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The importance of keywords for on-page SEO

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keywords-for-seo

  • How often should I repeat my main keyword on a page?
  • Should the keyword only appear on one page, or on every page of my website?
  • What is the importance of keywords in the URL?
  • What about close variants, plural and singular?

Fortunately, the over-emphasis on keywords is a thing of the past. But a lot of people still think about where to place their keywords in order to get the biggest SEO benefit.

My first impulse would be to answer:

Forget about the keywords. Just focus on writing good content with your target audience in mind.

However, keywords are still very important when it comes to SEO. Search is primarily keyword-based and search engines have to use keywords in order to understand, evaluate and rank documents.

The golden rule – applicable to 95% of all websites:

The keyword should appear:

1 x in the title tag:

The keyword that a page is supposed to rank for must appear in the title tag. One time. Not twice, and not in variations.

It’s also recommended to put the brand name at the end of the title tag. This will improve the trustworthiness of the page (for Google) as well as enhance the snippet in the search engine results (for users).

1 x in the headline (h1):

The keyword must appear in the headline to immediately show the searcher, that the page is exactly what they were looking for. Ideally, the main headline is defined as <h1>. If that is not possible, for whatever reason, it’s ok to define it as something else, as long it’s the big headline on top of the page.

2-3 x in the content:

The keyword must be mentioned in the copy. If it doesn’t, the content is most probably not very relevant to the search query. Additionally, it’s good to use words that are topically related to the main keyword. Google will understand that your text is not only focusing on a keyword, but also covering a topic from many angles, which will give you an advantage.

2-3 times is enough. Now, it’s not terrible if your keyword appears more often than that, if the text requires it. But it’s counterproductive to use it unnaturally or to use close variants of your keyword. Google uses only the word-stem, so any grammatical variations that you may try to target by using them as often as possible will just look like keyword-stuffing to Google.

1 x in the meta description:

You don’t do this for better rankings (the meta description is not a ranking factor), but to achieve a higher CTR on the search results pages. Do this only if it makes sense.

That’s it! With this, you’ve covered most of it. Anything else you do after that will be fine-tuning and has only small effect. However, since we want to get as much out of on-page SEO as possible, here are 3 more points:

1 x in image alt-attributes and file names:

This helps to rank in image search. For websites that rely very heavily on images and have little text, the alt-attribute is a good place to get some additional content on the page.

1 x in the URL:

I’m not talking about the homepage! But on sub-pages, it is absolutely reasonable to use the keyword in the URL – for usability, for better understanding of the URL and for good rankings.

Domain.com/category/keyword : great.

Domain.com/keyword1-keyword2/keyword1-keyword3 : no! Just don’t do that.

1-2 x in sub-headings:

Use the keyword in sub-headings (h2, h3, …). This is useful and helps users and search engines to better understand what your page is about.

And once you’ve covered these points, it’s time to stop thinking about keywords on a page and move on to other more important things.


 

Author: Thomas Kloos is head of an SEO agency in Vienna. He’s been in the business for 15 years, speaks at conferences, gives workshops on SEO, AdWords and online reputation management and consults clients worldwide.

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 6, 2016 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    The keyword that a page is supposed to rank for must appear in the title tag. One time. Not twice, and not in variations.

    It’s also recommended to put the brand name at the end of the title tag. This will improve the trustworthiness of the page (for Google) as well as enhance the snippet in the search engine results (for users).

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