Once you’ve done your keyword research and decided which keywords and key phrases you want to target, how can you use them to optimise your content and stand out from the competition?
Keyword mapping and keyword clusters
Step one in any content optimisation process is keyword mapping. This simply means deciding which page you want to rank for each of your chosen keywords.
You’ll probably find that there’s a lot of overlap in the keywords you want to target. In this case, it’s a good idea to group keywords and key phrases into “keyword clusters”, and assign each cluster to a particular page.
For example, if you’re writing about “breastfeeding”, in addition to that primary keyword, you might also want to target “how to breastfeed”, “breastfeeding for beginners”, “breastfeeding baby” and similar keywords. Then you can choose which page you want to rank for keywords within the “breastfeeding” cluster.
Using keywords to optimise content
Once you’ve decided which keyword or cluster of keywords you want a page to rank for, avoid the temptation to simply include them as many times as you can on the page. This is known as “keyword stuffing”, and it usually leads to a bad experience for users, with the result that your page won’t rank well in the long-term.
Instead, try to use the keyword(s) where it is most natural to do so in your copy. That said, there are some places where keywords have more impact than others. Where possible, aim to include your keyword(s) in the following places:
- Title tag / h1 heading: the main heading of your page. If you have a large keyword cluster, choose your most important keyword, or the phrase which contains the most keywords from your cluster, for the title. If the title is long, try to include the primary keyword as close to the start as possible.
- Body copy: ideally, use your main keyword or key phrase once in the first paragraph, and any keyword from the cluster where it feels natural in the flow of the copy.
- h2 to h6 headings / bold text: using a keyword in these formats gives it slightly more weight than using in body copy. Avoid using the primary keyword in every heading; instead, use headings as an opportunity to target other keywords from the same cluster.
- Meta description: this is a behind-the-scenes element that determines the text that appears below the page in SERPs. It does not affect ranking, but if the main keyword is included, it will appear bold on SERPs, encouraging users to click through.
- Alt text for images: alt text is designed to describe any images on the page. However, keyword(s) should only be included here if it is possible to do so whilst still describing the image.
As with all aspects of modern SEO, the key is to always have your end user in mind when adding keywords to your copy. As Google algorithms become increasingly sophisticated, expertly-crafted content that really gives users what they want is likely to rank well, with or without that extra mention of the keyword.
Read the previous instalment in our SEO series: How to do keyword research for SEO in 2019.
Check out our SEO series from the beginning: Google snippets: what you need to know.
Polly Logan-Banks is a Thrive editor and our resident SEO expert. Any questions? Get in touch!