- Content relevance and quality are better ranking factors than technical SEO. However, the best content marketing strategies combine good writing with good SEO.
- Keyword research and monitoring tools help marketers find the most relevant and natural keywords for content.
- The key to successful keyword use is using them where they matter.
- Write for readers first, algorithms second.
If you’re a content writer looking to boost your SEO skills, you’re in the right place. Content marketing depends on the combination of skills that don’t always necessarily complement one another: good writing and good tech. We’re here to tell you that the two can live in perfect harmony, with the right knowledge and tools.
The good news for content writers? Research shows that content relevance is a better ranking factor than word count, keyword density, or descriptions, titles, or headings. That means writers can rest assured that their strength – writing – should help content rise to the top when it really matters.
However, a combination of good writing and good SEO practices will help your content soar better than either one on its own. So how do you bring the two together? The best place to start is with keywords.
Where do keywords come from?
The simple answer is that keywords should reflect actual queries your target audience is likely to type into Google. For example, if your company sells sustainable sneakers, you may benefit from writing a blog post that uses the keyword “best sustainable sneakers” throughout the content – because chances are, you want to come up in the SERPs when a potential customer types that phrase into the search bar.
In that way, good keywords come from a conscientious writing process that takes your target audience and current trends into account.
But how do marketers make sure they’re keeping a finger on the pulse of user behavior? It’s not always enough to use common sense and imagination. This is where data and keyword research tools come in.
Keyword research and monitoring tools help marketers utilize big data to find relevant keywords for content and monitor their rankings once the keyword strategy has been implemented. Marketers analyze keywords along the following metrics:
- Relevance – How closely does the search term match the subject of the content, and how likely is your target audience to search for that term?
- Search volume – Are people actually searching for this keyword? If not, the content isn’t likely to be found.
- Difficulty – How competitive is the keyword? In other words, how difficult is it to actually rank for that keyword?
- Competitor analysis – What search terms are your competitors ranking for, and how can you rank for those same words?
We’ve written before about how keyword tools like SEM Rush can help marketers optimize content with real-time data about how users are actually using certain search queries. A good strategy will ideally implement 1-5 keywords that are relevant to the content, specific enough to map to your content in a search, and able to fit naturally into the content without distracting the reader.
It’s a marketer’s job to check these boxes, and your job as a content writer to make sure keywords are used to their full advantage.
How to use keywords: tips for content writers
You probably love your job as a content writer. Chances are, you’re pretty good at it, too. If that’s the case, we’re sure you’ve felt the frustration of finishing up a great draft, only to realize you forgot to include those pesky keywords. You might wonder, Won’t the good content speak for itself?
Fortunately, evidence shows that well-written content does consistently perform well in search rankings. Keywords aside, Google tends to favor content that is relevant, authoritative, and well-structured.
However, used correctly, keywords can only help your content, giving it the final push it needs to shoot to the top of the SERPs. So if you’re a veteran writer in need of a crash course in keywords, we’ve got the tips you need below.
- Use keywords wisely (location, location, location!)
The general rule of thumb is that keywords should be spread evenly throughout the content in order to alert Google’s algorithms. However, there are a few hot spots where keywords will get a bigger bang for their buck:
- Page titles and title tags
- Internal links
- Image alt descriptions
- Meta descriptions and tags
- Headings (there is some debate about this one)
- Early in the content, ideally the first couple of sentences
- Don’t keyword stuff…
This is an outdated tactic that readers can smell a mile away – plus, it makes the writing much less fun. Prioritize good, relevant, informative writing first. Then make sure keywords are only used where they sound natural and uplift the content.
Don’t worry if you’re not always using an exact match phrase, either – Google is pretty good about picking up slight variations of the same keyword phrase.
As a general rule, primary keywords should be used 3-5 times per piece, whereas secondary keywords should be used 1-2 times.
- …Or spread yourself too thin
You shouldn’t need more than 1-2 primary keywords and 2-3 secondary keywords per piece of content. More than that, and you risk diluting the strength of your keywords or sounding too mechanical.
- Remember formatting
Readable formatting like H1 and H2 titles, numbers, and bullet points don’t just make content more digestible for users – they also help your content communicate with Google. Don’t forget to include keywords in these hot spots!
- Write for readers first
At the end of the day, your content should demonstrate real, authoritative value, provide genuine information, and resonate with your target audience authentically. If you write primarily for algorithms, on the other hand, your content will seem inauthentic and obvious to any reader.
Content writers should trust their writerly instincts and let the content inform the keyword usage, not the other way around.
Got questions about content development or SEO? Don’t hesitate to ask the dedicated pros at Redefine Marketing Group.