You can’t have a conversation about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) without having a conversation about keywords. While Google has some 200 ranking factors, a large majority of them have to do with how and where keywords are used. Of course, there are links and word counts to consider along with a host of other onsite factors, but if you aren’t looking at keywords properly, you’ll miss a huge opportunity for ranking. 

Fundamental keyword research starts with your primary keyword and then looks beyond that into secondary and tertiary words. Let’s look at how to build the right keyword mix to properly optimize your blog and online content. 

The Primary Keyword’s Purpose

The primary keyword is the phrase the embodies what the Google search was asking for. This might be “dog groomer.” The more specific the phrase, the more exact Google can provide a result. If your article is about the “best dog groomer in Des Moines,” you will be more likely to rank for that exact match. Summing it up, the primary keyword is important.

You should look to use your primary keyword in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence of the blog article. It should also be used in at least one of the headers. There is a Yoast tool that suggests a “density,” of your primary keyword, meaning how often you are using it in relation to how long the total article is. The ideal keyword density is 1% to 3%. That means if your keyword is “preventing sunburn,” you would want to use it anywhere from one to three ties per 100 words (or 10 to 30 times in 1,000-word post). 

Keep in mind that anything more than that risks being seen by Google as “keyword stuffing” which is using a keyword repeatedly to ping the Google algorithm. Once upon a time, web pages would create a background layer and just type the keyword in. Google quickly became savvy to this and labeled it as “black hat” techniques and penalizes those bad guys for the practice. It can still happen in regular content, so check how often you use the term and make sure it is used naturally throughout your text.  

Building Secondary and Tertiary Keywords

Secondary keywords often play off the primary keyword and are similar to a great extent. For example, if the primary keyword is, “payroll software” the secondary keyword might be, “cheap payroll software solutions.” Generally, the secondary keyword and any tertiary keywords (third most important) help Google understand that the page has a bigger contextual purpose than just the primary keyword. 

This means that secondary keywords help to optimize pages with SEO and additionally help the Google algorithm map out clusters and pillars. There isn’t an exact ratio of the secondary keyword density requirement for optimization. However, keep in mind that you don’t want your secondary keyword to outshine the primary keyword in density and numbers. This means if you have a 1% density of the primary keyword, you want less than 1% density of the secondary keyword. 

A good practice is to have the ratio of primary to secondary keywords at a two-to-one ratio, thus if the primary keyword is optimized with 16 occurrences, you would want the secondary keyword to be at 8 or less. Again, this is a general practice and as long as you are naturally using the term and it is less than the primary keyword, you should still remain in the white hat technique realm. 

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What a Recipe Card Is

A recipe card is a term we use in our agency to describe a keyword list that has 10-30 keywords we aim to optimize in an article. The recipe card starts with a primary keyword and may have several secondary keywords to optimize based on the pillar and the competitor analysis. It will then have multiple tertiary keywords related to the topic, once again based on the pillar content and the competitor analysis. 

Writing a blog post based a recipe card can be much more difficult to do since you have to be aware of so many keywords and the desired density. However, we find that when done right, we get the best SEO results for clients and create the most organically derived content possible. 

What Are the Types of Keywords

The longer you write online content, the more types of keywords you will hear about. While long-tail keywords tend to be the most commonly referred to, here are nine types of keywords to consider as you build your content strategy:

  • Short-tail: most volume but hardest to rank for keyword or phrase often consisting of one or two words
  • Long-tail: often easier to rank for with three to five (sometimes more) words to better focus search results
  • Short-term fresh: ranks high pertinent to existing news or cultural trends such as a movie title that is being released
  • Evergreen: a short-tail keyword that has mid-level volume and is relevant to a topic regardless of trends
  • Product defining: keyword relative to the brand or specific product a consumer may be looking for such as a purse or pair of type of car
  • Customer-defining: helps narrow search focus by including some type of demographic details to the long-tail keyword
  • Geo-targeting: helps rank for location-specific searches such as cafes or local service providers
  • Latent semantic indexing (LSI): topic-related keywords that use other commonly searched phrases
  • Intent targeting: suggests the search intent based on education, shopping, or creation search

At the end of the day, it isn’t relevant what you name a keyword as long as you are targeting the search users who will benefit from your content. Local businesses will use location in keywords (geo-targeting), while ecommerce sites may use brand names (product defining). Understanding how people search online and how that relates to what you offer is where the magic happens. 

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How Does a Pillar Development Factor Into Keywords

We’ve already talked a bit about how keywords (particularly secondary and tertiary) factor into creating a pillar and optimizing not just one article, but a group (or cluster) of articles. Taking a deeper dive will help us better utilize keywords when building a site map and content calendar. 

Let’s start with what is called a “head keyphrase” – this isn’t the primary keyword you are trying to rank a blog article for. A head keyphrase is the overarching theme of your website and what you hope to get the entire website to rank for. This means if you are a family therapist, you might want all your content to pertain to “family counseling,” while an individual keyword for a blog post might be “counselors for kids.” The blog post should still aim to rank for family counseling as part of the entire website. It is a foundation of the pillar terms. 

When it comes to SEO, the pillar is nothing more than the topic you will create a body of content around. Think of it like a book that has chapters in it. The entire book might be about economics with chapters on different theories, political factors, investment, etc…. As a blog, the pillar might be US economics with subtopics being the equivalent of chapters or even subsections. 

When it comes to keywords, your primary keyword should always pertain to the actual blog post while secondary and tertiary keywords help Google to understand that the topic is relevant to other blog posts you’ve written relating to the head keyword. Building a pillar starts with the head keyword and extends to various long-tail keywords depending on the subtopics and supporting blog posts. 

The more content you have linked together, the bigger your overall pillar becomes. Keywords become anchor text to internally link one piece of content to another. This gives Google the signal that the anchor text is something people search for within your overall pillar topic. 

If you need help with your content creation moving forward in 2020, contact us. Digital Footprint Media has several solutions to help DIY business owners with content development or our parent company, Sensible Copy and Consulting can take your whole campaign from strategy to implementation for you.

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