Mar 1

Essential On-Page SEO Keyword Placement Practices


If you’re not making an effort to improve your search engine optimization, or SEO, you might as well not have a website. After all, SEO is what helps people find you in the vast wilderness known as the Internet.


Even well-known brands need to diligently employ good SEO practices to make sure they stay competitive. Appearing as the number one result in Google for an industry keyword is a much-coveted achievement, and for good reason: users are more likely to click on the top result than any other. If you want to drive traffic to your website, you need to rank as high as possible.


There are some site-wide SEO practices that are important to employ, but for now let’s talk about what needs to be done for every new page of content you put online, known as on-page SEO.


  1.      Pick a keyword. Choosing a good keyword is half the battle when it comes to on-page SEO. You don’t want to optimize a keyword that you’ve already optimized elsewhere on your site, because Google will typically only choose one page from your site to show for any given keyword. That means you’re wasting valuable space optimizing a keyword that you’ve already focused on elsewhere.


The keyword needs to be something that your target audience would probably type into Google if they had a question. Thinking about your target audience’s “frequently asked questions” is a good place to start. A keyword can be a single word or a longer phrase. It is usually easier to rank higher for longer phrases because people don’t often think to optimize them, whereas single words are exceedingly popular.


There are many keyword research tools you can use, but Google itself is a great place to start. Start typing in a simple word associated with your industry and see what Google suggests via the auto-populate feature. Click enter and scroll down to see a list of related search words. Keep clicking around on suggested words for more and more ideas.


Google Webmaster Tools is free and provides valuable information regarding the success of your SEO efforts. It shows you the keywords people have been using that have led them to your site. Critically, it also shows you the keywords people have used in which your site was a result, but wasn’t clicked on. These are called “impressions” and can give you insight into which keywords you need to better optimize.


  1.      Keyword in title and URL. With the hard work of choosing a keyword out of the way, you can now strategically place it throughout the page. Google’s search algorithm essentially scans a webpage and zeroes in on important areas in order to determine if the site is relevant to a certain search term.


One of the most important areas for not only Google, but also your target audience, is the title of the page. Place the keyword toward the beginning of the title if at all possible. Google will display keywords in titles in bold face, which makes them jump out at users. If your keyword is toward the end of a rather long title, it could be obscured from the search result page altogether, as Google only shows a certain number of title characters (approximately 50-60).


Note that Google also favors web pages with the keyword in the URL. Change your site’s default naming convention if necessary so that the title appears in the URL, and you can kill two birds with one stone.

  1.      Keyword in subheading(s). Another place Google looks to determine the relevancy of a webpage is its subheadings. Putting the keyword in a Level 2 (H2) subheading demonstrates that it is very important. The higher the number of the subheading level, the less important the subheading is perceived to be. Therefore, try to use your keyword in an H2 subheading rather than an H4 subheading, for example.
  2.      Keyword in first paragraph of copy. When you write an introduction to a blog, do you beat around the bush or get straight to the point? Google would rather you got straight to the point. Tell your readers exactly what they can expect to find or learn on any given page. In doing so, you are likely to use a keyword right away. Google will take note of this, understanding it to mean that the entire page is about that keyword since it appears near the beginning of the copy, as well as in other strategic places.
  3.      Keyword density less than 2.5 percent. If you’ve ever partaken in “keyword stuffing,” it’s time to break yourself of the habit now and forever. Squeezing the same keyword into each sentence not only makes your web copy or content very tedious to read, but also sends a red flag to Google. Google knows what keyword stuffing is, recognizes it as a way to cheat the system, and won’t be happy with you at all. Your site may even be penalized if you are consistently stuffing keywords left and right.


A good keyword density to aim for is less than 2.5 percent. This means that for every 100 words of copy, your keyword appears less than about 2 or 3 times.  That equals roughly 1 or 2 mentions per paragraph as an absolute maximum.


However, don’t have a target percentage in mind when you write, or else the copy will come across as forced. Instead, write for a human audience. Write what seems natural. Err on the side of caution and have a smaller keyword density rather than overshooting it and having a larger keyword density. If you’ve finished writing and your keyword appears nowhere in the copy, you’ll need to find a couple of places to plug it in. Or maybe you should choose a different keyword altogether.


  1.      Keyword in image tags. A web search is not the only way your website can appear in Google search results. An image search might bring up your website as a result as well. You need to help Google determine what an image is about by using keywords in the image title, alt tag and description. Google will use this information, along with other on-page keyword analysis, to figure out whether or not to display the image in a web search.


  1.      Keyword in meta description. When you look at a Google search results page, you will see that each result shows a title, a URL and a snippet of content. This snippet of content is called the meta description. Just like in the title, Google will bold keywords that appear in the meta description. You can use this to your advantage, since the bold font makes your result more noticeable to readers.


But meta descriptions also serve an even better purpose: they are an opportunity for you to give an “elevator pitch” to users, convincing them in a limited number of words why they should visit your site. You need to convey that your site has the answers they are looking for, that your site is the most authoritative, or that your site is simply the most entertaining.


  1.      Internal links, outbound links. A note of caution: you can harm your on-page SEO efforts by incorrectly using links. In a link, the anchor text is the word or phrase that is clickable and leads to a new page. If the anchor text of an outbound link includes your keyword, you are essentially endorsing someone else’s website as being relevant to that keyword. When you want to rank high for a keyword, this is self-sabotage.


If the anchor text of an internal link (a link that leads to another page on your website) contains the keyword, you are telling Google that the other page is relevant to the keyword. Again, it has the potential to dilute the ranking power of the page you are trying to optimize.


A network of internal links is extremely important in guiding users around your site, and a network of quality outbound links is important in establishing the legitimacy of your website. Just tread carefully when choosing anchor text.


When it comes to keyword placement for SEO, these are the most important elements to consider. At first it may seem like a challenge to optimize every single page. However, the more you practice, the better you will be able to seamlessly integrate keywords as you write, and the faster you will be able to edit image tags, meta tags and more.



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