The Ultimate Keyword Guide: Checklist Included!

Posted at 12:45 on 13/09/2016

For those who are new to online writing, you may have heard of the term “keyword” being thrown around within the content writing circles. Keywords are not new, nor should they be taken lightly, for every piece of content you produce – especially ones that are made for online publishing – should be carefully crafted using keywords.

Why do keywords matter to content writers?

Well, it matters to an extent. Here, let me explain: 

Imagine the Internet without any written content. You’re browsing pages full of attractive images and visuals, but there are no words and nothing to put the imagery into context. Wouldn’t the Internet just look odd?

Now, the Internet is chock full of amazing content. As of 2015, it is said that 2 million new blog posts are published every day. Today? Well, see for yourself.

So, with the growing amount of content being produced every year, a lot of effort is being put into ‘filing’ all these content under the right topics and categories, where users can find it faster and easier than ever. 

Somewhere along this process, online marketers have learned how to use Google’s search system to their benefit, ranking their website high by optimizing content (this is called “search engine optimization”), and it’s all done by using keywords.

Okay, so how do I, a content writer, write optimized content?

Let me just start by saying that keywords are not rocket science, as long as you understand the purpose of the content you’re crafting and know how to strategically use your targeted keywords.

On HotCopy, sometimes clients will make orders for search engine optimized content.

Along with these details, you can also view the client’s order brief/instructions. The order brief should include all the instructions you need to create the content.

Finding the purpose and type of your keyword

Contrary to popular belief, keywords are not just used to optimize content. It is also used to create backlinks that point to a piece of optimized content.

How can you tell the difference? You have got to figure out the type of keyword you’re working with:

  • Branded/exact match keywords

Usually, branded or top-level keywords like “car dealer”, “flower shop”, “Nike shoes” are for optimization, but can be used as backlinks. This type of keyword is usually used several times in the text or on the web page, hence to ‘optimize’ the content.

  • Long-tail keywords 

Longer keywords like “car dealer in Singapore”, “flower shop with delivery” or “Nike shoes for women” are also used to optimize, but equally used for backlinks. This type of keyword is usually used only once or twice (although once is plenty enough) in the text or web page, and its primary reason is to be linked back to the client’s website or own content.

  • Variation/call-to-action

Finally, if the keyword looks like it’s pointing to third party sources or requires you to take an action (or known as a call-to-action), it’s definitely for backlinks. For instance: “learn more at our car dealer”, “visit our flower shop”, or “buy Nike shoes right now”.

You would naturally use branded or top-level keywords to optimize your website, and long-tail keywords instead to create a diverse backlink profile that points to your website. Both of these, when used together, give your website authority, context and visibility.

Now that you’ve got your keyword, objective and content type, let’s get to the writing bit. I’ve compiled a simple checklist for you to go through to ensure keywords are utilized at an optimum.

Keyword Checklist

Are the keyword(s) in the title, subheading and content?

Ideally, your answer should be yes. But using keywords is an art – you want it to appear everywhere, but at the same time, be as invisible as possible. 

Bear in mind, only follow this rule if you are optimizing the content, and not writing content for backlinks. 

To achieve this, see question number two below.

Does the keyword look natural?

The most important part about using keywords (and I can’t stress this enough!) is to use it naturally! 

It should, in every way, shape and form, appear natural in your text and surrounded by more text that give it purpose, meaning and context. 

If it reads wrong, try again. If it reads weird, try again. If it doesn’t fit into context, try again. If it looks ‘planted’, try again.

The key to winning the keyword challenge is to always write for humans, not search engines. Because your readers will always know when something looks “planted” and doesn’t belong. 

Read the sentence where the keyword appears; and if that checks out, read the whole paragraph next. If your keyword doesn’t raise an eyebrow, then you’re good to go.

Keywords are the best form of word play – be creative!

Don’t place keywords too early in the text

Some of the more obvious rules is to not use keywords too early in your text. It will look like you’re too eager to bring it to attention and thus, make the whole content look like blatant, plain lazy advertising. 

Placing the keyword within the first paragraph is fine as long as the keyword is not on the first line or sentence.

Don’t use keywords too close to each other

Sometimes you’ll write content with multiple keywords. It’s best to avoid using them next to each other or together in a sentence. Spread them out and give each one its own time to shine.

Try inserting keywords somewhere in the middle or towards the end of your text. In fact, it can even be used as a call-to-action at the very end.

Is the keyword diversified?

Another way to do SEO without stuffing your content full of exact keywords is to use a variation of the same keyword. If your keyword is “pigmentation treatment”, diversify it with “treat pigmentation” or “treatment for pigmentation”.

Search engines are now sophisticated enough to understand semantics and context, and can piece together related information to give the best answer to a user’s search query through his/her intent.

Does the keyword have a healthy density?

There is such a thing as overusing keywords. However, according to the folks at Moz, there is no real optimal way to apply keywords to your content, but they’ve got a really great tool to help analyze your keyword density if you want to be on the safe side.

Again, there’s no rule to this, and I always tell content writers to write as if there were no keywords to begin with, and slowly work the keywords in when the content calls for it. That’s the only way to get the most natural result for your keywords.

FAQ: What If There’s More Than One Keyword?

Can you optimize content with more than one keyword? 

Of course you can, but you’re probably better off using the keywords to make two or more pieces of content that’s even better targeted. A quick keyword research will help point you to the right direction.

Keywords are just one of the key factors to creating quality content. Every day, new algorhithms are deployed and new ideas are being developed to make content more valuable and easier to find. The best way to finish off your content is to read it to yourself, out loud, and determine if any of the text sounds strange to your ear.