Anatomy of the Keyword and How it Works in Your Content

Updated: February 20, 2024

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how keyword works in content

Most people who deal with online content at all know something about keywords. They might know that they need them or have a vague idea of how to use them, sprinkling them throughout their blog posts or articles. The truth is, though, they usually don’t know how to fully optimize keywords to do the job they were meant to do so they aren’t realizing the full potential of just how powerful a keyword can be.

This post aims to change that.

Long tail keywords and head terms: Find a balance.

Before you can put keywords to work, you first need to know how they are classified.

  • Head terms – Usually one or two words that are more general (like “shoes”). Very high search volume and competition.
  • Body keywords (medium tail keywords) – Usually a phrase of two or three words that’s a little more specific (like “ladies shoes”). The search volume and competition are more mid-range.
  • Long tail keywords – Usually a phrase of four or more words that’s very specific (like “blue Reebok ladies walking shoes”). The search volume and competition are very low. This is what drives most web traffic.

The thing to remember here is, the longer the keyword, the fewer people will be searching for it – and the more specific the search is. However, when someone types in that term, fewer results will appear, giving your content a chance to rise to the top. It’s all about adding context to the search for better, more relevant results.

Understanding latent semantic indexing.

Latent semantic indexing (LSI) is the process that give context to search terms and ensures more relevant results for users. For instance, searching the term “Titanic” is broad. Additionally, more focused search terms, LSI, will help the search engine determine if you are looking for information about the movie or the historical ship.

You have probably already seen LSI employed when you begin typing a search term into Google and it lists possible terms to narrow the focus of your search so that it is more relevant. As you add context to your search by adding words, the options change in response and get more focused as the search engine anticipates what you want. So, when you construct your content, adding some LSI keywords can help.

Aim for high quality content with natural keyword placement.

There was a time when content creators would stuff as many keywords as possible into web content or blog posts, the result being content that was very low quality and offered little value. Those days are over. Search engines like Google are now drawn to high quality content and will penalize keyword stuffed pieces.

Search engines help people discover content. When you optimize your content with that in mind, the benefits trickle down to the users. If it’s easy for the search engines to find your site and content, it will be easier for users as well. This means you go for quality first, not keyword first, and weave your keywords naturally into your content. To be fair, Google hasn’t come right out and said this, but they’ve been very strongly insinuating it since about 2015.

FYI: Google is moving away from single keywords.

If your goal (as it should be) is to rank on the first or second page of Google’s search results, you aren’t likely going to get there by only using head terms. There is simply too much competition. There is nothing wrong with adding one, but it should be followed with a long tail keyword that provides more context – one that your users will use to find you.

Tips for choosing keywords that get the job done.

If you want to pick great performing keywords, you need to think outside the search engine box and start thinking like your user. What will they type in that box when they are looking for you or what you offer? Make a list of those terms and choose one or two that are the most used.

If you want to pick great performing keywords, you need to think outside the search engine box and start thinking like your user. Tweet This!

Start by brainstorming a few head terms (also called seed keywords) and use them begin building your keyword list. For instance, “ladies shoes” is a seed keyword, but it becomes a long tail keyword when you add “ladies walking shoes.” The modifier pulls in the focus, so the results are more targeted, and your traffic is more relevant.

Plug your keywords into a research tool like SEO Book or Wordstream’s Free Keyword Tool to see which of your keywords are getting searched the most. They also have a suite of keyword tools that is worth checking out as well.

Pick up more keyword intel in How Do I Know if I’m Targeting the Right Keywords?


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