Anyone working in digital marketing knows that content is key, especially for search engine optimization, or SEO. And, anyone working in SEO knows keywords are key to that web content. But that doesn’t mean that SEO copywriting is all about the keywords. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Use too many keywords in your SEO writing and Google will penalize you for spamming…but maybe not for the reason you think. 

Google wants to deliver relevant content to users, and Google cares a lot about the user experience, including high-quality useful content. As a result, the search engine giant will penalize you for too many keywords, partly because it will look like you are cheating to try and earn higher search rankings, and partly because your content will likely read poorly, which is not a good user experience. That part might surprise you but it’s key to your success with SEO.
And here’s the deal: It’s actually easy to do SEO content writing in a natural way, such that you are using keywords for your SEO but still putting your reader first to deliver the quality content Google would rather you focus on. Here are nine tips to help:  

1. For SEO Writing, Do Start with the Keywords

This post is about SEO writing, not keyword research, but you need to do your keyword research before you start writing. That way, you can zero in on the focus of your article or blog post, by knowing which keywords to shoot for. Plus you will have those keywords at the top of your mind as you begin outlining and writing your article, which will help you focus. 

2. …but Don’t Start with the Keywords

Now I’m going to take back what I just said: Don’t start with the keywords. What I mean is, don’t start writing with the keywords. You will write SEO content that is more natural and enjoyable to read if you make the points you want to make, and then add in the specific keywords later. This is not always the case, but in my experience, my writing has been more fluid and easier to follow when I’ve focused on the content first and not the keywords. So start with the keywords by knowing what they are, but don’t write to the keywords. Use them as they fit while you’re writing, but don’t make them the focus. After you’re done writing, go back and see if you can find places to add them—naturally, of course. 

3. Write for Your Audience, not Your SEO

I also advise writers to avoid the keywords at first because doing so helps you focus on your audience, and that’s where Google wants your focus to be. Google wants good content that users are looking for, so it can deliver that content to those users and help them answer their questions. When you write to your audience instead of your SEO goals, it’s easier to use your keywords in a natural way. The following point will elaborate on how to do so.

4. Mix It Up When Using Keyword Phrases

Keep your audience in mind when you do use your keywords and think of variations you can use as well. If you use your keyword in a variety of ways, your SEO writing will sound more natural. For example, let’s say your keyword phrase is “plan Mexico trip.” Rather than continuing to write “plan Mexico trip” which most definitely does not sound natural, you could write planning a trip to Mexico, plan your Mexico trip, plan a Mexico trip, Mexico trip planning, and other similar variations that will sound more natural.  

5. Focus on Your Headline

Google likes your keyword to be in your article headline because that indicates what your article or blog post is about. But, it’s a challenge to write a headline that both use your keyword and is catchy so it will get noticed and clicked on. It can take a lot of work to write a headline that is both SEO and user-friendly, but it’s worth your time to do so. 

6. For SEO Writing, Go for Length

Research shows that the articles that rank well in Google tend to be over 1,800 words, and the content that gets the most social shares tends to be long as well, as in 2,000 words plus. This means more work for you as the SEO writer because writing quality content that’s longer obviously takes more time and mental energy than writing short pieces. But it also gives you more opportunity to write the kind of quality content that Google wants while still using keywords in a natural way. 

7. Keep Keyword Density in Check

Keyword density is the ratio between the number of words in your content and the number of keywords in your content. You want to keep keyword density in check so you don’t look like a spammer or keyword stuffer. There isn’t an exact number you should focus on, but you need to be aware. Obviously, you don’t want a percentage of zero because that would mean you didn’t use your keyword at all. But you don’t want your keywords to take up too much space either. In fact, the SEO experts at Yoast say that now even a 4.5 percent density is too high! 

You don’t have to go through and count all of your words to figure this out, because tools exist to help. Measuring your keyword density is particularly easy if you’re using Wordpress and the Yoast SEO plug-in because it’s built in.

Two other tools you can use are: 

The first requires registration, but it provides the results in an easier-to-read format. Both are free. 

8. Go Easy on Your Anchor Text

Finally, to make sure that your SEO copywriting uses your keywords but doesn’t go overboard, go easy on your “exact match” anchor text. Your anchor text is the text that is hyperlinked to elsewhere, either on your website or externally to another webpage. You can use your keywords for anchor text sometimes, but not always. This anchor text guide says to keep exact match anchor text, meaning an exact match of your keywords, to a bare minimum, but it also includes useful information about other ways to create anchor text. If you go back to tip four about mixing it up and apply that same concept to your anchor text, that should help. 

9. Learn More

Although SEO copywriting is an important part of your online marketing, it is only one component of many that will help you improve your search results with Google. So in addition to following these tips for using keywords in a natural way while doing your SEO content writing, also consider learning more about this specialized form of digital marketing by becoming an SEO specialist. The certificate program available through Simplilearn will teach you the many facets of SEO, including keyword and on-page optimization, link building, content marketing and web analytics, with projects that give you hands-on experience.

Then your SEO writing will get an added boost, as you not only write your content in a natural, user-friendly way, but you also optimize your webpages using many of the other critical factors as well. 

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