Optimizing blog content for search engines has always been a moving target. One constant in this evolution of how Google ranks content has been the keyword. The rules governing how Google views keywords in posts has changed, but consistently the search giant has used keywords as one of its top signals for what a piece of content is about, and how it will rank against other forms of similar content.
Perhaps the best advice for how to stay ahead of the frequent changes Google makes to its algorithms is to write for humans, not search engines. This means optimize your content first for humans, and if the content is useful for your readers, it will be shared and engaged with, which will signal to Google that it is useful content, and that will push it higher in the search results.
But having said that, keywords still matter. They matter to Google, they matter to your readers, and perhaps most importantly, they matter to you. I’ve written before about ‘owning’ or planting your flag on certain keywords. So if you want to know what role keywords play in your optimizing your content for search, here’s the deal: It’s not about using the right keywords in your posts and content. It’s about deciding what keywords you want to be known for and then creating useful content around those keywords.
The useful content helps establish your expertise around these topic for both your readers, and Google. But perhaps more importantly, it gives your content strategy focus. It also gives you direction and keeps you focused on serving YOUR audience.
Think of the 3-5 keywords that you want to be associated with your brand. If someone were to ask you what your brand stands for or why it is unique, think about the keywords or keyword phrases you would use to describe your brand and why it matters to people.
Those are the 3-5 keywords that you want to own with your content. This also helps bring clarity to your content strategy because now you have a better idea of the content you should be creating. Your content flow should go through those 3-5 keywords that you are focusing on, and if you that, the search results will follow.
Here’s an example. A few years ago while I was preparing to write my book Think Like a Rock Star, I realized that I needed to shift my content to focus more on topics like ‘brand ambassadors’ and ‘brand advocacy’. Specifically, I wanted to work with companies that needed help in designing a brand ambassador program. So I wanted to create content that would focus on those keywords, but that was also useful to readers, because I knew if it wasn’t useful to readers that it wouldn’t matter how many keywords were stuffed in it.
So instead of simply writing a short ‘here’s what a brand ambassador program is’ type post, I wrote a thorough post that was aimed at helping companies that were ready to commit to launching a brand ambassador program. The result was a 1,200 word post ‘10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program‘. Thanks to this one post, here’s how I currently rank in Google for the following search terms:
Brand ambassador program – 13
Brand ambassadors – 21
Brand ambassador – 28
That’s not bad for just one post. A side benefit of this is that since that post was published I’ve gotten probably 100 email leads from companies that found the post by doing a search for brand ambassador programs or a similar keyword phrase. All because I focused on creating useful content that would help my audience.
So if you want to rev up your search rankings, focus on just a few keywords that are core to your business, say 3-5, and focus on relentlessly creating useful content around those keywords. Not promotional content, that’s what most businesses do and that’s why they don’t tend to rank well for those keywords. But instead you want to create content that helps your audience with its current business problems. Do that, and the search rankings will follow.