In recent blogs, we’ve been looking at what keyword research is, why it matters and how to do it. By now, you’ve hopefully got a strong list of focus keywords for your website and blogs, but you may still be uncertain about where it’s best to use them.
Although keyword tags haven’t been used as a ranking signal by Google for some time, using a focus keyword in your meta data does help search engines understand what the content of your website is about
For visitors to your website, the use of your focus keyword in certain places on each page will help them decipher the content in a matter of seconds, which is often how long we have to keep a person from bouncing away from the page.
Give people a reason to click through to your website
Realistically, the first time a potential customer comes across your website could be when it appears in response to a search in Google or another major search engine. In just seconds, the searcher will decide which link to click. In most cases, people look to organic listings first (i.e. not the paid ads at the top or down the right hand side of the SERPs) but they will want to see whether the words they searched for are visible because they’ll be trying to determine whether they’re about to visit a relevant site.
As we can see from the image above, the SEO title is the top line of text in each listing, i.e. the link that visitors click on to visit a site found in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It tells people what the page is about; every page of your website should have a unique title of approximately 50-60 characters (512 pixels wide). Google used to show up to 70 characters but SEO titles of this length are often cut short now.
If at all possible, try to have your focus keyword at the beginning of your SEO title, with the name of your company at the end. (Google does, however, sometimes change your title tag and will often put your company name first, as in our case above.) Below is an example of a good SEO title format:
Focus keyword | Secondary keyword | Company name
Alternatively, you could experiment with writing your SEO title as a short call to action that features your focus keyword. If you take this approach, write with your target customer in mind and think about a specific benefit or hook the page has to offer. You might say something like:
Dining in Devon? Eat, drink & stay at The Crown pub, Paignton
The meta description is the 156-character text underneath the SEO title and web address; this is your opportunity to describe what visitors can expect to find on each page of your website. Again, every meta description should be unique and accurately reflect the content of the page.
The meta description has the role of enticing people to your website, showing them why your site is relevant and acting as a call to action that makes them want to click through for more information.
Although meta descriptions are not used as a ranking signal, try to include your focus keyword as it will show up in bold in SERPs if it reflects the search term the searcher has used, and the eye tracks towards bold text as it stands out on-screen.
Have a strong heading (H1 tag)
Your main headings potentially represent the most powerful piece of real estate on each web page. From an SEO viewpoint, search engines look to the main heading with its H1 tag as one of the main ranking factors, the assumption being that the main heading is likely to communicate what the page itself is about.
For visitors to your website, copywriting studies would suggest that eight out of ten people read a headline but only two out of ten read the rest of the copy. Your headline could be your one and only opportunity to grab attention and keep people reading. Incorporating your focus keyword in your heading will help show visitors that they’re in the right place, but also think about how you can capture interest by creating intrigue, making a promise or even tapping into a worry that you can solve.
A huge number of websites waste this opportunity by having ‘Welcome to…’ as their H1 heading. Yes, it’s warm and inviting but it doesn’t tell visitors or search engines anything about what to expect from the site. It also states the obvious – after all, aren’t all visitors welcome?
Incorporate your focus keywords in your subheadings
Subheadings work well on web pages because they break up the copy and draw the eye down the page. A good idea is to encapsulate the key points from the page in your subheadings. That way, even if people don’t read the full article, they’ll get some understanding of what it’s about.
From an SEO viewpoint, featuring your keyword – or a variation of it – in at least one of your subheadings will help to show the search engines that the focus of the page continues throughout the copy.
Using keywords in your copy
If you’re writing with your customers in mind, you’ll find that your keywords and other words associated with the topic will occur naturally. Thankfully, the days of keyword densities are over so don’t feel you have to go through liberally sprinkling keywords!
That being said, it is a good idea to make sure that your focus keyword or phrase appears as near to the beginning of your opening sentence or paragraph as possible, if it makes sense to the article. Sometimes that won’t feel like the right thing to do – for example, if you’re writing a blog post that tells a story and you want to gradually lead up to the focus on the article. It is worth bearing in mind that with blog posts, like newspaper articles, it’s a good idea to open with a paragraph that explains the gist of the article, in case people decide not to read the whole thing.
Use bullet points and bold text to draw the eye
As we mentioned in the first of our keyword series articles – How to use keywords and why they still matter to SEO – people read on-screen copy differently to reading print. For a start, we read more slowly but the eye tends to track across and down the page in the shape of a capital E or F, i.e. across the headline and first paragraph, down the left hand side, across the middle, down the left hand side again and then, sometimes, across the bottom.
You’ve probably noticed that many blog articles featured bullet pointed lists. This is because they naturally capture attention because they’re in a different format to the rest of the page. The same goes for copy in bold.
Think about how you can incorporate your keyword or phrase into your bullet point list or into important parts of the copy highlighted in bold or a different font.
Because it is much harder to read copy when it’s on-screen, website visitors tend to look to images to give them important clues about the content. This is why carefully chosen images that help you tell your story or showcase your products and services are essential to an appealing website.
The alt tags behind images are used by search engines as a ranking signal, so, if possible, try to incorporate your focus keyword or phrase in at least one image on the page. Some businesses try to play the algorithms by stuffing their alt tags full of keywords but this is a black hat tactic that you should avoid.
Again, alt tags are there – not for search engines – but to enhance the experience of people who are using screen readers or are visually impaired; a list of keywords doesn’t make for a good reading experience but a concise and descriptive alt tag with your focus keyword can help to show the ongoing relevance of the on-page content to visitors.
Always have a call to action
If you’ve managed to capture the attention of a visitor to your website and they’ve read through a specific page, they’ll really appreciate if you add a call to action telling them what to do next. This might be filling in a booking form, signing up to your free download or newsletter, calling you to make an appointment or clicking ‘buy’ on one of your products.
As we tend to look for calls to action on the screen – usually because their design sets them apart or they run across the bottom of the page in that capital E shape we discussed above – it’s sensible to include your focus keyword in the call to action text.
Without a call to action, people will simply navigate away from your website in search of someone who does give them a clear next step.
Add your focus keyword to the URL
If you’re writing a blog about a specific topic, then it’s a good idea to incorporate the focus keyword into the URL for that article. We covered meaningful and descriptive URLs in our recent blog – Have you got the basics of your on-page SEO covered?
Avoid ‘thin’ content
People often ask how much copy they should have on each web page. There are no hard and fast rules, the answering being, “As much copy as you need to make your point”. Research would suggest that longer blog posts of approximately 1,600 words (like this one) get more engagement.
It would also appear that websites made entirely of ‘thin’ content, i.e. fewer than 300 words per page, are hard for search engines to index because there simply aren’t enough clues on the page to decipher what it’s about.
So, over to you… Does your website feature focus keywords in the places mentioned above? If it does, have you noticed a difference to your traffic? I’d love to hear more about your experiences so please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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