SEO is essential to get your content noticed in search engines. But if you’re still trying to figure how to include specific keywords in your content, you need to know that SEO is more about targeting your message to the audience you want to reach.
SEO today is based on one overall guideline: create good content your customers and readers want to read.
SEO Rules: Write Naturally and Use Keywords Sparingly
You already know keyword stuffing is a fast track to penalties from the search engines. They understand content has to be readable to make their users happy.
Rule One for SEO is write naturally.
Google, which is by far the world leader in search, doesn’t really care about keywords so much. It doesn’t limit itself to what’s typed in the search box. It looks for words that are similar this as well. In fact, if you scroll to the bottom of a search engine page results (or SERP), you’ll see Google offers up synonyms and similar search phrases to try if results aren’t quite what the user hoped for.
Skilled writers naturally sprinkle their content with lots of synonyms and jargon (with definitions attached) they know their audiences will recognize. They will use examples to illustrate what they’re talking about. The more familiar they are with a topic, the better they can do this. So even if they use a keyword only once or twice, Google will appreciate their authoritative tone and rank them higher than a piece that repeats a keyword more often.
In fact, using keywords too much will probably result in a penalty. Google hates keyword stuffing. Keep in mind its algorithm rankings articles for things like readability, usefulness, authoritativeness, and so on. Keyword stuffing undermines all off this.
Keyword density tools are useful for writers working to un-learn the keyword obsession many of us were instructed to labor under for so many years. Use them and eventually you’ll be able to write naturally, again.
How to Dress Your SEO
Remember the show What Not to Wear? It showed how to transform a cringe-worthy wardrobe into a more flattering and natural one.
The same thing has happened to SEO. Google looked at high-ranking content and found a lot of outdated and poorly-written articles. Some were ranking simply because they were blanketing the web (spam) and linking to sites that had no relevance (also spam and a black hat practice).
So Google told its web spam team, headed by Matt Cutts (in the role of Stacy and Clinton) to work on updates that cut down on spam and black hat and other tricks webmasters were playing to get higher placement in SERPs without doing the hard work of researching and writing solid content.
What’s considered optimized content?
- Well-written pieces by someone who obviously knows what s/he’s talking about
- Original research or approach
- Some bulk; most blogs should be at least 500 words, and many experts recommend more
- Proper use of grammar and no spelling errors
Here are a few practices I highly recommend:
- Create your own Google snippets with plug-in tools like Yoast, which goes beyond SEO.
- Use social media appropriate for your business and take time to learn best practices.
- Link your work to sources you like.
Know Your Audience’s Devices
Google now ranks content separately for desktop (this includes laptops) and mobile (tablets and smartphones).
Take a look at your website statistics to see how your audience follows you. You can install plugins for WordPress and other software that track user visits. If you have a Gmail account, use Google’s free website tracking service. It provides a lot of detail about your website visitors.
More people than ever before are searching the web from mobile devices, including the majority of people shopping for consumer goods and services. This trend is also seen in the B2B world. This makes is even more important to revisit your content to make sure it works for smaller screens.