This article is a complete guide on how to actually use keywords for search engine optimization. A keyword list is crucial to have for an effective SEO strategy, but most people don’t know what to do with their keywords. This guide will tell you how to use keywords for your SEO.
Table of Contents
Article Summary: How to Use Keywords for SEO
Use keywords for identifying what humans need. Write and create your content for humans. Then you’ll be set up for SEO success.
Organize your keyword list to make it more actionable and get better SEO results.
Create page-level content templates (guides for organizing groups of keywords into topics).
Getting Started with Keyword Research
Before using keywords, you need to actually perform keyword research. Keyword research is going to mean a lot of different things to you, depending on your experience. Even if you have a great keyword research tool, it’s not easy to do it well. Keyword research is the foundation of an effective SEO strategy. If you don’t do keyword research well, you’ll miss out on opportunities to attract the right people to your website.
Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms or search queries that people are entering into a search engine.
Using an SEO tool like SEMRush, you can start to build a list of keywords.
Below is a screenshot of SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool. We’ve entered the term “keywords.”
As you can see, the keyword, “keywords” brings up a lot of potential ideas for relevant keywords.
In fact, there are 138,202 variations of the way people search that includes the word “keyword.”
We have this tool set to “Broad Match” which means it will include ideas for keywords that broadly match the word or phrase we enter in the search box.
This starts to give us ideas for what people are searching for in relation to “keywords”.
Start your keyword research process by entering a word or several words that describe what you believe your target audience searches for. Add them to your list. Go through this process, using a keyword research tool.
How to Choose Keywords for SEO
Use a keyword research tool to get ideas for how your customer searches.
Look at what keywords your competitors show up for and add those to your list.
Analyze the results in the search engines to get more ideas for keywords.
Begin gaining empathy for your customer and create a buyer’s journey.
How Many Keywords Should Be Used for SEO?
The number of keywords in your list could be anywhere between 10 – 500+ It greatly depends on a number of factors, including:
The number of different products and services you offer.
How much educational content you’ll need to help your customer.
What the demand for your product/service is in the marketplace.
Using Keywords on Your Website
Considering the use of keywords on your site isn’t something you should do after you create a piece of content like a landing page or blog post. Trying to add keywords to a page or article after it has been written more often than not sounds unnatural and often results in keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of adding keywords to a webpage with the intention of manipulating search results.
It’s crucial to do keyword research before you’ve developed webpages that you intend to rank in search engines. Write and create your content for humans. Use keywords for identifying what humans need. Then you’ll be set up for SEO success.
Write and create your content for humans. Use keywords for identifying what humans need. Then you’ll be set up for SEO success.
Once you’ve put together a large list of keywords you’ll need to actually do something with them.
How Do I Use Keywords On My Website?
Use your keywords to guide what content you create.
Keywords are indicators of a searcher’s need. Your goal with keywords is to do your best to fulfill the searcher’s need with great content.
Write content that is comprehensive, accurate, and truthful on your topic. Break up the content of your page into subtopics so it’s easier for the reader to navigate through your piece of content and find exactly what they are looking for. Include keywords in heading titles throughout your page to help the searcher and the search engine understand the content on the page.
Your on-page SEO shouldn’t just include the use of specific keywords in written copy, however. Where appropriate, to describe images, be sure to add alt tags or “alt text” to your images, for example. Other ways to optimize for on-page keyword optimization include:
Writing strong meta titles and meta descriptions that include your keyword.
Including anchor texts on your pages or posts for easy navigation on the page.
Adding links from your page to other related resources and topics both on your site (internal) and to other sites (external).
Adding other forms of content like images, videos, documents, etc.
Keywords and Intentions
It’s important to keep in mind that every single keyword is a human that is looking for something. They are trying to solve a problem. The goal of the search engine is to fulfill the intention and the need of the searcher. Because that is the case, your goal with keywords should be to accomplish the same task.
Do the absolute best of providing the searcher what they need or could possibly be interested in (considering the fact that not all keywords reveal clear intentions).
The problem is that it can be difficult to understand what it is the human needs based upon the keywords you find. This is especially true if your keywords don’t include many words or are “fat head keywords.”
Fat Head vs Long-Tail Keywords
A fat head keyword contains very few words. Long-tail keywords contain several words. Fat head keywords tend to have higher search volume, but they tend to not offer enough insight into what the searcher is actually looking for. This also means that fat head keywords are less likely to convert (take your desired on-page action).
Long-tail keywords on the other hand make it easier to understand the user’s intent and tend to come with higher conversion rates, although the keyword volume may be lower.
Take a look at the image below from SEMRush. This visualization provides a great example of long-tail keywords.
The great thing about focusing your keyword research and content strategy on optimizing for long-tail keywords is that over time you’ll likely start to dominate the larger topic.
For example, a website that thoroughly covers the topic of tomato plants is more likely to rank for the word “tomato plant” because search engines understand that there is a lot that someone could be looking for when they search “tomato plant”.
Just look at the image below. According to SEMRush, there are 41,392 variations of the way that people include the words “tomato” and “plant” in a search query.
The search engines don’t know exactly what the searcher wants when they search “tomato plant.” The search engine then does its best to recommend a site that covers the topic comprehensively.
The easiest way to cover your topic is by focusing on fulfilling intentions for the long-tail keywords. If you do a great job of that, over time, you’ll begin to have topic dominance where you can rank for the fat head keywords.
Since there are so many keyword variations on any given topic (i.e. tomato plants) and those keywords are all topics and subtopics of each other, it’s incredibly important to organize both your keywords and eventually your website’s content.
It’s Google’s Mission Statement to “…organize the world’s information…” Your website’s content needs to be well-organized as well. Once you have a large keyword list, you need to organize the keywords into topics with consideration for the searcher’s intention.
You’ll likely have a list of keywords that are both low-funnel (people ready to take an action, like a purchase) and high-funnel (people self-educating and researching). What you’ll want to do is begin to organize your comprehensive keyword list.
Below is a screenshot of a Google Sheet, which is an export of our keyword list from SEMRush:
This list contains over 900 keywords on the topic of SEO. This list helps us figure out where we should go next in creating content that is beneficial to our company. Everything we do from a long-term SEO strategy starts with a large list like this.
After creating this list we’ll start organizing the keywords into topics:
Organizing keywords into topics helps us determine what pages we’ll need on our website and where they should be organized. This also provides a panoramic view of how our ideal customer searches.
Once we’ve organized this keyword list we can begin executing an evidence-based SEO strategy. Page by page, we can create content templates, which are page-level frameworks or instructions for knowing exactly what content to include on any page or blog post you publish on your website. The intention behind content templates is to create a guide to ranking for a group of keywords (a topic).
While the execution and output are going to look different from business to business, this is how to use keywords for SEO.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which keywords are the best to target in SEO?
The best keywords to target are long-tail keywords (usually 4+ words) because they tend to have a lower difficulty. Long-tail keywords are great for targeting because the searcher’s intention is often more clear, making useful content creation easier.
What is the easiest way to find keywords?
The easiest way to find keywords is by using a keyword research tool such as;
You can also audit your competitors to see what keywords they rank for.
How do I find local keywords?
Using a tool like SEMRush, you can filter your keyword list by those that show the local pack (the three businesses shown in a map on Google’s search engine results pages or “SERPs”.
It helps to have a really comprehensive keyword list first to best understand your target audience and how they search and then filter that list by SERP features like the local pack in order to identify local keywords.