Many websites rely on search engines to attract visitors. But in order to get visitors via search engines, you need to rank high enough to get noticed. For every search, only about 5% of visitors will venture beyond the first page. Therefore, by not getting in those top rankings, you could be getting ignored by 95% of search engine users.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a marketing strategy that involves using a variety of tactics to help boost a website’s rankings. Perhaps the most important and well-known tactic is using keywords. By using the right keywords in the right places (the right amount of times), you can boost your website’s rankings every time someone uses a relevant search term.
This guide delves more into exactly how to use keywords to boost your rankings by offering 12 golden tips.
Use research tools to work out which keywords your competitors are (and aren’t) using
Choosing the right keywords is the first important step. To do this, you need to look at which keywords your competitors are using. It’s possible to take away traffic from competitors by targeting the same keywords as them, but this is not easy to do. A better tactic is to focus on relevant popular keywords that your competitors aren’t using much.
How do you find these keywords? By using keyword research tools such as WordStream, BuzzSumo, Semrush, Ahrefs or SpyFu. Such tools allow you to see which search queries other websites are ranking highly for, as well as how popular a search term is. By entering various relevant search queries and looking at how various competitors rank, you may be able to identify keywords that aren’t being as heavily targeted. These could be the keywords you need to focus on to climb to the top of the rankings.
Put the most important keyword in the headline
When trying to boost the rankings of a specific webpage, one of the most important places to locate a keyword is in the headline. The keywords used in heading tags play a major part in your rankings – so this is where you want to be putting your most important keyword (AKA the ‘primary keyword’).
For example, if you’re writing a blog post on hair extensions and you want to target the keyphrase ‘different types of hair extensions’, you may want to choose a title like ‘10 different types of hair extensions’ or ‘What are some of the different types of hair extensions?’.
Use subheadings to target other important keywords
Subheadings that also use heading tags should also be considered when integrating important keywords. You could repeat your primary keyword in these subheadings or target other keywords.
An example would be if you’re a dental practice website targeting the keyword ‘gold fillings’ in a blog post. If the blog post title is ‘do dentists still use gold fillings?’, you could use subheadings such as ‘why don’t some dentists use gold fillings?’ or ‘what are the advantages of gold fillings?’. Alternatively, you could avoid the ‘gold fillings’ keyword altogether and focus on other keywords like ‘amalgam fillings’ or ‘gold crowns’.
Don’t use the same keyword more than once per 200 words
While using a keyword repeatedly throughout a page can have a positive impact on that page’s rankings, you should avoid resorting to ‘keyword stuffing’. Using a keyword too many times in a single post could actually harm your rankings for that keyword – especially if its placement doesn’t feel organic.
For this reason, SEO experts agree that it’s best to not use the same keyword more than once per 200 words unless it’s unavoidable due to the subject matter.
Incorporate keywords naturally into text
It’s important that the text on your pages flows naturally. Using a keyword too many times will affect readability and search engine algorithms will pick up on this. It’s also important that sentences make grammatical sense. This is something that algorithms will also pick up on, plus poor grammar is likely to affect reader trust.
This is most likely to happen when forcing awkward keyphrases into sentences like ‘barber top rated’. In these cases, it’s often better to focus on related keywords that make grammatical sense like ‘barber is top rated’ or ‘top rated barber’ – search engines will still take these related keywords into account when ranking your site for ‘barber top rated’.
Target both long-tail and short-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords are typically broad and basic search terms like ‘restaurant’, ‘dog toys’ and ‘electrician’. It’s much harder to rank highly for these search terms because there are so many sites targeting these keywords, however it’s still important to integrate these into content as their usage typically feels more natural. Occasionally, you may be able target rarer short-tail keywords like ‘teppanyaki’, ‘squeakies’ and ‘fuseboard repair’, but these are typically very niche.
Many websites neglect long-tail keywords, however they are often the types of keywords that are most likely to get you higher rankings. They include things like ‘Japanese restaurant in London’, ‘dog toys that squeak’ and ‘commercial level 3 electrician’. The longer and more niche, the more likely you are to reach that number one spot. Much fewer people will search for these terms of course, but in the instance that someone does, they’re more likely to click on your site.
Create different pages to target different keywords
Instead of trying to target lots of different keywords on a single page, it can often be more beneficial to create different pages to target specific keywords (and maybe a couple other secondary keywords). For example, if you own a cleaning business, it could be worth creating separate pages for different types of cleaning or different locations so that you can focus on more niche keywords like ‘office deep cleaning’ or ‘cleaning in Liverpool’.
Some websites take this to the extreme in a process known as programmatic SEO. This includes creating hundreds or even thousands of different pages in order to individually target hundreds and thousands of niche keywords and keyphrases. By being able to create pages that focus around those niche keywords and keyphrases, you can more easily rank highly for such search terms.
Use relevant keywords in image file names
Didn’t think images had anything to do with SEO? Think again. Image SEO is an important part of boosting rankings – and keywords can play a part here too. Before uploading an image to your website, think carefully about what file name you save it as. Using a primary keyword within your file name can help to boost the rankings of your page for that keyword. It can have a particularly strong impact on your rankings for Google Images or Bing Images – which is something important to consider with infographics or visual products like posters that are more likely to be searched for via image search.
For example, if you sell a poster of Picasso’s Guernica, it could be a good idea to save the image of the poster as something like ‘Guernica_poster.jpeg’ or ‘Picasso_Guernica_poster.jpeg’.
Consider your anchor text when creating hyperlinks
Hyperlinks play a major part in SEO too. When creating a hyperlink to a specific page, the text you use for the hyperlink (the ‘anchor text’) can affect the rankings of that page whenever someone uses that anchor text as a search term.
An example could be a page on how to make banana waffles. Creating a hyperlink to that page and using the anchor text ‘how to make banana waffles’ could potentially increase that page’s rankings for the search term ‘how to make banana waffles’.
Jump on trending relevant keywords
If a topic is trending and it is relevant to your website, don’t be afraid to get in on the trend by creating pages containing relevant keywords. While it can sometimes take a while for page rankings to be affected, pages related to trending topics can often receive a quicker boost.
Many companies took advantage of this during the pandemic by targeting Covid-19 related keywords. Similarly, many companies have done it with sports events and political events. Just make sure that these trending keywords are relevant to the topic of the page and that this topic is overall relevant to your site.
Know when to use seasonal keywords
Just as keywords can relate to trends, they can also relate to seasonal topics. There could be search terms related to your business that are more likely to be searched in the summer, just as there could be others that are more likely to be searched in the winter. You can target these search terms by creating content with relevant keywords early.
For example, if you own a hiking store, you may want to target keywords like ‘summer hiking gear’ and ‘hiking sandals’ in the summer, while focusing on keywords like ‘winter hiking gear’ and ‘winter hiking jacket’ in the winter.
Moderate comments to prevent toxic keywords
Did you know that comments left on a page can sometimes affect that page’s rankings for certain search terms? The comments are still interpreted as content, which means that terms used by commenters could affect your rankings.
This is why it can be worth moderating comments so that you don’t end up ranking high for less pleasant keywords or so that your rankings don’t end up being negatively affected for things like irrelevant spam comments or misspellings in comments.