Using Keywords

Hello QualityGal Writers!

There’s a brief moment of respite at the QualityGal office, which means we can finally update our blog. Yay! We just wanted to share some helpful hints and suggestions on using keywords, which can be one of the trickiest things to do for some assignments.

First, a little refresher on why keywords are important. In two words: search engines. Think about the last time you looked for a restaurant or tried to find discount gardening supplies. If you’re one of the billions of people who use search engines every day, there is a 99.9% chance that you used one of only four major search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing (which merged with Yahoo a while back), and Ask.com.

These four websites have the ability to direct billions of people every day to the millions of websites they’re looking for; that’s a lot of power and one of the major factors that all search engines use to create their search results is keyword placement. Users search for information using keywords and search engines partially rely on keyword usage to deliver results to the user. In a nutshell, if keywords aren’t found on a website, no matter how useful or helpful it might actually be, the search engines are going to bump that page downward in their rankings. Our clients want and need the opposite: for their sites to be successful, they need to be visible to search engines and that means proper usage of keywords.

Now, the question is. What do we mean by proper? Here are three basic guidelines to keep you pointed in the right direction.

Rule One: Keyword(s) must be used exactly. Sometimes that’s easy. You’ve got an assignment on indoor plants and one of the keyword phrases is “potted plants”, so you just make sure to use that exact phrase a couple of times in the article. No problem, right? But then you get keywords that just don’t sound natural, like how people really talk or write: “Cleveland garden roses”. So how do you do incorporate unnatural keyword phrases?

We suggest two options. The first is using punctuation to your advantage. While search engines track exact keyword phrases, they generally do not track punctuation. So using the example above, you could play around with different marks of punctuation.

  • Use a comma. One of the comma’s main functions is to separate phrases and clauses. So find a spot to split the phrase in two, using the beginning of the keywords as the end of one phrase and the rest of the keywords as the beginning of another. Like this:

“Sarah Mitchell loves the color and smell of roses, and in her Cleveland garden, roses are used as a focal point…”

  • Use a colon. A colon is mainly used to introduce a series or list. Use a similar splitting strategy to use the beginning of the keywords as the end of a phrase and then use the rest of the keywords to start a list. Like this:

“One of the first botanical sanctuaries was established in Ohio and there are many types of flowers to see in this Cleveland garden: roses, lilies, tulips…”

  • Use a semicolon. A semicolon is used to combine/merge two separate sentences together into one coherent thought. So if you can write two different sentences, one ending with the beginning of the keywords and another starting with the end of the keywords, you should be able to incorporate them. Like this:

“Due to the risk of frost, it’s best to wait until after Memorial Day to plant flowers in any Cleveland garden; roses are particularly susceptible to frost, so extra precautions should be taken…”

  • Use a period. This works exactly the same way as the semicolon, except instead of merging two sentences into one thought, you use the period to keep them separate. Like this:

“Mothers are the same whether they’re in Los Angeles or Cleveland. Garden roses make an excellent gift on Mother’s Day…”

Another trick to use is changing the context or meaning of one the keywords. Search engines can track word usage, but not what people mean by the words. If the keyword phrase is something like “Cleveland garden center”, you could try to use the word “center” as a noun, a place where you buy compost and such. Or, you could use the word “center” as a verb, the action of placing something in the middle. Like this:

“If you follow the diagram below, you will be the envy of anyone with a Cleveland garden. Center your rows uniformly, spacing the rows 12 to 18 inches apart…”

Disguising nouns as verbs and vice versa is called using gerunds, and they’re a neat little trick to consider when you’re stuck trying to figure out how to use that exact keyword phrase naturally. This works really well when the word ends in “-ing”, since a word like “swimming” can be used as both a verb: “He’s swimming” and a noun: “He likes swimming.”

Rule Two: Keywords must be used at least three times. While just using keywords over and over (keyword stuffing) doesn’t help search rankings and in some cases can actually lower it, search engines do need to see that the keyword phrases have been used more than once to come up as relevant on that particular topic. Using them just once doesn’t “register” enough with search engines. Three usages is a good number to strive for; it’s enough usage to appear relevant, but not too much that it appears like keyword stuffing.

Rule Three: Keywords should be naturally distributed through the article. There is still some debate as to whether keywords are better off being placed near the top of the article or not. At QualityGal, though, we’re of the mind that natural is better. When using the keywords at least three times, try to spread them out throughout the article: beginning, middle, and end. Bunching them all together just doesn’t seem natural. Like this:

“Harold’s on Main Street is an excellent Cleveland garden center and at this Cleveland garden center you will find top quality products at prices lower than any other Cleveland garden center.”

That just sounds weird and such a weird sounding sentence will strike most people who read it as sounding weird and they’ll ask themselves: “Why does this sound weird?” Get it?

Hopefully this will help you in writing articles that require keyword placement. For more helpful tips, be sure to check out the resources on the Writer’s Panel and if you ever have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Have a great day!

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2 comments on “Using Keywords
  1. Lorelei Nettles says:

    Thanks for the info. on splitting key words with punctuation. I would have never known that were possible.

  2. QualityGal says:

    Hi Lorelei, thanks for the comment. We’ll keep working to get more helpful tips out there. If you’d like to share any helpful tips, you are always welcome to post them to QG!