Keyword Basics and Ideas
What Are Keywords?
Keywords are the words and short phrases that people use to search Google and other search engines when they're looking for information. You can also think of them as “search terms.” For example, if I’m looking for a tennis racket for my child, I’ll probably type something like “tennis rackets for kids” into the search bar. Google rummages around the entire internet for these terms and returns articles with those keywords in them. I find what I was looking for, and I'm happy. In an ideal world, this is how the information highway works.
Page One Ranking and Why It Matters
When Google shows you the results of my tennis racket search, it presents page after page of relevant sites for me to consider visiting. These are called “Search Engine Results Pages,” or SERPs. If you’re like most people, you go to the first site at the top of page one, or maybe a few returns down. But you seldom go to page two. This is why it’s so important to get your article to the top of page one – you’ll get infinitely more traffic than if it’s buried somewhere on page 6.
If you are writing an article about tennis rackets for kids, and you want me to find it, you will use your keywords in the article. It should be obvious: When you write an article you need to write using the keywords for your topic.
In this article, you'll notice, I use the words "keyword" and "keyword help" frequently. That's because I want people searching for "keyword help" to find my article when they do a Google search.
You hear this term a lot, as well as “SEO,” which stands for Search Engine Optimization. In general, these all mean about the same thing: shaping and writing your article so it makes it to the top of page one on Google’s SERPs. It's a true challenge to come up with an article that rises to the top, but with thought, study, and a little talent, you can do it.
I want this article that you're reading to rise in the SERPs, of course. So I'm using my keyword ("keyword") often. It's a very meta situation! But it's very important that I don't overuse the word, or use it awkwardly. Repeating your keywords or using them gratuitously is a great way to get your article some negative attention from Google and other search engines.
If you write an article and repeat your keywords needlessly, or construct awkward sentences to you can jam them in and repeat them again and again, you're not writing to help people -- you're writing to game the system and steer traffic without offering anything of true value. Your articles are useless to people seeking real information. In a word, your articles are spam!
An Example of a Keyword-Optimized Article
Keyword optimization means that you thoughtfully write your article to naturally use keyword and phrases that a person might be searching for. That's not spam -- that's honestly filling a need, or offering to.
Here's another example: Let’s say I want to write an article about electronic drums for kids. I want people searching for that term to see my article at the top of the SERPs. A keyword-optimized introduction might look something like this:
"For those of you new to the concept of electronic drums (also sometimes called electric drums), a brief explanation:
Regular drums are among the loudest acoustic instruments around. But electronic drums are almost silent. When you hit electronic drums—actually the durable pads—people around you only hear a soft thud or click. But if you're wearing the headphones, you hear the sound of an unbelievably life-like drum set. You can also choose the kind of drum set you're hearing with the push of a button. Electric drums are ideal for kids and beginners because they let them practice and get better without annoying other people in the house.
Other benefits of electronic drums are the self-contained recording studio that the newer sets offer and seamless connectivity to computers and other devices. Electronic drums keep getting more sophisticated and more practical for parents with musical kids, but they're also getting to be very affordable. They also make a pretty great gift."
You’ll see that I naturally use my search terms and phrases, all centered around "electronic drums," "kids and beginners" "kid drums" and so on. When Google responds to a search for these phrases it will be more likely to find my article.
You can probably see how this plays out: Everyone trying to write about electronic drums for kids will be trying to out-keyword everyone else. It turns into an intense competition to be shown at the top of Google’s SERPs. Now multiply that by every conceivable search term for every conceivable subject, from baby food to car parts to exterminator services, and you’ll see why “keywords,” “SEO,” “SERPs,” and so on have been such hot topics for years.
I have several articles that rank at or near the top of page one for my search terms – and that's because I effectively used keywords throughout the article.
How to Keyword Optimize Your Articles
First of all, you need to do it naturally. Just writing a nonsense sentence that uses your keywords 15 times will not only not work, it will likely get you unpublished, delisted, and flagged as a spammer. You want to walk that fine line between using and abusing your keywords and phrases.
As a writer, you want your articles to contain keywords that people are looking for. So when you write your article, you will make sure to include accurate keywords and phrases. Begin with the title: If you have an article about kids’ tennis rackets, your article should be titled “Tennis Rackets for Kids,” not “Racket Sports Equipment for Non-Adults.” This may sound obvious, but you would be amazed at how many writers forget this very important principle.
Using Keywords Naturally
When you write, you should try to use your keywords or search phrases often, but naturally. There’s an art to doing this, and the really good online content writers can load up an article with keywords without you even knowing it. On the other hand, there are hacks out there who can make an article look truly weird and awkward by endlessly repeating words and terms. It’s these awkward, spammy articles that get unfeatured, because HubPages rightfully doesn’t want to risk its good name by publishing hackwork or spam.
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.— Colin Powell
Keyword density refers to how often your keywords appear in your writing. You want to use your keywords often, but not in a way that looks artificial or awkward (see “SEO”). To determine the keyword density in my articles, I use this free online tool:
All you do is paste in the url of your article and it tells you how often words occur. Ideally, your keywords should constitute between 1% and 3% of your article.
My Keyword Mistakes
I have made many, many keyword mistakes, and I have tried to learn from all of them.
My most common mistakes come from not thinking clearly before I start writing. It used to happen that I would work for hours on a 1500-word article, getting everything right, only to find that millions of other people had already had the same idea. With so much competition already available to readers, my new article will get lost in the vast ocean of published articles.
My mistake? I forgot to do some very simple research before I began writing. I was mad at myself, because I definitely know better. All I really needed to do was to google a few search terms -- keywords -- around my article idea. I would have seen that the keywords for my article were already taken by big, established sites that would keep me from getting to the top of the page.
A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.— B. F. Skinner
Keywords as an Art Form
In the end, there is an element to choosing and using keywords that is something of an art form. You will get better, as I got better, but it takes practice, and it takes mistakes. As long as you are always trying and always learning, you too will unravel the challenge of writing articles that show up -- eventually -- on page one of Google and other search engines.