As a freelance writer, I do a lot of work for blogs and websites, helping to add or update content. One of the key things that clients need, and rightfully so, are key words. Key words are an organic way to help ensure your site is found by search engines when users look for things. The idea is to incorporate the search terms that people most commonly use when searching for your product, service, or cause.
For example, if you are an author of paranormal romance books and have a blog about writing, you would want to include in your blog key words based on search terms readers would normally look for. I will admit to being bad about key word usage on my own site. I have plans to get them done. Really, I do.
Anyway, if you are a web master or a freelancer like myself with clients asking for key words, there are places you can get them. Now in my experience, most clients have the key word lists they need incorporated already. By the time they are turning to a writer to help with content, they have already gotten an SEO expert to look at their site. They themselves may be SEO experts working for clients or simply know the SEO keyword tools available.
For those rare instances, however, Google offers a couple of Key Word helps: Adwords Key Word Tool (which I personally use and fine it to be very user-friendly) and The Key Word Toolbox (which outside of finding it on a Google search to find tool alternatives, since not everyone uses Adwords, I do not have direct experience with).
Okay, so that covers key words.
What are my thoughts?
They are very useful, and I encourage using them if you want to help maximize directed traffic to your site. Directed traffic is when people find your site because they are looking for it. If you have a lawn care services site and someone is using key words to search for lawn care, you want your site to come up, and you want that person visiting your site. You do not necessarily want someone just looking for a push lawn mower, however, to visit. If you do not sell mowers, you are not going to get any benefit from their visit.
That being said, key words can be tricky to work with. Even with the tricks of breaking up key words with punctuation, they can sometimes be awkward. It can take some clever wordsmithing to make key words fit naturally into text. It is important to remember that not every key word may make it into a specific text, so when you offer your writer key words, rank them in the order of prominence. Any service that offers you key words should give you rankings on what is most commonly used.
Do not request too much density and repetition of key words. I once had to write an article with a requested density of something like every 50 words with lots of repetition. It took all of my talent, and several hours, to craft a 700 word article that incorporated the key words without sounding clunky or worse, like an advertisement.
Worse than that, though, search engines are getting wise to dense key word usage and repetition. What does that mean for you?
Remember the Meta-Tags?
Those who have been around the internet since the 90’s should remember Meta-Tags very well, at least if you were doing any coding. Meta-Tags were the way to ensure that a search engine found and indexed your site. That ensured your site showed up on searches.
Well, clever (ish) people decided that the best way to ensure that their site received optimum traffic was to put everything popular in their Meta-Tag line, whether the site itself was relevant to the user’s search or not. If you remember getting some of the most messed up search results when looking for something, the abuse of Meta-Tags was why.
The result was that the search engines at the time stopped relying on just Meta-Tags. They became better at how they indexed and were able to match the Meta-Tags with content on the site. I think some even filtered out some of the most abused Meta-Tags all together. They also started indexing sites based on content. The result is what we have today and the shift from focus on Meta-Tags (still important) to keyword placement.
Key Word Abuse
Now, search engines are taking the same kind of approach to key words that they once took to Meta-Tags. They are looking for abuse and misuse. Specifically, they are looking for sites that forego natural content for key word density and repetition (and sometimes unrelated to content) in order to attract users via search to the site. Many of the sites that do this tend to redirect users to other sites, usually to generate ad revenue through deceptive means (you are not naturally clicking a link for Sears on their site. Their site is redirecting you to Sears after luring you to an otherwise useless site with overly dense key words). They may also direct you to an e-comm site when you are not really looking to buy things.
This type of redirection and other abuses are what search engines are battling. To do this, they target sites with too dense and repetitive of key word usage and either remove them or rank them low on searches. The result for the rest of us, if we aim for too dense of key word usage with too much repetition of key words, our sites run the risk of not being found by potential users.
You need key words. The best way to ensure your site is natural and does not fall victim to low indexing from over-saturation is simple. Use key words naturally. Here is how:
- Get a full list of potential key words and rank them by search prominence.
- Only use the key words that are most common and that you will be able to fit into your text easily.
- Offer your writer plenty of options for key word usage, and make it clear that not all words have to be utilized (less pressure and some flexibility helps us to be creative in how we incorporate key words).
- Do not set your author to a “must be this per X words” goal. Most of us are only so-so at math, and trying to get this kind of mix is going to drive us nuts. Instead, give your author a number of key words that need to be in the article from your ranked list. For example, if your SEO expert is telling you that you want a 100 word key word density (1 per 100 words), if you are requesting a 500 word article from your author, tell the author to include 5 of the key words from your ranked list of 10 that your SEO expert puts together. Yes, that means you may need to request additional key words from your SEO expert (or experts, that you need larger lists to provide to your authors).
- If you get the text back and need more key words, let your author know. We can usually go over a text and say “oh yeah, I can put this here” pretty easily. Most authors are happy to review submitted work and make revisions.
Those are my thoughts on key words, not from an SEO expert (I’m not one), but from a writer who works with SEO from the “create something natural with these” perspective.