How to Use SEO Keywords

by Dan Blacharski

Creating an attractive, compelling, and useful blog or website calls for outstanding writing, easy navigability, and an attractive "look and feel." But remember that in addition to writing for your target audience, you are also writing for an inanimate computer program called a search engine. There is a lot of outdated SEO advice floating around that can harm more than help, including advice on packing content full of keywords to achieve a certain density level, hiding irrelevant but popular keywords in your text or HTML code, and using automatic article spinners to generate multiple variations of the same SEO article. Google is always one step ahead. None of those tactics work any longer.

Ultimately, search engine optimization is based on Google's search algorithm, which is kept private. As a result, all we have are best guesses as to what works, and no computer program, artificial article generator, or tricky tactic will beat the system. Instead of trying to game the algorithm, the best approach is to respect its true intentions -- and that is to direct readers to well written and relevant content.

Keyword Rich Articles are Yesterday's Strategy

SEO strategies still often rely on finding a keyword and generating hundreds of variants of it, and struggling to include each variant into a short article. This has usually led to bad writing, as authors have paid more attention to packing keywords into articles than writing well. Keywords are still important, but since Google's 2013 Hummingbird update, semantic search has become more relevant than keyword search, and the Google algorithm is basing queries on user intent rather than specific keywords or key phrases. The new semantic search approach, along with natural spoken interfaces that are now common with mobile devices, has resulted in a major shift in SEO that focuses more on more specific key phrases, rather than key words, as well as a hype-rlocal focus.

Hyperlocal Search is the Next Trend

Google Hummingbird made searches semantic, and the 2014 Pigeon update added a focus on localized search. This trend continues as more users rely on mobile devices. Today's SEO strategy has to take locale in mind, making sure to update local geographic information so that it matches with other third-party local directories and includes specific mention of city and neighborhood. The algorithm now favors localized results, and even national brands are building localized language into their marketing content.

There Is No Turnkey SEO Machine

SEO is not a mechanical process. It is an ongoing, creative marketing function. The popular misconception is that there are tools available and high-priced experts out there who will alter your HTML code and install a magic SEO machine on your website. Plugins, programs, and text generators will always miss the boat. What's more important is being able to write outstanding content with the user's search in mind, and understanding the new processes of organic, natural language search. Keep in mind that Web users now expect to be able to ask natural language questions. Rather than using strict boolean search constructs and one or two keywords ("Pizza, New York"), they will instead use a search phrase like "Where can I find a good New York style pizza close to my home?" Supplement that good writing with a periodic SEO analysis, and review of currently trending subjects, and let that guide the writing without forcing awkward sentence structure.

The Long Tail Keyword is King

Optimizing your website with a high-ranking, generic keyword will do little to generate traffic. A generic keyword such as "tablet computer" will simply have too much competition for you to have a shot at getting into the first page of search engine results. Instead, the so-called "long tail" strategy works best -- and that is to focus on longer key phrases, written in natural speech, which will be used to guide users to specific and often localized information. Of course, there is a place for the shorter keywords in each page's metadata, although Google now puts more emphasis on actual, visible content than those invisible indicators. Your Web page that includes the word "tablet computer" may come in on page 25 of the search engine results, but you'll have a better chance of getting to page one if you optimize on something more specific, like "How do I fix my tablet computer," or "tablet computer won't boot," or "adding games to a tablet computer." Search engine optimization has changed significantly over the last few years, and SEO experts have to think less like a machine, and more like a human. And that's the key to good writing.

About the Author

Dan Blacharski is CEO of Ugly Dog Media, a full-service marketing and PR firm focusing on emerging technology and disruptive trends. A "dotcom boom" veteran and graduate of University of California, he is at the forefront of the next wave of innovation that is driven by new cloud enabling tech.

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