What is Keyword Optimization?
Keyword optimization is the process of optimizing a webpage for targeted keywords. Done right, it can actually increase the relevance of a web page to a specific search query.
The Role of Semantic Search
The Google search engine is powered by semantic search. Semantic search uses the RankBrain algorithm to understand the searcher’s intent and the meaning of the query rather than parsing through keywords used in the search query.
However, for some search queries, Google still relies on keywords in their ranking algorithms to establish relevance to a search query.
Prior to semantic search, if you wanted to target a particular keyword or phrase such as “health benefits of spinach”, you would add that exact phrase to the page title and meta tags, URL, image tags, heading tags, web copy and exact match anchor text of inbound links.
With semantic search, Google now looks at the topic or theme of a webpage to establish relevance to a search query, rather than the number of times a particular keyword is used on a web page. In fact, according to an Ahrefs study where they studied the top 10 ranking pages for 2 million random search queries, the research found that almost 75% of pages that rank in Google’s top 10 don’t have a single mention of an exact match keyword that they rank for in their content.
This means that the Google search engine is smart enough to know what keywords are perfectly relevant to what the user is searching for, without having to rely on keywords.
For example, if a user performs the search “who is the president of Nigeria” Google doesn’t search for keywords that are optimized for the keyword: who is the president of Nigeria. Instead, it understands the question and delivers the answer right in the search results:
Furthermore, if you perform a Google search, you’ll notice that the title tags of many top ranking sites do not even contain the actual keywords used in a search query. Repeating keywords or phrases multiple times in a webpage to establish relevance to a keyword is a fast track to the over-optimization penalty.
Semantic Keyword Research
Today, ranking for a particular keyword means you’ll need to identify the niche keywords that will be naturally expected to appear in an article about that topic. These include LSI keywords, which are close variants, synonyms and other niche keywords that occur naturally in an article about the keyword’s theme or topic. When you include all of these keywords, you help Google understand exactly what your webpage is about.
For example, if you’re writing an article about the health benefits of spinach, you will need to identify the most important core set of keywords that would be necessary to deliver a theme-focused article on the health benefits of spinach.
Once you have identified the niche vocabulary required to deliver an authoritative article, you can then write your content and optimize your webpage naturally around those themed keywords.
To help you navigate with ease, we’ve created a handy table of contents that you can use to jump directly to a specific topic.
Keyword Optimization Techniques
Before you begin keyword optimization, it important to perform LSI keyword research.
When performing keyword research for your on-page optimization, choose a single theme or topic to focus on and make that topic clear by using relevant keywords, some keyword-stemmed variations of those keywords (e.g., eat, eater, eating), LSI keywords and also synonyms (chewing, consuming, etc.) in a way that reads naturally throughout the text.
Tip: You need to select a specific keyword phrase around which you will be building your entire website. It is your headline phrase, and it is the main topic around which your entire website will be based. It will be the main title of your site, appearing at the top of the home page.
Every other web page on your site needs to be related to this headline phrase so all of the articles and ideally, other pieces of content need to be relevant (on-topic) and related to the headline phrase. If it is at all possible, this headline phrase should be a highly searched phrase with low competition.
- Keyword Stemming
- Keywords Styling
- Keywords in the Filename
- Keywords in the URL
- Keywords in the Page Title
- Keywords in the Meta Description
- Keywords in the Image Tag
- Keywords in the Heading Tags
1. Keyword Stemming
Keyword stemming is a very powerful technique and one of the most effective ways to avoid over-optimizing your webpages. It is actually a very simple technique of generating several new words from another related keyword using suffixes and prefixes.
Keyword stemming is a very effective and legitimate technique that you can use to avoid keyword stuffing and repetitions that might get your website penalized by the Penguin algorithm. If you try to include all the keyword stems, you can definitely secure quick rankings for specific keywords and gradually secure the rankings for even generic keywords.
Generating Multiple Keywords from a Single Keyword
Keyword stemming allows you to generate multiple words from a single keyword. For example, if you’ve chosen “book a meal” as the main keyword for your restaurant site, then the stemmed keywords for that phrase might be as follows:
- Adding modifiers – Booking meals, booking a meal, book a new meal, book a different meal, booked meals
- Making it plural – Book meals, booked meals
- Adding Prefix and Suffix – pre-book meals, re-book meals, re-booked meals, re-booking meals, pre-booking meals, pre-booked meals,
- Adding new words to either side of the keywords – I would like to book a flight as soon as possible, I have booked a meal already, we booked our meals yesterday, the process of booking a meal, etc.
Suddenly, one keyword becomes many, which means you have many more opportunities to use that base keyword. The idea of stemming becomes very useful when you find you’re having trouble using your desired keyword or phrase often enough on a web page without sounding too repetitive or making the tone of the page unreadable.
To employ keyword stemming, make a list of synonyms, plurals and variations of your important keywords and key phrases. Form readable sentences with your keywords and key phrases, adding words to either side of the keywords.
2. Keyword Styling
Keyword styling simply refers to the old school art of placing of a certain type of emphasis on specific keywords by changing its appearance to either bold, underlined, or italicized.
The guidelines on styling specific keywords include having it appear in bold at least once, in italicized font at least once, and in underlined font at least once (wrapped in < u > </ u > tags) for every 500 words of content.
3. Using Keywords in Filenames
The way in which you name your files matters because a search engine views the filename as an indication of what’s in it, so this is another good place to strategically optimize for relevant keywords. For example, rather than naming the image 00367301.jpg, use a descriptive filename such as navy-mercedes-2012.jpg
This type of naming convention will make it easier for you to identify the file when constructing your pages. The image may also show up for relevant searches on Google and Bing image search.
4. Keywords in the URL
Strategically placing keywords in the directories and subdirectories can effectively get your important keywords into the URL. This can be a very useful tactic because it will demonstrate the page content’s focus and provide context to the search engines as to what the page is about to search crawlers and users.
This could help increase CTR from the search results, because keywords that are contained in the search query and appear in the URL would be bolded in the search results.
Consider the following Example:
Assume you have a webpage that is dedicated to selling black suede shoes. An example of a URL that uses keywords prominently is: www.shoes.com/black-suede-shoes. The URL is short, descriptive and matches the keywords that are being targeted on the page. Using hyphens make it easier for the search engines to separate the words.
5. Keywords in the Page Title
Use your most relevant, target keywords prominently in the title tag. The tag appears at the top of your browser on every webpage of your website. In addition, the search engines will show your page titles on the SERPs in the clickable part of the link, so it is important to always make them concise and relevant so that potential visitors will be drawn to them.
Bear in mind that over-optimizing the title tag by using too many keywords could make your site susceptible to the over-optimization penalty. The content of your page title needs to be a readable sentence with no more than 7 words or 55-60 characters, and should include your most important keywords within a descriptive phrase.
Consider the following title tag:
.<Title>Flowers London; Flower delivery London; Flowers delivered to order; Send Flowers Now – loveflowers.com.uk</Title>
In this title tag, the word “flowers” which is the main keyword (or money word), has been repeated in the title four times. The page would be penalized by Google and will never rank in its current form.
Contrast with this title tag:
.<Title>Florists, London; Flowers delivered to order – loveflowers.com.uk</Title>
In this example, the most important keywords are included towards the beginning of the tag. More importantly, the main keywords are not repeated, and it reads very well.
Search engines ignore hyphens and most punctuations including commas, periods and exclamation marks in title tags, so you can use this to your advantage.
6. Keywords in the Meta Description
Although the Meta description tag is not a factor in directly influencing search ranking, it may have a big influence on the searcher who views it. This is why it is important to create a unique, interesting and compelling description that includes some of the niche vocabulary of the topic you’re optimizing for.
7. Keywords in the Image Tag
It is important to optimize the alt tag by using descriptive text that reads naturally, and visitors find useful and meaningful. This is especially important if images are part of your navigation. In this case, you’ll add the same text as you would if using anchor text.
Alt tags are used by the search engines and by visually impaired users to understand the content of the image. Just like the title and description tags, this tag needs to be unique across your site. You cannot have two different images with the same alt text, even where the images are similar. Care should be taken so that they are not over-optimized.
8. Keywords in the Heading Tags
HTML heading tags are used to define headings for your page copy. The H1 tag is the most important tag on the page. It defines the page’s main topic, while the other H# tags create subtopics.
The search engines look at the content of your heading tags for clues about the contents of the paragraphs directly below the headings. This is why it is important to include important keywords inside heading tags.
The H1 tag should provide a clear indication of what the content of the webpage is about in much the same way that a major newspaper headline does. The tag should be clear, descriptive and unambiguous. It should also be directly relevant to the overall topic of the page.