The subject of keywords is always a complicated one, even for seasoned marketing professionals. Determining what keywords a site should try to rank for and how to rank for them isn’t a two-step event — it’s an ongoing process that tends to get overwhelming if you don’t have an outlined plan of attack. Add this to the fact that clients don’t always have a complete understanding of keywords and how they function, and keywords can start to be the bane of a marketer’s existence. Below are steps to building a healthy relationship with keywords in your website marketing.

Identifying target keywords

The first step to optimizing a site to affect keyword rankings is determining what your target keywords are. Of course, the keywords you rank for will go a long way in determining who finds your site and what they do there.

This means a site needs to rank for keywords that help with the website’s overall goals. If site goals are sales, you need to focus on keywords used by people looking to make purchases. These often include words like “cost” “price,” “deals,” etc. If the site’s goals are newsletter signups or other information dissemination, then you want to target keywords people who are looking for information will use. Informational searches will often include using top-level words, without many clarifiers, unless they’re looking for exact info. You can optimize for these visitors by defining industry terms and generally writing top-of-the-funnel content that is understandable by a wide audience.

You’ll also want to see what your competitors are ranking for and see if any of those terms will also be useful for you (if they’re truly competitors, there will definitely be some overlap).

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Audience research and competitor research are just two of the first steps in building a keyword research seed list, which is where you’ll want to start in your keyword journey. A lot of research goes into determining what keywords a site needs to rank for in order to reach its goals and which of those keywords are actually possible to rank for.

When you’re analyzing keywords, you’ll want to make sure you’re asking the right questions. This will allow you to build an ongoing strategy that you can come back to regularly. You’ll also want to build conversion goals and other measurements of success so that every time you revisit your keywords, you’ll be able to analyze whether you’re seeing improvement and determine whether your strategy needs to change.

Natural keyword placement

Once keywords are identified, clients often like to go gung-ho in making sure their keywords are used as much as possible. Of course, industry professionals know that when it comes to keywords, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

In onsite content, keyword density used to be a big deal. Website owners and marketers tried to find the perfect percentage of keyword occurrence to get search engines to see your website favorably. Of course, this type of “gaming the system” led to keyword density quickly being phased out as an isolated factor for rankings. Copywriters will be much better served creating content that is relevant and makes sense to readers, rather than just shoving in keywords to meet an arbitrary number.

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For backlinks to your site, you, of course, want the surrounding text to be relevant to your niche and include your keywords if possible. Having exact match anchor text can be useful, but again, you don’t want to go overboard. If all your links have the same anchor text, that looks suspicious. You want your anchor text to let potential customers know what to expect when they click on it. You’ll want to use a combination of exact match and long-tail keywords. Search engines also pay attention to the words surrounding a link, most particularly headers and other important text on the page. By optimizing the surrounding content to your keywords, you can avoid stressing about specific anchor text.

Of course, convincing clients that not every link needs exact match keywords can be difficult. It will help to remind them that search engines strive to provide the best information for users, so positive user experience is the main priority. Keywords should be utilized to provide information to visitors — not simply to rank higher in search engines.

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to keywords is overthinking things. As mentioned above, there is a lot of research to be done, but you can also go too far the other way. If you’re spending copious amounts of time on ongoing keyword research and analytics, then it’s likely that your keyword research needs a diet.

What are your go-to strategies when it comes to building a healthy relationship with keywords? Share in the comments!



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