What the Heck Does it Mean to Optimize for Keywords?

Articles on SEO all tell you to optimize for keywords on every page, but what does that mean? What makes terms and phrases into keywords and how do you choose them? What does “optimization” involve, and how do you know when you’ve done it? If you’re asking those questions, you’ve come to the right place. […]

Written By Matthew Martin


February 12, 2019

Articles on SEO all tell you to optimize for keywords on every page, but what does that mean? What makes terms and phrases into keywords and how do you choose them? What does “optimization” involve, and how do you know when you’ve done it?

If you’re asking those questions, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to explain what a keyword is and how to figure out which ones matter for your business. Then, we’ll talk about optimization in plain language and give you tips for that too. Let’s get started.

Keywords Defined

Keywords are the words that express what your page is about. They can be phrases instead of just a single word. If you’re reading this you’re already in front of a computer or smartphone, so let’s look at what that means for you.

Pull up a page on your business website or blog. It can be your home page or any other page you want. Skim the words and images on that page and identify the main idea. Now notice the words that are tied to that idea. Jot down a few of the most important words that come to mind.

For example, check out our article On Site SEO Factors that Affect Rankings. The article was part of a series aimed at helping readers break down all the necessary ingredients for getting that coveted top spot on Google search rankings.

There are more than 200 ranking factors, and some have more “weight” than others. It’s complicated, so we broke it down into the most critical components. You can probably tell from the title this article’s focus is on site SEO. That was one of our keywords. That’s what the page is about and what users might search for to find it.

If you opened a tab for that article, leave it up because we’re going to come back to it later. For now, understand that your keywords are the words or phrases that best express the main idea of the page.

Related Keywords

A lot of the time people use more than one word or phrase to search for something. Related keywords can be synonyms, words that mean exactly the same thing. Or, they can be similar phrases users might type or speak when they search. If you’ve heard of LSI keywords, they basically are a technology that helps compile a list of synonyms and related phrases.

For example, with our on site SEO article, on page SEO is the same thing. We included both phrases. You can, and should include as many of the most common related keywords you can come up with.

Long-Tail Keywords

Nope, this isn’t about a kangaroo. Long-tail keywords are very specific phrases. They always include more than one word, usually closer to a sentence.

Let’s say you’re opening a flower shop. The words flower shop and florist are key to what you do. However, it’s going to be hard for you to rank for those words, because there are much bigger vendors that have been building their online presence a long time.

You can add to those words to make them more specific. Your long-tail keywords might be something like flower shop in New Orleans, Lousiana or East Texas wedding florist. By being more precise, you reach the people looking for you.

Why Keywords Matter

While there’s this crazy mix of factors that goes into how Google and other search engines assign ranking, there’s a simple concept behind it. When people search, they use a few words or phrases to describe what they’re looking for. Search engines want to give them the best match.

You can help by using words to say what your page is mainly about. It’s that simple. If your page is mostly about luxury homes for sale in Tyler, Texas, you should use those words.

Keywords act like a bridge between what you offer and the people looking for you. The keywords you choose to focus on will determine which people find your website and your individual pages.

When You Don’t Optimize for Keywords

Here’s what we see again and again. A customer comes to us asking why their website isn’t ranking even though they run a successful business, let’s say a roofing company that’s been around for generations. We pull up their site.

The business name is something like Amco, so their domain is something like Amco.com. On their home page, there are photos of home and business exteriors. They list their hours and contact information. They also tell you the brand names of the materials they use.

It looks fine, so they aren’t sure why people aren’t finding them. But the way their page is written, search engines only have words like Amco, GAF, Certainteed and Hours of Operation to go by. Nothing there is about roofing.

If you’re a roofing company, it should use those words on your page. Otherwise, search engines don’t know that’s what you do. It sounds too simple to be true, but to optimize for keywords, you need words.

How to Choose Keywords

Websites from Spade Design consistently show up at the top of search engine results pages because we’ve worked hard to develop a proven keyword research process. It starts by stepping away from a particular product or service and into the shoes of the people looking for you.

We go into creating a buyer persona in another article, so we’ll keep it brief here. Use data to identify where your ideal buyer lives, works and spends their free time. Find out how much money they make and what they’re interested in.

Then, brainstorm their problems or pain points. What do they want and need that might lead them to you?

Next, picture that one person when they’re actually conducting their search. Where are they and what type of device are they using? Factor in any kinds of distractions or frustrations they face.

In the Amco example, the client is a homeowner who has a roofing problem. They have a leak or hail damage, and they want it fixed, fast.

They’re searching for words related to roof repair or roof replacement, and they need someone local who is willing to come quick. When Amco places related words on their pages, search engines can bridge the company with the people searching for them.

What About Keyword Research Tools?

A tool sounds great until you look up how many you have to choose from. Some require a subscription to a service, so they cost money. Others are available for free, although the free version usually has significant limitations.

At Spade Design, we’ve tried most of the top ranked keyword research tools out there. We’ve invested in the professional grade versions of the most effective ones. We use built-in features to carve away distractors and go in-depth on search trends, organic competition and traffic estimates.

How to Optimize for Keywords

Now that you know what they are and how to find them, let’s talk about how to optimize for keywords.

Mirriam-Webster says the word optimize means “to make as perfect, effective or functional as possible.” Okay, but how do you do that with a web page or website? Keep reading, we’re going to tell you.

When you optimize for keywords, you use them enough times and put them in all the right places.

It’s not something mysterious. To optimize for keywords means you type them in where users and search engines look. Use them at least once in these locations:

  • Your page title — Scroll up. Do you see how we used Optimize for Keywords in our title?
  • Page headings and subheadings — On your way back down, note the bold print that contains the same.
  • Your page URL — Instead of a long string of letters and numbers, your URL should indicate what your page is actually about.
  • In your meta description — When people search, they scan this to see if you’re really going to give them what they’re looking for.
  • Your page content — Go through each section and see if it’s really about your keywords. Then, make sure you’re using them. Don’t cram in as many uses as possible, aim for a keyword density between 0.2 and 0.5 percent.
  • In your graphics — Search engines can’t “see” photos. People with visual impairments or slow connections can’t either. Help by adding keywords where appropriate.

Keyword Optimization is Just the Beginning

It’s absolutely imperative to optimize for keywords, but that’s not all there is to appearing in search engine results. Your site’s technical information, user experience factors, links from other sites, social media participation and mentions and outside marketing are just as important.

You can find out more in our series 5 Ways to Improve Website Ranking. Or, start actually improving your website ranking and seeing improved revenue when you schedule a conversation with our SEO experts. You can contact us online or call us at (888)412-3128.

Absolute Best Keyword Optimization

If you want your business to rise to the top of search engine results, this is one thing you have to get right. If you don’t optimize for keywords, you will lose business.

At Spade Design, we’ve been doing this successfully for years. Our clients don’t have to spend weeks on keyword research or learn how to use complicated analytics tools. They just tell us what they need and we deliver results.

If you’re not sure how your page or website does when it comes to keyword optimization, we have a free tool that can help. Type any landing page or blog article address in our SEO checker and we’ll tell you how optimized it is for one keyword or phrase. We’ll even tell you how your page compares to your competitor. Give it a try today.


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