I Have My Keywords … Now What?

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on May 1, 2007 19 Comments

Like many other search marketers, I spend a fair amount of time impressing on clients the need for keyword research. But when that process is done, I’m often asked, “Now what?” We spend a lot of time stressing the need to locate the right keywords, but maybe not as much time on how to use them.

So, here’s a quick primer on the “perfect storm” of keyword usage inside a web site.

Let’s say you have a section/page on the web site with a collection of articles devoted to real estate advice –- helpful tips and information for people selling a house. You’ve decided the primary keyword for this page is “home selling tips.” That exact keyword should appear in the following six places:

  1. In the page title.
  2. In at least one, preferably more, text links pointing to the page; i.e., home selling tips >>
  3. In the URL of the page; i.e., http://www.yourdomain.com/home-selling-tips.html — note, however, that two dashes is what I’d consider to be the limit. If your keyword is 4-5 words, I wouldn’t recommend writing it out with dashes like this. I’d shorten it to 1-2 dashes at most to avoid having a spammy-looking URL.
  4. In the header tag of the page text; i.e., h1 = Home Selling Tips
  5. In the page text; i.e., “The following home selling tips will help make the experience of putting your home on the market more enjoyable, and should help you sell your house for the best price.”
  6. In the META description tag; i.e., META name=”description” content=”Home selling tips and advice from John Doe, a licensed real estate agent serving Spokane, Washington (WA). If you have questions about how to sell a home for the best price, this article will help… blah-blah.”

I’ve listed these in order of importance, so if something prevents you from placing the keyword in all six places, you can prioritize them as I have above. (Frankly, I expect I’ll get a comment or two saying this list risks the proverbial “over-optimization” penalty, and it would be better not to put the keyword in all six places. We’ll see.)

Now, how about a 3-part disclaimer?

1. Page titles need to be unique. So if there’s some reason why you must have more than one page targeting the same keyword, make sure your page titles aren’t the same. Ditto for meta tags.

2. Anchor text is also best when it varies from link to link. Don’t stuff the keyword into every link on your site that points to this page.

3. With the header tags (h1, h2, etc.) and the page text, always write naturally. Don’t stuff the keyword unnaturally. Use similar/related phrases and always write with humans in mind.

There you go. Six steps toward proper keyword usage. What would you add? What would you change?

Comments (19)

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  1. earlpearl says:

    Very clear Matt. Nice tips. Just caught this from Rebecca at seomoz. Need to get over here more often.

    Dave

  2. Miriam says:

    Picture perfect, Matt.
    The next step…getting those keywords used in the backlinks pointing to your website from outside sources:)
    Miriam

  3. Matt McGee says:

    Thx for the comments, earl and Miriam – glad you liked it. (And thx to Rebecca for the post/link, of course.)

  4. Mariusz says:

    It is good idea to put right keywords in alts, names of images.
    Very nice post.

  5. Vikram says:

    Great post Matt,

    any tips on how to select the right keywords out of the lot?

    Vikram

  6. Fonz says:

    Over-optimization is not an issue here as long as you keep it all readable. Maybe adding your content to an ´article submission website´ like Digg.

  7. Woody says:

    Hi Matt,
    All good stuff, much of which I have used and will continue to do so until G**gle changes its algorithm again.
    As an aside, we all know the benefits of article submission, what are your thoughts on press releases? Its not a strategy I’ve really tried before, but was thinking of giving it a go for a couple of new sites we’ve just launched.
    Thanks again for a great reference site.

  8. Callie says:

    Fantastic tips that I will definitely be putting to use!

  9. Amanda says:

    I just wanted to point out that you have 5 dashes in this website address although you recommend 1-2 at most. So it must not be that bad?? :-)

  10. Danielle says:

    Thanks for this article. I’m still a little fuzzy on the process, to be honest with you, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I am very new to blogging in the current blogosphere (I had one years ago, though) and SEO. I do believe I’ll get there, though, and articles – and blogs – like this one are very valuable. Thanks, again.

    Not sure if you could answer this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask – what if you want to capitalize on the misspelling of a keyword (or phrase) to nab that traffic, would you then have to actually use that misspelling in your title and content?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hi Danielle — yes, I suppose if you’re specifically looking to optimize for a misspelling you would need to use the misspelling. But all of the search engines are getting very good at correcting misspellings when people search. In many cases, Google will even ignore the fact that the searcher misspelled the search term and will show search results for the correctly spelled version.

  11. Joe says:

    Thanks for the post. I have a question regarding #5. If I’m optimizing on page copy, where should I try to place the keywords? Near the top? Does it matter?

    I have a page that I’m trying to optimize, logically it would seem that I place some of the copy near the top. I may not be able to do that. Can I put it near the bottom and still see the benefit?

  12. Gillani says:

    Dear Matt,
    I always spend a sufficient amount of time in keyword research and use the keywords exactly as you said in the post (6 places). I never got a number 1 position in google SERPs for any of my keywords ever.
    Perhaps the reason behind this failure is I do not concentrate on off-page optimization factors. Recently I have started writing articles to submit in article directories, moreover I also comment on blog posts to get a backlink. Is it sufficient or what else should I do with reference to “Off-Page” optimization?

  13. Cear M. says:

    Great info Matt, What about when the SEO you doing start working and you get busier and do not have enough time to do your own SEO. Can you recommend us a good tool to make the SEO process easier?? THANKS

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