Search Engine Optimization Basics: Using Keywords

June is Search Engine Optimization month on Amanda Cross Blog. This is the first month that I will be having themed months. With this I am hoping that you can get more amazing content and I hope that I can delve deeper with each topic we discuss. Check out this handy roadmap and join me each Monday at 8 AM CST to delve deeper on that subject:

  1. Search Engine Optimization Basics: Using Keywords (You are here.)
  2. How to Submit Your Site To Search Engines
  3. How To Properly Use Backlinks & Social Media For SEO Growth
  4. Writing A Post For SEO While Being Human

I hope that this month will provide a lot of valuable information for you when it comes to search engine optimization. So, without further ado, let's start our chat on the basics of search engine optimization--keywords.

Search Engine Optimization Basics: Using Keywords | Are you currently using  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get traffic for your blog? If not click through to learn more about the basics of search engine optimization so that you can learn how to use keywords to benefit your blog and business.

What is search engine optimization?

Before we discuss keywords we have to understand what Search Engine Optimization or SEO actually is.

Search Engine Optimization can be complicated but at it's core it is just a way to optimize how often you are found organically through search engine results.

Search Engines are sites that aggregate and showcase data for people. A search engine has indexed many sites and the purpose of a search engine is to showcase the best results for any given phrase typed into it. 

Search engines are complicated beings, but there are many ways that you can use SEO to rank higher and show up in more results.

Above all else, search engines want to provide relevant results to users. When someone types a question or a phrase into Google and they get a relevant result, they are more likely to keep coming back to Google to ask any question or look up anything they want to know more about.

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Why Should You Care About Ranking In Search Engines?

Search engines are AMAZING. In today's information overloaded world, people trust search engines to provide them with the best knowledge about basically any topic they can think of. If you can get Google to be your best friend for any significant length of time, you have a best friend that will get you consistent targeted traffic to your site.

Honestly, you don't even have to be ranking for huge keywords. If you can rank high enough for some good keywords in your niche, you can create an awesome steady stream of traffic for yourself.

For example, I started using SEO on my blog The Happy Arkansan heavily this year. I am just using basic techniques and using Google Webmaster Tools/Google Search Console (which I will be teaching you more about next week) and I have already seen a significant increase in traffic from Google which has in turn also helped me grow my email list. You don't want to put all your traffic eggs in one basket so using SEO in tandem with Pinterest can really help grow your traffic and email list.

It is just June and I have already received more page views from Google this year than I received all of last year from Google on The Happy Arkansan. If you can consistently get more traffic from a source, your goal should be to hop on that source and make sure that you are using it properly.

What is a keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase that you share throughout your blog post, sales page, commerce site, etc that search engines can use to find your content. You can use a keyword throughout your article to get a search engine's attention and then users will type those keywords into Google, Bing, or whatever search engine they use to find your content.

So when a Google user types in "Fidget spinner tricks" then Google will be able to show them a variety of relevant sites, videos, or pictures with fidget spinner tricks. 

Search Engine Optimization: Keywords

But how does google know?

Google learns. Google is able to access a lot of information like page and video views, time on site, social shares, backlinks, and SO much more to be able to make sure that your content is relevant to Google users. Once may also see that your content isn't as relevant by users skipping over your results and not clicking or when users exit your site quickly. Google is constantly updating it's algorithm and search ranking to make sure that each time someone visits their site to search for something--they get the result they want.

how smart is google?

Google is pretty darn smart. Some people think that Google isn't smart because it's not a human, but Google knows it's stuff, y'all. For instance, I have ranked for many things and some of the results around my information isn't as clear as you might think. For example, one thing I rank for on The Happy Arkansan is the phrase "how to write a kickass introduction"

Search Engine Optimization: Keywords

Why is it crazy that I rank for this? Well, one, my article title is actually called "How To Write A Kick Ass Introductory Paragraph" not "How To Write A Kickass Introduction." Google was able to pull various statements from my article where I did explicitly say "introduction" and understand that all the various ways I say Introductory like intro and introduction all mean the same thing which helped me rank for this.

Now let's look further down these results. The second result is titled "How to write a kickass essay with 1/2 the stress." That has nothing to do with writing a introduction paragraph, explicitly, but it will be touched on because part of writing an essay is writing an introduction paragraph. This person mentioned the word "introduce" which is another word that Google was able to associate with "introduction." Good job, Google!

Now for the third result, this person's whole result is just a .PDF. Google was able to read this .PDF and pull the words "how to write a kickass introduction" from the .PDF. Obviously, Google understands that this .PDF could be potentially relevant to readers even though the title of this .PDF is "Writing Effective Introductory Paragraphs and Thesis Statements."

Don't sleep on Google's knowledge and be left behind y'all.

What Is A Long-Tail Keyword?

A long-tail keyword is essentially a phrase that you are trying to rank for. Why would you want to rank for a phrase? Simple, people ask Google a question, they don't ask Google about a topic. Generally the only time that I will ask Google about a topic is if I am doing some research or finding content to share on social media. When I am really being genuine and asking Google about something I need help with I am descriptive and I take my time to ask the right question or statement to Google.

Think about it. Say you are buying a notebook. You know the kind of notebook you want to purchase or you have some details about the notebook that you are trying to purchase. Which phrase are you more likely to type into Google?



purple Five-Subject Notebook

More than likely you are trying to cut out the fluff. You don't want to see every notebook known to man. Instead you only want Google to show you the notebook if it is purple and has five-subjects. I mean, look at the difference in quality for your results.

Search Engine Optimization: Keywords
Search Engine Optimization: Keywords

When you look up the keyword notebook you get a ton of irrelevant results. There are results for Google Notebook, the movie The Notebook, computer notebooks, and a couple of results for some notebook companies like Moleskin which is kind of helpful, but still not very helpful.

When you are specific with your purple five-subject notebook search you get TONS of relevant results. You even get some great shopping links from various places that will make getting your purple five-subject notebook a literal breeze.

When it comes to ranking for keywords you want your products and blogs to be found in the breeze category. You want to rank for many long-tail keywords so you can make sure that the people who are searching for those things are more invested. If someone is searching for a purple five-subject notebook they are probably ready to buy, unless of course they are looking it up for a blog post on keywords.

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Doing Keyword Research

When writing your articles you should try to use the best keywords for your article. Lucky for you, Google provides an awesome tool for those who want to do keyword research. You can access that tool by clicking here.

Now, Google Keyword Planner is meant to get you hooked on purchasing Google AdWords ads, but you don't have to do that! Before you start even considering doing a Google AdWords ad, I need you to not. Instead, I want you to start taking SEO seriously. You can do so much with SEO just by utilizing Google Search Console (which we will chat about next week, yay!) and Google Keyword Planner (which we are chatting about now.)

How do you do that? Well. Let's delve deeper into using our keyword planning tool.

Now that you have watched a video tutorial about Google Keyword Planner, let's break down some of the terms we chatted about a bit.

Average Monthly Searches

This is the average times per month someone is looking for the term or phrase you are trying to rank for. You want this to be a healthy number. It doesn't have to be in the millions, but you want something that people are actually searching for. If you rank for a term and no one is actually searching for that term, ranking for it won't matter.


Competition is used mostly for advertisers, but this can be an important thing for you to understand even if you don't plan to start a Google AdWords campaign. Why? Advertisers are smart as hell, y'all. They calculate these things and they are trying to get the best return on investment for their companies and blogs. If a term or phrase has high competition, it means that advertisers have seen a return on their investment. Advertisers aren't going to stay with a term or phrase if it isn't getting them the results they want.

On the other hand, if a term or phrase is highly competitive it also means that you are going to have a difficult time ranking for that term or phrase. This isn't meant to turn you off, it's meant to encourage you (but only to a degree.) Don't spend SO much of your time chasing keywords that are highly competitive that you miss out on some of those low and medium competition keywords. Having a keyword with low competition or medium competition doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't go after it. Those keywords may not yield the most traffic, but you want a portfolio of various terms that you rank for.

Think of your keywords as a pyramid. You want your base to be filled with many of those easy to rank for keywords that are going to give you some good traffic each month. If you can rank #1 or even on the front page for many of those keywords that will rake some great traffic in for your blog. Then you want to think of some more medium competition keywords. Go after those keywords so that you can get more traffic and rank for more prestigious keywords. Lastly try hard to rank for a few high competition keywords as those are getting people a ton of results.

Your Keyword Competition Pyramid

Where do you add keywords

So now that you have some keywords to use, where do you put them? There are many places that you should add your keywords too:

In Your URL

Obviously, if you want to rank for something, it should be a part of your blog post's URL. You should be able to easily change the URL for any post you make so that you can add the URL you actually want and add a URL that is better for SEO. Try to be a succinct as possible when creating your URL so that Google can focus on the keywords you want to rank for.

In Your Blog Title

Your title is another great place to add your keyword. While it's not mandatory, adding your keyword toward the front of your blog title is best.

In Your Blog Headers

If you are not using headers and subheaders for your blog, you should start this process today. Headers are great because they help you break up your text, and also because they are great for SEO. You have seen headers and subheaders throughout my article with the blue, pink, and red words.

Throughout Your Blog Posts

You also want to share your keywords multiple times throughout your article. When you do this you allow Google to understand that you are serious about the topic at hand. If you just talk about a topic once or twice, Google may pick it up, but the clearer you are about this being a main point, the clearer it will be for Google to rank your blog.

Obviously you don't want to create something crazy here so don't start keyword stuffing, but it's good to share some great keywords throughout your post so that Google understands what your article is about.

In Image File Names & Image Captions

Images are a highly under utilized way to boost your SEO. You need to start taking them seriously though because Google also indexes images on your blog. You want to make sure that you take the time to add captions, add alt-tags, and add file names for your images. Optimize every aspect of your blog.

Extra Resources

Here are some extra resources that might help you understand keywords as a blogger:

Understanding Keyword Density by Automated Marketing Group

How To Use The Google Keyword Planner Tool For SEO by Quicksprout

7 Types Of Keywords To Boost Your SEO Strategy by Search Engine Land

How To Optimize Your Images For SEO by Beautiful Dawn

10 Insane SEO Myths That You Might Actually Believe by Miranda Nahmias

Final Thoughts

I am SO excited about SEO month this June and I hope that you are too. I put a lot of effort into this weeks blog and I hope that you got some great information from our discussion on keywords. I love Pinterest, but search engine optimization can be a great way to get traffic to your blog, especially if you are a generous content creator like I know you are. SEO takes time, but I am confident that if you follow along with the blog this month you will be able to start seeing results from search engines like Google. Join me next week as we discuss why you should take matters into your own hands and submit your site to search engines.