The Content Writer's Ultimate Keyword Guide [Checklist]

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If you're 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. Every piece of content you produce – especially ones that are published online – should be carefully crafted using keywords.

Why do keywords matter to content writers?

It matters to an extent. 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?

As of 2015, it is said that 2 million new blog posts are published every day.

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.

How do you - a content writer - add keywords to your 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. In such case, you’ll be asked to include one or more keywords in your content.

Along with the order 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.

With this information on hand, you can start to draft your content.

1. Find the purpose of your keyword

Are you using keywords to:

  1. Optimize your content?
  2. Link back to your 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

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 webpage.

  • Long-tail keywords

Longer keywords like “car dealer in Singapore”, “flower shop with delivery” or “Nike shoes for women” are used to optimize, and equally used for backlinks.

This type of keyword is used only once or twice in the text and is used to link back to the client’s website or own content.

  • Variation/call-to-action

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.
  • Long-tail keywords to create a diverse backlink profile that points to your website.

Both of these, when used together, give your website authority, context, and visibility.

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2. Bookmark this: The content writer's keyword checklist

Now that you’ve got your keyword, objective and content type, let’s get to the writing bit.

I’ve compiled a simple checklist on how to add keywords to your content below:

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

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.

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  • Does the keyword look/read naturally?

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 gives 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 wordplay – be creative!

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  • Did I place keywords too early in the text?

Don't use keywords too early in your text. It looks like you’re too eager to bring it up and thus, make the whole content look like blatant and plain lazy advertising.

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

  • Did I 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.

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

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  • Is the keyword diversified?

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

Search engines are 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. According to the folks at Moz, there is no real optimal way to apply keywords to your content but we've found a really great tool to help analyze your keyword density if you want to be on the safe side.

There’s no rule to this. I 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. It's the only way to get the most natural result for your keywords.

Great! In case you missed anything, here's a digestible version of the keyword checklist:

My Keyword Checklist
  • Are the keyword(s) in the title, subheading and content?  
  • Does the keyword look natural?
  • Did I place keywords too early in the text? 
  • Did I use keywords too close to each other? 
  • Is the keyword diversified?
  • Does the keyword have a healthy density? 

With the help of the checklist, you should have everything you need to ensure the most optimum keyword use in your content. If you have questions, let me know in the comments below and we'll update this post with your questions in the FAQs area below.

3. Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you optimize content with more than one keyword?

You’re probably better off using the keywords to make two or more pieces of content that are even better targeted. A quick keyword research will help point you towards the right direction.

Keywords are just one of the key factors to creating quality content. New algorithms and ideas are being created 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.

Good luck with keywords and ask me anything in the comments section below!