You may have heard that while the keyword meta tag used to be super effective and highly regarded, nowadays pretty much all search engines don’t even give the keyword meta tag another thought! A lot of websites, even some top authority sites don’t even bother to use the meta keywords tag anymore for this exact reason.
But why did it come to this? Why has the keyword meta tag lost its luster?
Because of keyword abuse (also known as keyword spam). Website owners were stuffing keywords into this meta tag like crazy, sometimes even repeating the same ones over and over, thinking that it would make the page more relevant for that specific keyword.
Many sites even stuffed keywords into the web page keyword meta tag that didn’t have anything to do with the actual page content. It got out of control and soon the keyword meta tag was no longer a viable way to assess what a web page or blog post was really about.
Using Keywords Today
A lot of experts will tell you, “Don’t bother the keyword meta tag,” and while that’s true, most people hear, “Don’t bother with keywords.”
As you can see, there is a problem with the communication and understanding of keyword strategy. So, in this post, I am going to break it down for you and hopefully remove any confusion.
1. The Keyword meta tag doesn’t hold any weight
Search engines no longer take the keyword meta tag into account when scanning and indexing your site. It does not count toward your search engine rankings, and should not be considered a viable search engine optimization tool.
But, just because the actual HTML keyword tag doesn’t help your website’s organic rankings, that doesn’t mean you should just ignore keywords all together!
2. Defining Keywords Is Still Important
Today, search engines and people want the same thing — highly focused, valuable, helpful, relevant, quality content — and writing your content around one target keyword helps achieve that.
Without a focus, you risk scattered or rambling thoughts, unfocused and meandering paths, and content that is all over the place — content that isn’t very helpful. So…
- To build an authority site, you need to research and create a core list of keywords and key phrases your website will focus on and target as a whole
- When creating new content — like blog posts — you must define the primary focus keyword or key phrase for content.
- Keep pages and posts focused on one single keywords and it’s variations. If the content gets too wide or diverse, the page will lose some of its power.
- If you don’t have time to research your core keywords thoroughly and/or don’t have the budget to hire an expert to do it for you, make a list of the core topics your website/blog will focus on and brainstorm all the main keywords and key phrases for those topics. Next, make sure you create pages and posts targeting those words. (Then once you have time/budget, invest in doing the serious research and get a data-driven set of keywords.)
3. Keyword Variety And Context Matter
Taking the time to define the focus keyword for each web page or blog post will help ensure your content stays focused and on topic. But that alone is not enough.
Your focus keyword or key phrase should be used in different ways and in different contexts throughout the content.
You want to avoid using the exact same keyword or key phrases over and over or too many times in your content. It’s seriously painful to read a single paragraph, let alone and entire page, of content that repeats the same word(s) over and over again!
Instead shake it up a bit and use variations, such as changing the grouping or order of words in the key phrase, using it in singular and plural formats, and using in different styles of sentence structures.
Tip: Think of all the different ways you would use the keyword if you were speaking naturally about it. You’d probably use it in different ways, and you would refer to they word at “it” or “them” etc. sometimes too. The same principles apply when writing — make it sounds natural and not forced.
How to Use Keywords In Content
Once you have defined your keyword, you want to make sure you use it:
- In the URL for the page (whenever possible, easier for blog posts)
- In your page title (HTML title tag) and toward the beginning if possible
- In your page description (HTML meta description)
- In your main page headline (h1) and if possible in at least one sub headline (h2, h3, h4)
- In your page or post content, with it bolded at least once
- In an optimized link, so the keyword appears in the link anchor text and the link title (if appropriate) — great for helping search engines and people access more relevant content on your site
- In an on-topic, optimized image, so the keyword appears in the name of the image and the image alternate (alt) text (as long as it is appropriate for the image)
Using your focus keyword in the places listed above is great if it naturally works well. But be careful! Don’t overdo it! If your keyword doesn’t work well in your headline or it doesn’t sound natural in one of the places listed above, don’t force it and stuff it in there anyway — that’s spammy!
Why WordPress SEO Helps With Keyword Usage
I know you’re probably pressed for time when publishing new blog posts or working on your website — after all, most of us have business to run, families to care for, and clients to serve. That’s why we love the plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast. If you add your focus keyword, it will check all the core areas you need to use your focus keyword and tell you where it’s missing!
Here is a screenshot showing an example post that is missing the keyword in the main headline. Notice how the red “NO” shows where my keyword is missing.
Here is a screenshot showing an example post that has the focus keyword used in all the recommended places and is good-to-go.
What Not To Do When Using Keywords:
- Don’t use the exact same keyword or key phrase over and over
- Don’t believe that “the more it shows up in your content, the better the SEO results will be”
- Don’t put paragraphs of content in your footer that are nothing more than a big list of keywords — it’s so obvious you’re spamming!
- Don’t use the title tag and meta description tag as another place to list your keywords
- Don’t forget to define a focus keyword for your pages and posts, and use it in the places listed above
Remember: Stuffing keywords and key phrases into your content in every single possible spot makes your content not only painful to read, but it is also painfully obvious to your visitors that you wrote the content for the search engines and not for them — and no one likes to feel like second best.
How To Tell If Your Content Is Spammy
If you have optimized your content, but are not sure your keyword usage sounds natural, simply read your content out loud and pay attention to how it feels reading the content, and listen for any weirdness.
- You’ll quickly be able to see where your content doesn’t feel natural, or where you stumble because it doesn’t easily roll off the tip of your tongue
- You’ll notice where you use a specific word too many times
- You’ll find places in the content that could benefit from some editing and finessing
Now What About You?
Do you use and love WordPress SEO too? Do you use other tools — like Copyblogger’s Scribe — to help you maximize your keyword usage? Do you have any keyword research tools you like and recommend?
We’d love to hear your feedback, suggestions, tools, — and even your questions in the comments below.
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