navigation Link Text: Boutique Clothes
Image Tag: Boutique-Dresses-And-Tops
Good Example 2
Target Keyword: Solicitors London
Page Title: Name Of Company | Solicitors In London
H1 Tag: Solicitors – London – About Us
Body Content: We believe that we’re the best solicitors in London. We have 20+ years of experience…
Image Tag: London-Solicitors-Photo
Meta Description: Looking for an experienced and reliable solicitor? We can help you. We have offices based around London – visit us today.
Good Example 3
Target Keyword: Freelance SEO Consultant
Page Title: SEO | Freelance Consultant | Training & Services
Body Content: I’m a freelance SEO consultant and I can help your business improve your visibility in search engines.
In-Content Link Text: Freelance SEO Service
Image Tag: John-Smith-Freelance-SEO-Consultant
Bad Example 1
Target Keyword: Emigrate To New Zealand
Page Title: Emigrate To New Zealand
H1 Tag: Emigrate To New Zealand
Site Navigation Link Text: Emigrate To New Zealand
Image Tag: Emigrate-To-New-Zealand
Bad Example 2
Target Keyword: Hairdressers In Birmingham
Page Title: Hairdressers
H1 Tag: Hairdressers In Birmingham
Body Content: We’re a hairdressers in Birmingham. We’re the best Birmingham hairdressers because we’re experienced and cheap. If you need hairdressers Birmingham, come to us today.
Image Tag: Hairdressers-In-Birmingham
Meta Description: Hairdressers In Birmingham. Birmingham Hairdressers. Hairdressers Birmingham.
Bad Example 3
Target Keyword: Web Design Company
Page Title: Web Design Company & Web Design Companies
Body Content: We are a web design company. We design websites. Are you looking for web design companies? Then contact this web design company now.
In-Content Link Text: Web Design Company
Image Tag: Web-Design-Company-Web-Design-Company