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Are content marketing keywords still a thing? The short answer is yes, but they don’t have the same weight as they once did. 

For years, marketers would identify keywords and cram each piece of content full of those words. Readability suffered because keywords like “winter snow removal Boston” aren’t easy to weave into an article. However, brands were willing to sacrifice readability if it meant earning a higher rank on Google’s search results.

Today, the SEO game has changed. With ever-evolving algorithms, brands have to update their best practices.

Keyword changes you should know about 

Want your content to rank? Keeping track of Google’s latest content-ranking priorities is tough, but these tips will bring you up-to-date. Here’s what you should know about keyword usage:

Keyword stuffing is dead, but placement is more important

You no longer have to identify a keyword and use it a million times. In fact, “keyword stuffing” is now penalized by Google. What should you do instead? Identify a keyword and be sure to use it at the beginning of your title, and in your meta description, URL, subheadings, and image titles. 

You should still use it in the article, too, but where it naturally fits.  

You’re not handcuffed to the keyword anymore

Google is now using synonyms to rank search results. What does that mean for you? It means you have some flexibility with keyword usage. For instance, if the keyword you’d like to use is “lawn mower repair company” you don’t have to repeat the particular set of words to rank. You can vary the phrase, or use synonyms, like “mower repair” or “repair my mower.” 

Identify a secondary keyword 

Previously, one keyword phrase was assigned to each piece of content, but not anymore. You should identify a primary keyword and secondary keywords. The secondary keywords can be similar to the primary keyword to leverage Google’s use of synonyms.

You can pick one primary keyword and two secondary keywords. The primary keyword should be used more than the secondary keywords.  

Write for humans first

When you create any type of content, focus on the reader. The reader is your first priority, search engine rankings are your second. Google rewards this mindset. Content that’s educational, useful and fun to read will get noticed.  

How to pick keywords for your next piece of content

Given all these changes, brands may need to update their SEO process. Here are steps you can follow:

Start by brainstorming words associated with your brand

Take it back to the basics. Gather your team and craft a list of words that are associated with your brand and product. If you sell security systems, for example, you might list words like security, security cameras, affordable security system, and DIY security system.  

Now think about your target audience. How would they search for your product? They might use search times like “cost of a security system” or “What’s the easiest security system to install?” 

Your list should be quite extensive and can serve as an idea reservoir for content titles.

Use a keyword tool

Now you need to identify specific keywords. To do so, it’s easiest to use a keyword tool. There are many to choose from. Keywordtool.io is a popular option. It’s free. You enter a brand-specific word and it gives you a long list of keywords associated with that term. 

Additional keyword tools include SEMRush and KWFinder. They have a more robust platform that aids in overall SEO. 

Identify keywords that aren’t competitive

Most keyword tools show you how competitive a certain keyword is. You should look for keywords that are ranked as “low” competition. 

You can also search your keyword in Google and look at the results. Click on the first three, read the articles, and weigh the company’s visibility. If you’re trying to tank for “top coupon redemption tips” and big-name retailers like Walmart and Target have content that ranks for those keywords — that’s tough competition. You should pick a different keyword. 

MozzBar for Chrome is a handy SEO tools that shows you a Page Authority and Domain Authority under each search result, like this: 

You can search for a keyword, review the results, and see how competitive it is to rank for that keyword. In general, the lower the PA and DA, the easier it is to beat the competition for a certain keyword. 

Create and publish content with the keywords

With keywords identified, the next step is to create the content. Remember, search engines reward high-quality content. Articles should be more than 300 words long, have subheads to break up the text, and be easy to read. 

Add external links too, which improves your credibility and is favored by Google.

The keyword should be in the title, ideally close to the beginning. It should also be in the first 200 words, the last 200 words, and in at least one subhead. Overall, aim for a keyword density of about 0.5%, or about three times in a 600-word article. 

 When you’re ready to publish, be sure to add the keyword to meta descriptions, the URL, and image titles, too.  

Keyword importance has shifted, but it’s still relevant to SEO. Want to learn more about SEO best practices? Check out IZEA’s library of SEO content.

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