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January 30, 2023 (Updated: March 8, 2023)
As marketing teams, keywords are the lifeblood of our SEO efforts. Keyword research is the foundation of entire campaigns, with even the most extensive content marketing schemes always stemming from a few core words. Despite how common dealing with keywords is, you’d be surprised at just how many marketing professionals don’t know where to start with keyword optimization.
To out-rank your competitors and continually move up the SERPs, you need to ensure your brand’s content is as effective as possible once your team publishes. In this guide, we’re diving into everything you need to know about SEO and keyword optimization.
Screenshot via Google Trends
Keyword optimization is the process of refining your keyword strategy over time. Based on evidence from your SEO tools and industry trends, you’ll adapt search terms to match what the general public is looking for. Think of it as an extension of keyword research—it’s an ongoing practice that helps you continue to rank well on the SERPs.
The Google algorithm is constantly shifting, as is user intent. Just take any search term and plug it into Google Trends, and you’ll see that keywords aren’t permanently popular and don’t always guarantee search volume.
Keyword optimization is vital because of these shifts over time. You might rank well for a search term one year, then have your content become irrelevant as the topic itself evolves over time. To ensure you keep up with these movements, you may have to change the keywords you focus on. While keyword optimization can be challenging to get started with, it’s well worth it for the longevity of your site.
Related reading: How To Do Keyword Research: An Introduction to SEO
Picture this. You’ve spent weeks developing the baseline goals for a new content marketing campaign. You’ve collected the keywords, done the research, written the content, and are now finally ranking on the first page of Google. Hooray! Arriving this far gives you a chance of landing in the top spots, and if your content hits spot number one, that’s a potential 39.8% of traffic click-throughs.
But your journey doesn’t end there. Even if you’ve made it to the first page, there is no guarantee that you’ll stay there, let alone rank number one. If you want to last as long as possible, you’re going to have to refine the keywords you focus on consistently over time. Certain keywords ebb and flow in popularity, while others seem to go viral before fading off completely.
Being aware of these movements and optimizing your content to them helps your content stand the test of time. In short, keyword optimization helps to strengthen your place in the SERPs by changing your content to match what your audience wants to read. The more often you optimize keywords for SEO, the better your content will perform. And if you’re targeting keywords with high competition, this optimization process is critical to your brand’s content marketing and SEO success.
At this point in the game, we’re all familiar with why SEO is important in content marketing. SEO does it all: boosts views, increases visibility, moves content up in SERPs, and brings in new audiences. You name it, search engine optimization is probably behind it. And keywords are important in SEO because they’re the foundation of what Google uses to index content.
Ever wondered how Google suggests the pages it does when you type something in? It’s because Google analyzes every page, breaking them down into keywords, and then suggesting results based on the most prominent keywords in the content. So if your content is relevant to a search term, it’ll appear when users type in that term. After you’ve finished the initial research, writing, and publishing efforts, that’s where optimization comes in. Regardless of a search term’s popularity, the edits you make to your content keep it fresh and attractive to Google.
Keyword optimization is also far from a blanket process. It can come in many forms. In its simplest form, you could just optimize keywords on a page, adding a sentence here and there with the keyword. At the most complex, you could be replacing the core keyword of an article in order to snag a rising keyword trend. Over time, these modifications keep your content as attractive as possible to Google.
Speaking of competitors, if you’re looking to get ahead, we can help. The CopyPress content marketing analysis tool provides a comprehensive overview of what the search landscape looks like, where your keyword gaps are, and how your brand’s content stacks up against the competition. The results? Better strategies and better rankings.
Read more about it: How To Do Basic Content Optimization for SEO
Keyword optimization for SEO is one of the most effective post-publishing strategies that you can use when running a content marketing campaign. Not only will this refine your content and help with ranking, but it can also point you toward new and better keywords to target. Unfortunately, not all keyword optimization is going to be easy.
While some may involve a few edits to a page here and there, other keywords might need to be completely stripped and changed. To set you on the right path, here’s a step-by-step guide for keyword optimization:
Nothing can stay evergreen forever, no matter how effective your past content campaigns are. With that in mind, the first step of any keyword optimization should be checking whether the phrase itself is still viable. So you’ll need to determine if there’s still monthly traffic engaging with this keyword. Now, don’t confuse your own traffic with all possible traffic here. Just because you’re may not be getting clicks doesn’t mean the keyword is dead.
Using SEO tools, like Ahrefs or SemRush, type in the main keyword of the page you’re analyzing and track how the traffic moves. As you can see in the photo below, the trend for “Metaverse game” has declined over the past year, apart from a few peak months. Still, it hasn’t fallen to zero and is currently steadily getting traffic. That means this is still a viable keyword to target.
Screenshot via Semrush
Another free tool that does the same thing is Google Trends. Typing in your keyword here reveals how the public interest in this search term changes over time. Take a look at the graphic below. Twelve months ago, the whole world was talking about NFTs, with the search term “NFT marketplace” being at an all-time high. A year ago, this term would have been fantastic to publish content on because of the continuous flow of traffic.
But fast forward to today, and this term is almost completely dead. So for content that targets “NFT marketplace” as the primary keyword, you’d want to change the content of the page to capture a new, rising keyword. That’s why it’s vital to conduct keyword gap analysis before keyword and content optimization.
If you spend an hour rewriting a page only to find that the keyword isn’t viable anymore, you’ve wasted an hour. This is also a wonderful way of identifying any keyword gaps that you may have developed over time. Once you know about them, it becomes easy to plug the holes. Once you’ve established that a keyword is still getting search traffic each month, you’re ready to move on to our second step.
Screenshot via Semrush
Related: How To Conduct Keyword Gap Analysis
Once you know if a keyword is still getting traffic, assess the search intent of that term. There are four search intents that Google uses to categorize traffic:
Each of these styles comes hand-in-hand with a range of content types and formats. For example, commercial traffic tends to have long listicles, like “Top 10,” or “Best 15 products.” Informational intent, on the other hand, might have how-to guides and tutorials. Knowing the search traffic of your chosen keyword is important because it’ll give you clues about the writing format you should be using.
If you’ve written a commercial-style article for an informational search term, you don’t have much chance of ranking. That’s why it’s important to double-check how a certain phrase has changed over time. A great example of this is with cities that are hosting world events. Let’s take Paris as an example, which hosts the Olympics in 2024. A few years ago, the search traffic for “Paris 2024” would have brought up travel guides, tips and tricks, and travel itineraries for the city. This is all informational traffic.
Now, if we type in “Paris 2024,” everything revolves around navigational traffic, with people wanting to find out more about the events from the organizers. Those travel pages capturing informational traffic a few years back now have no chance of ranking for this keyword. Changes like these are why it’s so vital to stay on top of the audience’s search intent for a keyword.
Screenshot via Google Search
Related: How To Do Advanced Content Optimization for SEO Like a Pro
At this point, you’ve found that your keyword still has good traffic and that your content still aligns with audience search intent. Congratulations! Your foresight and SEO planning have paid off, and you’re now in a great position. Now, you need to optimize the content on the page itself. Here’s a checklist to move through for on-page keyword optimization:
The title of your page is the first thing that Google will encounter when indexing your pages. You need to make sure that your title directly uses the keyword that you’ve chosen. Remember to balance SEO adjustments with human needs here. According to research by Ahrefs, Google rewrites title tags 57% of the time when they’re too long.
So, even if you focus on capturing attention, make sure to keep your title between 50 and 60 characters long. Otherwise, Google just may clip your title. Additionally, include a long-tail keyword that’s recently increased in popularity where it’s possible, and be sure your title tag and H1 page title match.
Your meta description details what you talk about in the content and will also include your target keyword. All meta descriptions should be anywhere between 100 and 155 characters long, but a range between 150 and 160 characters is the sweet spot. Again, by monitoring how keywords change over time, you’re able to add and change your meta description to fit with what’s currently popular. Even though this is only a small adjustment, it can make a big impact on your searchability.
Any well-written blog includes H2, H3, and even H4 heading tags to create organization and better flow. These split up your content, making it easier for readers to skim. Equally, it helps Google decipher what’s on your page using H2s as content markers. Monitoring keyword search volume can give you a good idea of what words you should include in your H2s besides your target phrase.
As keywords evolve, these are the perfect areas to fit in some new keywords or update older ones. Search engines also give priority to pages that cover topics in greater detail. Use your H2s to go in-depth on a topic, optimizing all your keywords for SEO.
Don’t make the mistake of just uploading an image without titling it and giving it ALT text. Just because it’s not written content doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Pay attention to your images and enact keyword optimization on them as you would with any other content piece. The file name of the image should reflect the content you’re including it in. For example, if you have an article about keyword optimization, then include this keyword in the images you insert.
ALT text aligns with the Web Consortium’s (W3C) recommendations about web accessibility. W3C produces guidelines for all websites that clearly state the specific accessibility changes they should include on their site. Over time, Google has increasingly started to pay attention to accessibility. Nowadays, ALT texts are vital to effective on-page SEO and reflect Google’s desire for web accessibility for everyone.
Screenshot via Neil Patel
Instead of trying to cram in more keywords on already-published content, take a step back. Forcing a new keyword style into an article looks like keyword stuffing and takes away from content readability. Instead, focus on adding new, deleting outdated, and updating the content of your articles. Not only does this help you provide new information to your audience, but you also have more opportunities for keyword optimization. Even if you’re not completely changing the keyword of an article, updating and adding new and relevant information only boosts content authority and value.
Updating your content every few months also ticks another one of Google’s ranking factors off, so this is a total win-win. Plus, Neil Patel has shown us that content with more words gets more backlinks, social shares, and traffic. So increasing the value of your content by adding new and updated info is one of the best ways to optimize for keywords and SEO.
No matter the niche, make sure you’re including both external and internal links. When writing an article, finding these links is fairly easy. But, when linking to another site, there’s no guarantee it’ll still be active in a few years. This makes it imperative to check for dead and broken links in your SEO and keyword optimization.
While tedious, dead links are a big red flag for Google. Replace any of these links with new data, or rewrite them to direct somewhere else. Equally, this is the perfect opportunity to undertake further internal linking. Coming back to the content you wrote a few months ago will mean that you now have tonnes of other articles published on your site that you could link to.
Keyword optimization is the cherry on top of a successful content marketing campaign. It’ll support your marketing efforts, boost content rankings, and ensure your strategy is as fresh as the first day you launched it. With SEO and keyword optimization your brand’s content stays relevant, up-to-date, and—most of all—continues to offer value to your audience.