how_to_use_keywordsNow that we’ve discussed how to find good keywords, it’s essential understand the best practices for how to use keywords on a website or blog post. Many internet marketers – both new and experienced alike – tend to focus far too much on the keyword and not enough on the actual content produced for the site.

My belief is that this over-centric keyword behavior ties directly into the history of SEO. It used to be the case that keywords were assessed and evaluated by search engines based solely on the number of times they appeared within the post, something marketers soon began referring to as keyword density. As algorithms have gotten smarter, however, this practice is old news, though there is still dated material floating around advocating it’s use.

Keywords are Topics

It’s important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, keywords, even extremely long tail keywords, are nothing but topics you write on for your site. Any and all keywords you use should flow naturally from your site, and as I discuss in detail on my post on how to find good keywords, the actual phrase used for the keyword is always a secondary consideration.

Accepting and understanding this relationship is perhaps the most important step in using keywords appropriately on your website. If at any point you are trying to force a word or phrase, you should rethink what, exactly you’re trying to accomplish.

As Matt Cutts and the Google search team reiterate over and over: if you genuinely write your website for your target consumers, the search engines will recognize this fact and you will eventually be rewarded in your rankings.

Where To Use Keywords On Your Website

Once you’ve accepted that your content must always come first, implementing your keyword becomes a fairly straightforward task. I view keyword implementation on two levels: visible implementation and behind the scenes implementation.

Visible Keyword Implementation

By visible implementation, I mean anywhere you place a keyword that your average user will see. This includes things like domain name, post titles, headers, or text on a page.

Visible implementation is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of keyword use for your site. The reason is simple: because keywords are nothing more than topics for your site, it makes sense to categorize your topics using those keywords in a way that your user finds natural.

Let me say that again: The user experience should always come first.

For me, I generally use keywords once in the title of a blog post (and my post title automatically becomes the URL for my page) and once in the first paragraph or so. That is, I use the keyword as part of the title and the introduction, two very natural (human-readable) places to incorporate it.

Aside from those two places, I don’t usually worry about where else the keyword appears on page. Sometimes I’ll end up using the keyword as a sub-header (eg: and h3 or h4 tag) on the page, but only if it feels right. On this post, for example, I do not use my primary keyword (“how to use keywords on a website” – the title of the post) within the header tags because it didn’t feel natural.

Instead, I wrote the article as I wanted to write it, and the header tag I used was “Where To Use Keywords on Your Website,” which came out freely from my writing style. I wrote that header without thinking about the keyword, but you can notice that the phrase I used is closely related to my primary keyword phrase for the article, since it includes the primary elements of the keyword phrase (that is, the “real” words of the phrase, once you discount articles and prepositions).

Behind The Scenes Keyword Implementation

In addition to the visible placement of keywords, there’s a lot of talk in the SEO-world about behind-the-scenes keyword use, or the incorporation of the keyword into html tags that your average user does not see.

You can find these keywords on any website by going to “View Source” from your browser menu and reading the html tags. On most pages, you’ll find meta tags listing a few keywords, as well as description attributes. Images or video files will also often have titles that the user does not see, and possible alt attributes as well.

The philosophy behind each of these is that these tags are telling the search engine crawlers (robots) what the page is about. Again, my opinion is that most of these techniques are largely out of date, as Google will now auto-generate it’s own descriptions for your pages based on reading your site.

The one area that I think is still important to include keywords is in descriptions or titles of any media files. While I don’t usually use my exact keyword-target for a page in the title of a photo or video, I try to include a phrase that both relates to the topic of the page itself (something close to my primary keyword for the page) and the content of the photo or video (something genuinely helpful to a person looking at the file).

If I can accomplish both in one phrase, I will set the phrase as the title, but if not I will title the media file appropriately and use my ‘desired’ phrase in the alt or description tag of the file.

I hope these tips help you understand how to use keywords on a website without overdoing them. The best advice I can give is to “set and forget” when you’re writing. Get in the mindset that keywords support your writing, and NOT to write for the keywords, and in the long run your site will be better off.

For further information, you might want to check out my other posts on SEO Basics in Five Minutes and SEO Business Training, to make sure you’re aligning your keyword and SEO objectives with the overall purpose of your site.