Keyword placement: what you must do. Matthew Johnson - Head of Marketing by Matthew Johnson, Head of Marketing

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If you write and publish content with the goal of bringing in traffic from search engines from people who are searching for related content, then you know how important it is to optimise your content for keywords. 

However, a common mistake we see across the internet – from people right at the top of search results through to people in the graveyards of page 3 and beyond – is keyword placement. 

Specifically, keyword stuffing. 

This is what keyword stuffing looks like to Google.


This type of content looks stupid to users and to Google. 

Google is slowly but surely penalising pages that still use this outdated approach to ranking in search engines. 

The age of keyword stuffing is coming to a swift end. 

Why?

Simply because Google wants to serve its users with the best experience when searching for answers to their queries. 

Google wants content publishers to write solely with the user in mind. 

People need to stop trying to guess what the search engines want (because it’s practically impossible) and deliver what the users are looking for. 

Value.

If you read your content back aloud and you get sick of saying the same word or phrases over and over again, you’re probably over-optimising. 

So, where and when should you use your target keywords? 

In this article we’re going to walk you through the 6 most important places to insert keywords on your web pages. In summary, these are: 

  1. The URL 
  2. Title tag
  3. H1 tag
  4. Body text
  5. Meta description 
  6. Image Alt text 

The URL

The URL is a fundamental part of your keyword placement strategy. 

It helps the user and search engine crawlers understand what the page is about. 

Your URLs should be short and concise. 

Research has shown that shorter URLs tend to rank higher in search engines. 

Not only do the search algorithms appear to favour shorter URLs, but users find them more readable and trustworthy. 

With that said, if it doesn’t make sense to shorten your URL more than it is, don’t do it.

It still needs to be clear and descriptive. 

However, given the choice between the following URLs, you would want to choose the latter:

Top tip: If you are going to use this blog to go back and optimise your old posts, great. BUT don’t touch the URL. 

Even if it’s really rubbish.

Don’t touch the URL. ESPECIALLY if that page is already ranking well.

Don’t upset the Google overlord by tweaking something that’s already working. You could end up with regrettable redirects, poor page performance and confused crawlers. 

Just take it into consideration moving forward. 

Title tag

The title tag appears as the title of the page in search results and on the browser window. 

It is the most important place to insert your target keywords. 

However, there’s more to consider than you may be aware of. 

1. The most important keyword should appear at the beginning of the title tag. 

If it doesn’t make sense to begin the title with your keyword as it appears unnatural, don’t get too hung up on it. 

But there is usually a way around it. 

For example, if your target keyphrase is “black leather jacket”, which do you think is best?

  • Black leather jackets: shop our current collection
  • Shop our current collection of black leather jackets

Correct. The first option is the right way to go. 

2. Try to keep your title to 65-70 characters or less without inserting too many keywords or semantic phrases. Keep it short and sweet to attract users.

3. Ensure you don’t have duplicate title tags.

You don’t want the algorithm to penalise you because you have two pages with the same title. 

It’ll confuse the crawlers and could result in your most important page not being indexed. 

H1 tag

There’s long been confusion about heading tags; H1’s H2’s H3’s etc. 

The important thing to remember is to structure the content in the way that makes most sense. 

You CAN have multiple H1 tags if you have different sections that require an introduction or separation from the other sections. 

Under an H1, you would use an H2 to describe a subsection. Within the H2, you can have an H3 to describe a subsection within the subsection, and so on. 

But what you absolutely should NOT do, is place a keyword in every single heading tag. 

It is poor practice and it’s not used as a ranking factor by Google. 

All it’s going to do is create a tacky and unnatural reading experience for the user. 

Neither the user or your rankability will benefit from spamming keywords or semantic key phrases in your heading tags. 

Stop it immediately.

If you’ve told search engine crawlers and readers that your blog post is about banana bread in the title tag, the meta description, the body text, in image alt tags, and in your H1, THEY GET IT. 

You don’t need to use the same or a mix of similar keywords in your headings to tell Google or your readers what the content is about. 

Example of keyword stuffing

If your page headings look like this, go back and change it to something less insane: 

  1. Ingredients for making banana bread
  2. Recipe for making banana bread
  3. Baking your banana bread
  4. Serving your banana bread
  5. More tips on how to make banana bread
  6. Banana bread gallery

You’re going to give Google the ick. 

Plus search engine algorithms like Google’s are far more advanced and intuitive than this.

Body text

Using relevant keywords in the body text is kind of a no brainer. 

Plus, if the content is descriptive at all, they should appear naturally. 

However, it’s actually quite easy to forget. 

So, when you’ve finished your final draft – if you haven’t already – conduct your keyword research and pick 2-4 keywords to target and make sure they are naturally weaved into the body text. 

However – and this is really important – do not overdo it. 

Avoid keyword stuffing like the C-word virus. 

Google will eventually notice and simply prefer an alternative page from the internet which is optimised for the user and not for the volume of keywords. 

If you notice a web page ranking on page one of search results that clearly stuffs keywords in its body text, well,  it’s time is coming *cut throat gesture*. 

Meta description

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that summarise web pages. 

Example of SERP with meta description

Search engines use meta descriptions under the title of the page in search results to provide value to the user by briefly describing to the user what the page is about.

While meta descriptions don’t directly impact the rank of your webpage, they do influence click-through rates. 

It’s a way of advertising your content in SERPs. 

Google cuts the meta description short after 160 characters, so we suggest keeping yours descriptive but concise; between 50 and 160 characters. 

This is a great place to enter your target keywords. 

Describing the page in terms of the keyword(s) will help users understand what to expect and therefore improve CTR.

If the page is targeting 1-3 keywords, make sure the meta description is original and appeals to users searching for those terms. 

If the page has multiple target keywords – also known as targeting long-tail traffic – it might be wise to let the search engines create the meta descriptions themselves as they’ll pull together a description of the page using the phrases that the user has entered in their original search. 

Which brings me to my final point. 

Sometimes search engines will overrule the meta description you have written. 

It’s unpredictable as to when this can occur, but if Google thinks it can do a better job of describing the page, using content from that page, it will. 

Image file name & Alt text

Image file name.

How many times have you ended up on a website after clicking on an image in Google’s image search? 

When you upload new images to your site, you want them to be readable for search engines. 

Making sure your images have logical, readable names is an often overlooked component of best practice SEO.  

For example, using ‘skateboard.jpg’ is infinitely better than ‘img-00123.jpg’.

So make sure you take advantage of this simple tweak to beat your competition, who probably aren’t doing this as often as they should. 

Alt text. 

Image alt text often causes some confusion among content publishers. 

Simply speaking, alt text (aka alt attribute, alt description, alt tag) is a snippet of information that describes the content of an image. 

Originally alt text was used to help the visually impaired understand what images were displaying on webpages, thus improving their browsing experience. 

Since then alt text has become vital for informing search engine crawlers what an image is about.

This is because crawlers can’t read images like you or I. They don’t know what they are – or what the context is – unless you tell them.

By attaching an alt text to your image you are saying to search engines:

“This image is of a field with lots of daffodils in it” 

Without this text, the search engine wouldn’t have a clue what your image is of. Nor would the visually impaired. 

You should use keywords in the alt attribute sparingly. 

Imagine you are sitting next to someone who cannot see the webpage. If you read the alt text and it sounds bonkers to them, chances are you screwed it up. 

For example: “Daffodils in a field. Field of daffodils. Lots of daffodils. Daffodils in Spring” would sound mental to someone if you used that in normal conversation. 

So a good rule of thumb is to use text that accurately describes the image as if you were explaining it to someone with a visual impairment who is sitting right next to you. 

Conclusion.

If you were to take one thing away from this article, we would want it to be this: 

Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. 

With the right placement of your target keywords, you will ensure users and search engines have the best possible experience when landing on your web page. 

Play by Google’s rules and let the ranking algorithm work for you, not against you. 

Matthew Johnson - Head of Marketing by Matthew Johnson, Head of Marketing
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