Keywords – are they the key to search engine ranking?
Keywords are no longer the weapon they used to be. In fact, your old-school keyword strategy could be harming your search engine rankings, and that could be harming your business. Instead, you should be using LSI keywords, and resisting the temptation to ‘keyword stuff’ your content. But this doesn’t mean keywords are dead.
In this article, you’ll learn the basics of keyword strategy in the new world of intelligent search engines.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is a single word or phrase that web surfers use to find information relevant to them. For example, ‘keyword’ and ‘what is a keyword’ and ‘what is keyword density’ are all keywords. If you type these into Google now, you’ll find that they extract different numbers of results (approximately 571 million, 86 million, and 660,000 results respectively).
What is a longtail keyword?
You may have heard the term ‘longtail keyword’. This is simply a longer keyword – a phrase – that targets an audience with more focus.
- For example, if you are considering buying a new car, you might search for ‘cars’. This would extract 1.6 billion search results.
- If you live in New Jersey, you may use a longtail keyword to search – let’s say, ‘new cars for sale in NJ’. 6.6 million search results.
- If you want to buy a Ford in New Jersey, you might key in ‘new Ford cars for sale in NJ’. 2.5 million search results.
- You may key in ‘new Ford diesel cars for sale in NJ’. 2.2 million search results.
- How about ‘new Ford diesel minivans for sale in NJ’? 1.1 million results.
You will notice that as you drill down, more highly-targeted longtail keywords elicit fewer search results. This is an important concept for a business to understand about inbound marketing:
- Longtail keywords target audiences further down the sales funnel (in the example above, someone searching for ‘new Ford diesel minivans for sale in NJ’ has already decided what type of vehicle they want to buy, what make they want, and where they want to buy.
- In addition, with less competition targeting the keyword, a business is more likely to be positioned on page one of search engines, and more easily found.
- Combining these two factors, using suitable longtail keywords may produce fewer website hits, but a better conversion rate and higher-quality leads.
So, what are LSI keywords, and where do they fit in?
LSI is the acronym of ‘latent semantic indexing’, and it is becoming increasingly important in online content production. Why? Because they help intelligent search engines to:
- Identify that your content is relevant
- Help it reach a wider audience searching for the same content using other keywords than your main keyword
- Help your content rank higher in search engines
LSI keywords are simply keywords and terms that are closely related to your main keyword. For example, if your main keyword is ‘how to fly a plane’, LSI keywords may include terms such as ‘how to fly aeroplane in the sky’; ‘how to take off a plane’; ‘learn how to fly a plane’, etc.
Where can you find LSI keywords?
When you enter a keyword in your Google search bar, at the bottom of the screen you will find search terms related to your keyword. This is the easiest way to find LSI keywords.
How to use keywords and LSI keywords
It used to be that search engines scanned content for the existence of keywords. The more repetitions of a keyword, the higher that page ranked in search engines. The issue with this is that content producers began focusing on the keyword rather than producing quality and relevant content.
Thankfully, search engines today place much reduced emphasis on the main keyword. Instead, they look for interesting and relevant content that will capture and engage audiences. Content that is stuffed with keywords is now penalized by search engines. Relevance, interest, and flow are the important factors that search engines now look for to rank web pages.
This doesn’t mean that keywords have become irrelevant and not used by search engines when ranking web pages. But it does mean that your content must be smarter, and keywords and LSI keywords used intelligently.
What is the ideal keyword density?
The ideal keyword density is a moving target. Internet search engines are constantly updating how they measure keywords, and how they affect a page’s search ranking. It is difficult to say what the optimum keyword density is, other than to say it appears sites with more than 2% to 3% keyword density suffer in ranking. Oh, and it is where and how you use keywords that matters most. For example, you should consider using keywords in:
- Meta descriptions
- Domain name and sub-domain names, and URLs
Just to add to the confusion, search engines also look for derivations of keywords – so your keyword doesn’t have to be used exactly to be considered relevant to its search algorithms.
How to calculate keyword density
Keyword density is the number of times a keyword appears in an article expressed as a percentage.
Given all the factors that Google and other search engines now use to rank pages and websites for keywords, it can be difficult to calculate keyword density accurately. Hence, it is best to use an online keyword density checker. However, a manual calculation can give a good idea as to your keyword density. To do so, follow this equation:
Keyword density =
(Number of times the keyword is used/ (total words – (number of times the keyword is repeated x (number of words in keyword – 1))) x 100
Should you make keyword density a priority?
Some say that keywords have little relevance today. Our experience is that search engines are becoming far more sophisticated and more intelligent. While it is important to include a keyword strategy, it is imperative that you compose content that is relevant, thoughtful, interesting, and engaging. And don’t forget to include all the other factors of ranking on your website – at the last count, Google had around 200 of them.
Keywords: how do you merge seamlessly into your content? Let us know in the comments.
Do you need help to produce keyword optimized content that boosts your website’s search engine ranking? Get in touch: