How do you use keywords in blogs?
I was recently asked, "How do I determine which keywords to use?", so I wanted to write a blog about that. As I started writing this, the topic started to grow so this blog now covers:
The difference between short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords
How to identify the keyword you want to rank for so you can write for that
How to choose the right keyword for your topic of choice
How to use keywords in blogs
Copywriting for the internet is a delicate balance between getting your point across, writing well for people, and being found by search engines (Search Engine Optimization).
My basic philosophy on SEO is that search engines want people to be able to get the answers they want, so you should write for people. Online, search engines are the gatekeepers to the people so you might as well understand how they work and what they’re looking for. However, search engines are tricky and constantly evolving so there’s no point in focusing on the latest SEO “hack” because in six months Google will probably move the goalposts again and might even blacklist the exact hack you used to get to the top (like cloaking or keyword stuffing).
All that being said, the internet still mainly searches things through words, so the words you use matter. Blog content is a great way to attract people to your website because you can really explore one topic and show you're an expert in it. Search engines like blogs because they tend to be in-depth answers to specific questions. And you can use keywords to encourage Google to rank you higher in searches for that topic.
First, what is a keyword? Yoast has a good definition:
“A keyword, or a focus keyword as some call it, is a word that describes the content on your page or post best. It’s the search term that you want to rank for with a certain page. So when people search for that keyword or phrase in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.”
An example keyword or keyword phrase for this blog would be "keywords in blogs", which I have used six times in this blog, including in the title. That's because if people are looking to find out how to use keywords in blogs, I hope they'll find their answers here. And then I hope they'll move on to other areas of my website, and maybe they'll sign up for my newsletter. You want to use blogs as a way to draw someone in and hopefully, encourage them to stick around. Ironically the word "keyword" is actually going to be the most frequently used word here (approx 55 times), but I probably will never rank for that and it's unfortunate, but in a blog like this, there isn't really a synonym!
Short-tail keywords vs long-tail keywords
You might have heard of these terms, but basically:
Short-tail keywords are 1-2 words, e.g. Indian restaurant
Long-tail keywords are more words, e.g. Indian restaurant in South Denver
Short-tail keywords are searched for more frequently (by everyone, everywhere), but long-tail keywords are more targeted. If you’re an Indian restaurant in South Denver you probably don’t care that people in Chicago are interested in Indian food, but you’ll really care about the people in South Denver. You can use long-tail and short-tail keywords to complement one another.
So, when choosing your keywords, it’s a balance between choosing popular keywords that are searched for, and finding the ones that are most relevant to you. Also, the more popular a keyword is, the more competition there will be out there and the harder it will be to rank for it. Here is where really knowing your audience is critical so you can help them cut through the noise.
There are a couple of different ways to approach using keywords in a blog context.
1. Identify the keyword you want to rank for and write for that
If you write a lot of blogs, finding the right keywords and basing your content theme on that can be a helpful approach to ensure your content is varied, but also help you rank highly in Google for the terms you want to be found for. Keyword research can help you refine your blog strategy at the beginning.
Here are some ways to get the keyword juices flowing:
Find out what questions your audience is asking. Answerthepublic is useful to identify what questions your audience is asking about a certain subject. If you enter a generic subject – like “hiking boots” it will come up with a whole range of questions people are asking about hiking boots online. Maybe one of them is a question you are perfectly placed to answer.
Use Google autocomplete. Start typing something in the search engine box and often it will suggest different search terms
Search for the topic you want in Google and see what the results are, particularly the question boxes lower down the page. Those Snippets are a great way of getting inspiration for blog titles – search engines love questions since nowadays with voice search on the rise, people are increasingly searching in full sentences, rather than individual keywords.
2. Write on a topic that is important to your audience and make sure you’re choosing the right keywords
If you already know what your audience wants to know about, and you have a strong idea for a blog, then you can use keywords as due diligence to give your blog the best chance for ranking highly.
Keyword research: Tools to choose the right keyword
I like to use Google Trends to choose between different ways of referring to things. It gives you a sense of what people are actually searching for online. It’s good writing to use synonyms and different ways of referring to things, but if you have a keyword, you might want to use that way a bit more frequently.
Here’s an example:
These are two very similar terms but as one is so much more popular than the other, why not take advantage and use that one more frequently?
If you want to get granular about your keyword research and look at the volume of searches vs competition for that term, there are lots of (free) tools out there:
o If you have a Google Ads account, Google Keywords Planner is good
So how do I use keywords in blogs?
Use keyword research to choose one (max 2) keywords that you want to shape your blog around. Any more and it will dilute the content and confuse the search engines. You can use one main short-tail keyword (e.g. Indian restaurant) and then some complementary long-tail keywords to cover off more bases (e.g. Indian restaurant in South Denver, top Indian restaurant in Denver, best indian restaurant in Denver for tandoori chicken)
Write your title and headings with search engines in mind. Hopefully, your keyword is your subject matter so it probably makes sense to include it in your title anyway.
Make sure that your keyword is in the blog often enough to make an impact – 4-5 times.
Ensure your keywords are spread out evenly and naturally within the copy.
Use your keywords in alt text for images in blogs, and the bits around your blog like the snippets that will appear on search engines. HubSpot has a good article on all the boxes to check to Search Engine Optimize blog content.
DO NOT KEYWORD STUFF.
Search engines want your content to stay relevant so there’s no point in adding high-ranking keywords that have nothing to do with your topic, just to push the blog up the page in Google.
Also do not use your keywords too frequently in your blog, otherwise, it will make for a bad reading experience (i.e. it will be annoying to read), which search engines hate even more.
Keywords in blogs are helpful for SEO but don’t overthink them. They are a tool to help you ensure that what you write matches what people are looking for, but at the end of the day, the content needs to actually answer the question people are asking – that is by far the most important thing. If your blog doesn’t have a strong point and isn’t well-written and edited, it doesn’t matter how much traffic you drive to it, it won’t help your business.
If you don’t know what questions your audience is asking, then you don’t know your audience well enough. Audience personas can be helpful to make you think through who exactly your audience is and coincidentally, here’s a quick guide on creating an audience persona I wrote earlier!
Good luck with your blog writing and if you ever need support in that area, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When writing a website page. it’s a similar approach, but that’s worth a blog post of its own so that will be a future endeavor. Also, on your website, keywords are helpful to improve your SEO when it comes to images and videos. Coming soon!