The Importance of Keywords in SEO: A Beginner’s Guide

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importance keywords in SEO
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Use the proper keyword and you will get more search engine traffic…

Optimize your website/blog keywords and you will rank faster…

How many times have you gotten such pieces of advice when you were learning about SEO?

Probably a lot.

That’s because keywords are the first things you should learn about when you optimize your blog for SEO.

I write this guide for a beginner like you to understand the most fundamental concept of SEO – keywords.

Read: Keyword research for SEO – The Beginners Guide

Let’s start with the basics…

If you have been blogging for a while, you probably know that 95% of your traffic is coming from 5% of your posts. You are probably getting a maximum amount of search engine traffic from a few hand-picked posts.

Have you ever questioned why these posts are getting so much traffic? Well, the answer is you must have done something right.

Right?

The reason is, some of your posts got ranked on the first page of a search engine for keywords that are highly searched for by users.

So here’s the crucial question to think about:

Who is the one ranking your content?

It’s a machine (algorithm) which looks for certain signals in order to rank the content appropriately.

When I say “ranking” of the content, what do I mean? In this context, ranking is the order that pages appear in a search engine’s results page (SERP).

You can go to the Semrush site and type in your website’s address to see which keyword(s) you are ranking for.

Here is an example from one of my popular blogs:

Keyword position in Google
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Let’s try to understand what’s happening in this image. (Even if you don’t understand 100%, don’t worry as this is normal for a beginner.)

  1. Keyword: This is the specific phrase which is driving traffic to a specific URL. When doing SEO, this is the phrase that we “target”, so we often call it the “target keyword”.
  2. Pos.: This is the ranking of the keyword in Google Search (i.e. position). For instance, if it’s number 1, it’s the first result that Google shows. If it’s number 4, it’s the fourth. And so on… Your target should be to rank on the first page of Google for your target keyword (Pos. 1-10).
  3. Volume: This tells you roughly how many people are searching for that particular keyword in a given month. This is a very important thing because even if you think a search term will be popular, Google’s data will tell you otherwise. In the above example, you can see two similar keywords which have a considerable difference in monthly search volume:
    • Free professional email address: 110 searches/month
    • Free professional email: 70 searches/month

While we’re defining things, let’s look at two more important terms:

  1. Short Tail Keywords: Short keywords that are 1-3 words.
    • Make money online, Professional email, Lose weight
  2. Long Tail Keywords: More specific keywords that are usually three words or longer.

Note: All words and phrases qualify as “keywords” when they have a considerable amount of searches (volume) in a month.

Long-tail keywords are more profitable, as you will drive more targeted traffic and your chances of ranking on the first page are higher. For more on this, check out this post.

For now, try to understand all the terms mentioned so far.

What is the importance of keywords from an SEO perspective?

Now that you understand the basic concept of keywords, let’s dive into it a little deeper.

When we “SEO-optimize” a blog post or a web page, we have the option to define our target keywords. This kind of keyword is known as a Meta_keyword.

In 2012, it was important to specify meta keywords, but in 2017, it’s not of any use. The search engine algorithms have become much smarter; they now auto-detect keywords and rank pages automatically.

Google has already made it clear that they do not consider meta keywords when selecting keywords, and this makes sense because it wouldn’t be good for anyone.

For example, for this post, some meta keywords could be: “keyword tips, SEO, keyword research”, and so on.

Now, anyone looking for “keyword tips” would land on this page, not see anything of use, and leave, thus increasing my bounce rate. It’s not good for me and it’s not good for the user.

So remember that anytime someone tells you meta keywords matter, be sure to ignore them.

How To Start with Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of finding the right keyword for your post. This step is important if you wish to grow your blog/website in a short span of time and ultimately make money. There are various ways by which you can find keywords and do keyword research.

Find Keywords with Semrush:

This is an online tool that lets you find keywords, sees which keywords your site is ranking for and allows you to spy on your competitors.

A good idea is to pick the top blogs in your niche and add them into Semrush to see which keywords those sites are ranking for. From here, you just need to start building unique and high-quality content around those keywords.

This is a paid tool, but you can get a 15-day free trial (worth $199) using this link.

For more on how to use Semrush, check out:

Find Keywords with Google Search:

You can also use Google Search to find target keywords.

Google will auto-suggest a search query when you type anything. You can create a list of keywords using this technique and use Semrush or Google’s Keyword Planner to check the search volume for all these keywords.

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Other Keyword Tools:

  • KwFinder: Great tool to find long-tail keywords in any niche.

Once you have found profitable keywords, your task is to write an SEO-optimized article for your target keywords. You can follow this guide to understand how to target keywords on a particular post.

Keyword Density and Keyword Placement

Keyword density is a complex topic.

This Wiki article will give you a fair idea of how keyword density is calculated. Depending on your target keywords, (long tail or short tail), try to maintain a general percentage of keyword density. When bots crawl your page, they can determine which particular keywords a page should rank for from the keyword density.

Keyword targeting is important but stay away from “keyword stuffing”. This is the overuse of keywords on any page. This will ultimately be harmful to your ranking.

Different SEO ninjas have different ideas about keyword density, but your main keyword should ideally not be more than 2% of the article. I try to keep it between 1-1.5%.

Along with the main keyword, you should also throw in some related terms, known as LSI keywords. You can learn about LSI keywords here, and here is a free LSI keyword finder tool.

Remember, you can target over one keyword on a blog post or a page. But I would suggest you keep it less than three because if your post is high-quality, you will also indirectly rank for related long-tail keywords.

So be careful not to “stuff” keywords.

What does keyword stuffing do?

Overusing keywords alerts Google bots to the fact that you are “spamming” your post by stuffing it with unnecessary keywords. Google will think you are trying to trick the system. Google penalizes for this action.

So be wise when you select the number of keywords you are using for SEO. Particularly since the Google Panda update (2011), any SEO actions that do not appear to be natural are bad for your site.

Meta titles, meta descriptions, and headings:

Now that you have a perfect keyword to target, and you are writing a great post around it, try to also use that keyword as part of the title of the post. By default, this title will also be the title shown in search engines (i.e. the “meta title”).

You can also write a description for users to see when they look at your site in a search engine (i.e. the “meta description”). Adding in a relevant meta description will also give more insight about your page/post to search engine bots. I suggest you use your keyword in the meta description as well.

Note: You can write meta titles and meta descriptions using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO.

Write SEO-friendly articles by using H2 and H3 tags (your title is H1 by default in WordPress). However, don’t overuse heading tags, as keyword stuffed headings and too many heading tags can lead to a negative ranking. These days there are content optimization tools, using AI and machine learning they help you to write SEO-friendly content.

Random SEO tip: Don’t use numbers in your permalink (e.g. yourdomain.com/4-ways-to-rank-higher-in-google) because in the future, if you want to extend the article by adding an additional point (e.g. 5 ways to rank higher in Google), that permalink will no longer be accurate. For more on writing SEO-optimized posts, go here.

What to do now?

Now that you know that keywords play an important role in SEO, your first task is to find 5-6 profitable keywords for your next post.

You can use the Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, or some other tool. Here is the updated list of the best keyword research tools.

Write out a post based on your target keyword, and use any of these Google keywords rank tracker sites to keep track of your keyword positions.

So that’s it. Keep refining, learning, and trying!

When you rank on the first page, let me know about it in the comments! Like this post? Don’t forget to share it with your friends!

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

101 thoughts on “The Importance of Keywords in SEO: A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Sreejesh

    A question that is asked regularly to me, and let me ask that to you. How many keywords is safe to target for a single article.

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      @Sreejesh
      That depends on what kind of keyword you are targeting. Sometimes you target one short tail keyword with a detailed guide & you end up getting a ton of traffic from long tail keywords. To be precise, I usually target 1 main keyword & 1-2 extra related Keyword from one article.

  2. Shaikh Muneer

    Great Share ! Search engine optimization is most difficult to learn beginning but your guidefull article easy to learning.

    Thank you..

  3. Vandana

    keywords are very important part of SEO , Thanks for sharing it’s very helpful and also can you tell something about backlinks.

  4. Sunil joon

    I have gone through several articles on Keywords, but I have found this very easy to understand and cleared my doubts.

    Thank you again

  5. Asha Gahlawat

    Dear Harsh,

    Thanks for your useful information.
    Harsh, I am facing a major problem related to keyword density and I am not able to find the solution for it. My keyword density is 1.2 only. Because it is the requirement of my post. Please guide me.Thank You!
    My doubt is” How I can change keyword density”?? Because YOST SEO does not count this.
    Please suggest what to do in such case. Your response is highly appreciated and helpful for me.

  6. SMN Zaman

    Hi,

    You have brought one of the most important matters of blogging. In fact, blogging without targeting any keyword is a waste of time from the search traffic perspective.

    I know a renowned person who’s very popular by his name and for this, he gets a lot of traffic to his blog from different sources. But since he doesn’t write posts on different keywords, his blog’s search traffic is very low.

    Thanks for bringing up a crucial topic this time.

    Regards,
    SM

  7. Chandra Babu A

    Thanks, Harsh,

    I am new to blogging, I have started a health niche based website. I have been using your guide to all through my blog. Now you have given another excellent article on Keywords and their importance in SEO. I will follow this too.

    New bloggers like me will expect more help from you. Thanks a lot again Harsh.

    CBN

  8. shivam chaudhary

    Dear Harsh.

    Thank you a lot for your valuable info!
    I’m facing a significant problem linked to tail key words & I am unable find remedy for it. Please direct & encourage me.Thank You!
    My uncertainty is “can I alter the arrangement of words in long-term key words??”
    Then YOAST doesn’t counts it as attention keyword.
    Please indicate what to do in these instances. Your reply is highly appreciated.

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      @SAhivam
      Yes you can alter your arrangement of keywords. Most of the time this works. Yoast focus keyword is just set of rules & that’s why it doesn’t count variations.

  9. Ivan Sam Alexander

    A perfect guide for beginners mate. This is very helpful. I was really confused on the density of keyword.

    Hope you will write about this as well in ur next blog.

  10. Aditya singh

    Keywords research is one of the most important words of SEO. You can select the perfect one by keywords research. I also do it before writing any type of content. I try to use long tail keywords in my article. I use google keywords planner to select the best keywords. I think is is the best free keywords research tools.

    You have shared some valuable tips here. Thanks for your nice article.

  11. Rahul

    Hello
    You know sir i m your big fan i know that its my first comment to your blog but in my class you are the king of bloggers i read your blogs and really its help full. Now i started my own website for blog and all that.. Just because you are inspiration for us. Thankyou so much sir.

  12. arun

    i dont know how to use SEMrush and i need to buy SEMrush. SEMrush is very good for keyword research harsh..?

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      @Arun
      SEMRUSH is good. It gets the job done & make it easier to find proven keywords. You can use the 14 days trial of SEMRUSH using below link:

      Take 14 days trial of SEMRUSH

      I also suggest you to take 14 days trial of Ahrefs. This one is also a good alternative.

      Take 14 days trial of Ahrtefs

      Using these trials you would save almost $300 & later you can pick either of it. 🙂

  13. Rahul Das

    It was a great great article harsh sir. I really wanted to know more about keywords and you saved me. Thanks again

  14. SSB

    Great post with lots of information. Although Google does not use meta keywords tag to index a page but it still looking for keywords to identify the content. Search engine bots looking for keywords in particular places like URL, title, heading, subheading. Yes! Keywords matter in SEO. Without keywords research SEO is incomplete.

  15. Munna Hossain

    Keywords research is one of the most important words of SEO. You can select the perfect one by keywords research. I also do it before writing any type of content. I try to use long tail keywords in my article. I use google keywords planner to select the best keywords. I think is is the best free keywords research tools. You have shared some valuable tips here. Thanks for your nice article.

  16. Aalok Dhond

    I think it is also worth noting that now is the time to keep closer to your core converting and targeted keywords. Straying farther from your main conversions just to generate additional traffic is not recommended. If you are a hotel, stick to hotel keywords and eliminate lower converting keywords like lodging and accommodations. If you are a local business stick to targeting your city over a larger metro targeting.

  17. Emilee C Hatch

    I read many blogs and tried to find the importance of keyword research.. Today I am enlightened.. Still need to learn more so will be waiting for next post about the same

  18. Sam

    I have long been trying to understand the keyword game .Finally this post enlightened me about keyword research.I tried adword tool but never understand basics so far.This is amazing coincidence with billions of people help just one keyword to become trending at some point of time .Still how is it possible .thinking

  19. Rosy Anwood

    According to my experience Keyword is the first and the foremost important thing In SEO. Anyone who does keyword research properly he/she can easily rank his/her website within a short period of time.

  20. Mr. Sumit

    Thank You Very Much for such an Awesome Article.

    I am a regular reader of your blog. And glad to said that this blog helps me a lot to increase my blog traffic and subscribers.

    I HAVE A QUESTION:-

    I am using Yoast SEO Plugin but it does not provide option to set Keyword for Homepage. Due to this my homepage not index in google.

    I want to Set Keyword for my Homepage.

    Sir, Please help me.

    How can I set Keyword for my Homepage?

    Please Reply !!!!

    1. Adil mirza

      Sumit, as Google has officially stated that they don’t provide importance to meta keywords, so instead of putting keywords in your header, you are advised to build a natural homepage that convince crawlers to get deserving adjustment. If you want to optimize your homepage for a specific branded keyword then i would strongly recommend you to use it in your site tagline so it can appear with your meta title, meta description, If you have a custom homepage instead of blog style then you should use your keyword in your page text, most importantly in the first paragraph,
      and finally use your keyword in footer of your homepage. hope it helps.

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