Optimization of Keywords in Content

One of the most important on-page ranking factors is simply using the keywords within the body text of the page. This is an interestingly challenging and debated topic among novice SEOs, who always seem to lean in the direction of excess.

In general if you’re writing a genuinely good and useful article/product description/category description almost all of your optimization will just happen. If, on the other hand, you’re just trying to hit an arbitrary word count and filling with fluff, odds are that you have already failed.

Keyword in Content Optimization Best Practices:

  • Use your keywords multiple times on the page, including in the first paragraph
  • The entire page should be all about the topic of your keywords
  • Do not keyword stuff by inserting your keyword excessively to the point where it reads
  • Your page text should be useful to readers. Fluff is surprisingly detectable by computer algorithms
  • There is no magical keyword density number
  • In addition to your primary keyword, use variants, synonyms, and related words

The most important factor when writing the content of a page is to make it well-written, unique text (not copied from elsewhere) that is going to be genuinely useful to the reader.

Keywords Need to Live in Useful Content

When I’m reviewing sites for optimization, there’s an interesting dichotomy at work: it’s incredibly easy to optimize text written by skilled copywriters who know what they’re talking about. At most I just tweak a couple word choices to make sure the primary keywords are used a few times. But it’s incredibly difficult to optimize copy that was written by an unskilled SEO. The text is all fluff written by someone who clearly has done no more research than reading a Wikipedia article.

Google is increasingly good and understanding semantics. It knows what kinds of words are related to each other, and sometimes even in what context they are. For example, Google knows that a page discussing grilling is very likely to also mention burgers or brats. It expects to see this signals, these related words, and their presence is a minor signal of authenticity.

Google is not great at identifying pointless keyword stuffed fluff — not with certainty. But it is good at suspecting what is pointless keyword stuffed fluff and downgrading that ranking signal just to be safe.

Sure, crappy fluff articles still rank in Google from time to time, but they require a ton of authority to make up for the garbage on the page.

Even if you put aside concerns about Google dropping your rankings for writing garbage, quality writing will increase the number of possible keywords that you can rank for. In our grilling example, if you were talking about the best grill recipes and talked at length about the spices and meats and dishes, you would have the ability to rank for all those searches where someone looks for “grill recipe for pork/ribs/kids/spicy/cumin/etc.”

Remember what we discussed about head terms vs long tail on page: your head terms that you’re optimizing for are only around 25% of the potential search traffic you could get.

Of course just having quality and useful content that includes your keyword isn’t going to help much if you only have two sentences on your page. But that brings us to the next topic: word count.

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