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September 17, 2015

SEO Basics: Using Keywords

by Donna Huber
English: The three biggest web search engines
English: The three biggest web search engines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often get confused and lost in all the technical mumble jumble when I'm reading about ways to improve my blog. Search Engine Optimization or SEO is one of those areas.

Sometimes I wonder is it really that difficult or are the techs writing the info just trying to make it sound that way.

So I'm going to try breaking down one area of SEO as it makes sense to me. While there may be more to it, using good keywords on your blog is important and a great place to start.

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words people are using when they do a search. There's info out there about long-tail keywords and finding the right ones to use in your niche. There are even tools that will help you find the right ones, but I think some basic common sense can go a long way.

Using keywords in your posts

One of the mistakes people made in the early days of SEO was keyword stuffing. It has become a "black hat" trick (means it is bad and the big search engines, i.e. Google, have really cracked down on it).

Keyword stuffing is when you take all the really popular search terms and use them together in a post or in the metadata (yeah, I'm not going to get too techie and talk about metadata today). You may have seen some keyword stuffing that spammers use - it doesn't always make a lot of sense.

Keywords should enhance your post and not detract from it. Like everything else, organic use of keywords is always better than artificially generating them.

The right way to use keywords

The first step is to write your post using whatever words you want to use. We already know that authentically created posts resonate most with readers. So write your post without thinking about keywords to keep your voice in it.

Once you have your post all written, think about 3 - 5, but no more than 10, words that people might use if they wanted to find the information contained within your post.

If it is a review post, then the title of the book, the name of the author, and the genre are likely candidates for keywords. But do not limit yourself to just that set.

Now that you have your keyword list, read back through your post and see were you might be able to naturally fit in the keywords on your list. Do you see a sentence where you used "this book" or "the author"? Replace them with the title and author's name. You don't need to use all the words on your list but use as many as truly fit the post.

You may think of something to add to your review that fits with a keyword and that's fine, but if it takes away from your review or sounds really random then it is not worth it.

Getting ideas for keywords

On Blogger, the platform I use, there is a section in the analytics where I can check traffic sources. Under this metrics I also see search keywords used by people coming to me blog. Wordpress probably has something similar, also you can find it in your Google Analytics.

These keywords are important to keep in mind because it means your blog "scored" high with those terms. In other words, when someone used those words to do a search your blog was in the top search results. I think this is what the SEO "gurus" mean by longtail keywords.

I've used these keyword search results and created entire posts out of them. That's another way to use keywords (and why I think there are a lot of tools out there). If you are doing something other than reviews on your site, then it can be a good way to get ideas for what will attract new readers to your site.

Be careful with keywords

Do not get so focused on keywords that you forget what the true focus of your site is - to tell readers about the great books we read. In the end it is really the writing style of the blogger that keeps readers coming back for more.

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