How do you ‘target’ a keyword?
In this week's newsletter: it's all about keywords (again). You know the difference between long- and short-tail keywords, but do you understand how to target a keyword?
Happy Monday, friends! It’s Shelby here on the first day of my holiday break. I slept in, will be hitting the gym and hoping I do not think too, too much about SEO over the next few weeks.
BIG NEWS! This newsletter hit 2,000 subscribers last week! That means we exceeded our first-year goal and I get a cake delivered to my apartment from Jessie. 🎉 What a great day. 🎂
Today, we’re going to take on part two of our keywords series by looking at what it means to target a keyword. Next week will be our last issue of 2021! We’ll be compiling our best issues and then taking a much-needed break until the new year.
We’re hosting an SEO for news call in the new year! Join our Slack community to get first access to the invite.
Let’s get into it.
In this issue:
What is keyword targeting?
How to plan your keyword targeting strategy
Frequently asked questions
Last week, Jessie wrote out the perfect study guide to every type of keyword you need to know. This is a great primer to understand how a keyword can be interpreted for many different use cases.
Let’s imagine a scenario. You and your team are working on a series of stories around holiday gifting and the global supply chain crisis. You decide you’ll produce five separate stories – a main story, an explainer, an FAQ, an opinion piece and an angle on the environmental impact.
You’re tasked with deciding which keyword will be targeted in the headline, deck and URL for each of these pieces. You want to ensure you’re focusing on the appropriate audience for each while optimizing for as much traffic as possible. You also don’t want to cannibalize yourself by ranking for the same keyword for all five pieces.
What does it mean to “target” a keyword?
Keyword targeting means exactly what it sounds like – the process of researching, selecting and optimizing for a term on a page. It includes using a specific keyword in the many components of a page, including the page title, meta description, URL, body copy, images, videos or GIFs and links (both internal and external).
Back in 2013, Rand Fishkin wrote a piece about keyword targeting and on-page SEO. At that time, keyword targeting and perfect placement of a keyword equaled less than 15 per cent of the rankings equation – meaning the impact of keyword targeting is less than 15 per cent of the total impact of doing good SEO. That impact is probably even less now, given the rising focus on user experience and better serving user intent.
When we target a keyword with a story, we are focusing our attention on a specific keyword that:
Is a description of the angle of the story;
Is focused enough that there is proper search intent;
Is not too focused that there is no search interest.
Can I target multiple keywords?
You can, but you want to hone in on one specific keyword per story. The reason for this mainly falls with concerns around keyword cannibalization, which occurs when a single website targets the same phrases across multiple stories. This can be good – in theory. But the concern is that you are inadvertently
Note: Stories will rank within Google for multiple keywords, but will most of the time be the same keyword group. This is normal! But you’ll see in your analytics that one keyword brings more traffic than the others. This is the main-focus keyword.
What does it mean if I don't get traffic from the keyword I targeted? Did I fail?
Absolutely not.The purpose of targeting keywords with our stories is to reach as many people as possible. We are improving the story by having a keyword focus with good user experience, a proper linking structure and good on-page SEO. It’s possible that Google decided your story ranks better for another keyword instead – and perhaps that one drives more traffic.
Experiment and play around with keyword tools such as Google Trends and Keywords Everywhere to see if there was a spike in traffic for a specific keyword or if traffic increased for one you did not expect. Now you know, and can further optimize the piece for the keyword it is getting traffic from and use the other as a secondary keyword.
Where do I start?
As always, start with keyword research. You want to take your seed keyword and break it down to keywords that are related to each specific story.
For example, the main piece about global supply chain shortages will be more broad than a piece on the environmental impact of the shortage. You may look up “global supply chain issues” and then look up “supply chain sustainability” as a breakoff keyword.
Make a list of the top keywords you could use for each piece and run them through your favourite keyword research tool to analyze search difficulty, search volume and what SERPs (search engine results pages) look like for those respective keywords.
From here, you’ll decide on a strategy to include the keyword in the various parts of the page. Always remember to include it in:
Headline and page title (if they are different);
Meta description (often the subtitle or deck);
Links to the story from other stories (internal links);
Links from other publications when they relate to a topic (external links);
Within the body copy (including it more than once is encouraged, but not necessary).
A few things to consider when targeting a keyword:
Read the piece. More important than anything is making sure you are aware of the story you are optimizing for. If you’re blindly going by a skedline, you may miss a crucial part of the piece that you can optimize for.
Break out from your seed keyword. As Jessie went through last week, your seed keyword is the root of your focus. It will almost always be too broad. You’re looking at what questions people are searching and what the best keywords around the more focused topic are.
Be open to change. The first keyword you find may not be the best. The one you target may not drive the most traffic. Consider that there may need to be a change to your strategy.
Do not keyword stuff. There’s a fine line between having a keyword in a piece enough for substance (for example, it would be a little silly to write a piece about what is causing supply chain issues without mentioning “supply chain issues”), but you don’t want the keyword to be thrown into body copy, headlines, URLs or decks when they aren’t warranted.
From there, monitor, track and improve your pieces. Check Google Search Console to see which keywords are driving traffic to your story. Keep track of which keyword you targeted each piece for and which produces traffic, then monitor its performance.
An optimized piece will always do better than a non-optimized piece. As frustrating as it can be to work so tirelessly getting a keyword into a piece of content just for it to rank for a different keyword, your work helped it rank for that keyword. Every time we make an improvement to a page, it is better for your readers.
The bottom line: Targeting a keyword is how we effectively incorporate keywords that our readers use into the on-page components. But keyword targeting is just one piece of the big SEO puzzle. Focus on good page experience, quality links and quality content and you’ll be a winner.
THE JOBS LIST
These are roles across the globe we see that are audience positions in journalism. Want to include a position for promotion? Email us.
Manager of SEO and Analytics at The Wall Street Journal
Assistant Audience Editor at TIME (NY, Remote)
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