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How to add SEO keywords into your website content without making it sound terrible

View profile for Ed Prior
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Keywords are an essential part of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If someone uses Google to search for ‘divorce solicitors in Bristol’ and your website has a page with that exact phrase on it, Google is much more likely to show the searcher a link to your page than it will be if your page doesn’t have that phrase on it.

So far, so simple, right? But it’s not just Google and other search engines that are going to be reading your website’s content. It needs to sound good for people as well, which is where we can start to run into problems.

Nobody wants to read a sentence like this:

“Our divorce solicitors in Bristol can help you with your divorce proceedings, making getting divorced as simple as possible through expert divorce advice on all parts of the divorce process including divorce financial settlements and child arrangements for divorce. Speak to our divorce lawyers now. Did we mention we do divorce?”

While this is stuffed full of divorce-related keywords, it sounds unnatural and “spammy”. So even if it helps you appear high up in Google results (which it probably won’t – more on that later), it is likely to put off anyone who actually reads it as it risks making you seem unprofessional and untrustworthy.

So how do you balance getting the right SEO keywords into your website content so it works for Google without putting off any potential clients who end up finding your website as a result?

In this guide, I will cover the following points (you can click on the links to jump to the relevant section or read the whole thing if you want to know it all):

And if there’s anything you’d like to know that we haven’t covered, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

How often should you be using keywords in your content?

This is a really critical decision. How often keywords appear in a piece of content is commonly referred to as ‘keyword density’ and it makes a real difference both for the SEO value of a page and how it reads to potential clients.

Your content needs to have the right keywords in there enough times to help you rank for related searches, but if you get carried away and stick too many keywords in there it just sounds absurd and unnatural (as the example in the intro shows).

Jargon buster: Putting an excessive number of keywords in your content is known as ‘keyword stuffing’.

So how do you make sure you are getting enough keywords in your content to have a decent chance of ranking well in Google search results, while avoiding tipping over into having so many keywords that you end up sounding spammy and untrustworthy?

There is no hard and fast rule about how often to include keywords in your content, but the general consensus amongst SEO experts is they should make up no more than around 1-2% of your content. That means one to two keywords per 100 words.

You can probably get away with slightly more than this is you are using a variety of keywords that naturally relate to the subject you are writing about (see below). However, 1-2% does represent a good rule of thumb to make sure you are getting enough keywords in without making your content sound like it’s been written by an SEO robot.

Key takeaway: Aim for 1-2 keywords per 100 words.

Do you need to keep repeating the same keywords over and over?

Repeating the same keyword over and over again is going to be really noticeable and off-putting to readers. The good news is, it’s actually not the best approach for SEO purposes either.

Instead, you want to use a variety of keywords that will work together to boost a page’s overall SEO value for a particular subject, while allowing you to sound more natural. These types of complementary keywords are referred to as ‘semantic keywords’.

For SEO purposes, good semantic keywords are those that match the same search intent (sometimes referred to as ‘user intent’).

Jargon buster: Search intent means the purpose behind someone’s search i.e. what they are actually hoping to find.

Let’s say you want people to find your website if they are looking for a divorce solicitor. You can probably guess that your page needs to include the phrase ‘divorce solicitor’ if you want to appear in search results for that keyword. But what other things might people search for if they want a lawyer to help with their divorce?

At Conscious, we use an SEO research tool called ahrefs which allows us to check a keyword and see lots of other related keywords. Answer the Public is a popular free tool that provides a similar function.

However, before you go plugging all of those words into your content, you need to do a little more work.

To get the best results, it’s a good idea to refine your list to those related keywords that best match the search intent of the types of people you want coming to your website.

For example, if someone Googles ‘divorce lawyers’, their search intent is probably to find a divorce solicitor, whereas if someone Googles ‘divorce’ their search intent may be to find more general information about the subject.

You can test your related keywords by putting them into Google and seeing what sorts of pages turn up. If no law firms are ranking on page one of Google for a keyword, it’s likely because Google has decided that people searching for that keyword aren’t looking for legal services – their search intent is different.

Spend some time curating a list of keywords that match the search intent of the type of clients you want to attract and you’ll have a variety of keywords to use in your content that make it more effective for SEO and less repetitive for readers.

Key takeaway: Use a variety of keywords that match the same search intent.

Where are the best places to put keywords in your content?

There are various places you should be putting keywords in order to make your content as appealing as possible to search engines. The main ones are:

  • Page titles
  • Subheadings
  • Near the start of content (ideally in the first paragraph)
  • Calls to action (where you tell potential clients what you’d like them to do next)
  • Title tags & meta descriptions (which appear in Google search results, rather than on the page)
  • Image alt text (invisible on the page but readable to Google)

Placing keywords in these places helps to clearly signal to search engines what a page is about, giving you much more chance of ranking for those keywords.

The bonus here is that this also gives you lots of opportunities to include keywords in a way that won’t be hugely noticeable or disruptive to someone reading the content.

Keywords in places like title tags, meta descriptions and image alt text aren’t going to be visible to someone reading your content, so you don’t need to worry about them from a reader point of view.

Keywords in titles and subheadings will be visible but won’t stick out as much. Most people will be unlikely to notice or think much about it if a page title is ‘Divorce Solicitors in Bristol’ as opposed to just ‘Divorce’. Likewise, if the final subheading before your call-to-action is ‘Contact our solicitors in Bristol’ versus ‘Contact us’, it probably won’t raise an eyebrow.

You will need to include some keywords in the text, but there are lots of ways you can do so without it being too jarring to the reader. If you can use keywords in ways that minimise any disruption to the flow of someone’s reading, they are much less likely to consciously notice them. More on this in the next section.

Key takeaway: Put keywords in places where they will provide the most SEO value while minimising any disruption to the way someone reads the content.

Is it okay to hide keywords?

Back in the early days of SEO, people used to use all sorts of ‘black hat’ tricks to hide keywords in the pages of their websites. A common tactic was writing keywords in the same colour as the page background, so they were invisible to people but visible to Google.

Search engines have got wise to these kinds of tricks now, so I would never recommend trying to ‘hide’ keywords in these kinds of dishonest ways. However, what you can do is incorporate keywords in a way that works for Google but is less obtrusive for the reader.

Jargon buster: ‘Black hat’ SEO refers to tricks Google doesn’t approve of. ‘White hat’ SEO refers to legitimate methods of improving a page’s search rankings.

As covered in the section above on the best places to put keywords in your content, there are lots of places you can put keywords where they will either be invisible or barely noticeable to readers.

Where you do need to include keywords in the text, you should always try to do so in a way that feels as natural as possible (or the least unnatural, if natural keyword placement isn’t possible).

One trick I like to use is including keywords in bullet point lists. Because of the way people read bullet point lists, as a series of discrete pieces of information rather than a continuous sentence, they don’t need to flow in the same way. This makes keywords feel less jarring.

For example:

Our divorce solicitors in Bristol can help with:

  • Initiating divorce proceedings
  • Responding to divorce proceedings
  • Divorce financial settlements
  • Child arrangements

Versus:

Our divorce solicitors in Bristol can help with initiating divorce proceedings, responding to divorce proceedings, divorce financial settlements and child arrangements.

The second version doesn’t sound like something any human would actually ever say out loud, so it feels more unnatural if it’s written as a sentence. By contrast, we don’t expect a bullet point list to sound like a person talking, so having a bunch of keywords in there isn’t as noticeable.

There are lots of other ways you can include keywords in your text without them seeming jarring – calls to action are a great place to fit keywords, as people expect them to sound a bit more salesy. But overall, if you stick to the principle of ‘does this sound like something a person would say?’, you hopefully will avoid anything that comes across as spam.

Key takeaway: Don’t try to hide keywords but do put them in places that don’t need to sound so much like natural language.

Do you need to use the keyword exactly?

This is one of the things that really trips people up. What do you do if you find a good keyword, but there is no way to naturally incorporate it into a sentence?

As an example, ‘divorce solicitors Bristol’ gets 90 searches per month in the UK according to ahrefs. But you wouldn’t want to use that in a sentence: “Our divorce solicitors Bristol offer an empathetic service tailored to your needs” just sounds weird.

You’d be much more likely to write: “Our divorce solicitors in Bristol offer an empathetic service tailored to your needs” but the phrase ‘divorce solicitors in Bristol’ only gets 0-10 searches a month (again, according to ahrefs).

Does this matter?

Not really. While Google will never tell us exactly how their algorithms work, experience shows us that these kinds of minor adjustments don’t seem to have any negative impact.

Google understands that ‘divorce solicitors Bristol’ and ‘divorce solicitors in Bristol’ mean the same thing and that, crucially, people searching for both are looking for a divorce solicitor who is based in Bristol. This comes back to the idea of search intent.

While we wouldn’t recommend straying too far from the actual keywords people are searching for, you also don’t need to stick so rigidly to the exact keyword that you end up writing things that sound inhuman.

Key takeaway: Vary keywords slightly so they fit naturally into your content where necessary.

Go forth and write SEO-friendly content that sounds human

So, if you want to write content that works for Google without sounding terrible:

  • Aim for 1-2 keywords per 100 words
  • Use a variety of keywords that match the same search intent
  • Put keywords in places where they will provide the most SEO value while minimising any disruption to the way someone reads the content
  • Don’t try to hide keywords but do put them in places that don’t need to sound so much like natural language
  • Vary keywords slightly so they fit naturally into your content where necessary

Follow these tips and you have a good chance of creating content that brings the right kind of people to your website, then helps to convince them that you are a trustworthy law firm they would like to work with.

Want more tips like this on writing content that works for humans and Google?

Then come to my webinar ‘Copywriting for Humans and Google’ on 11 May (it’s free!)

I’ll be covering:

  • The tips and tricks you need to bring more of the right type of people to your website
  • Common mistakes people make with their website content and how to avoid them
  • How to ‘think like a potential client’ so you can write content that convinces people to contact you
  • Structuring your content the right way for how people read online and for how search engines ‘read’ it
  • The one simple thing you can do right away to significantly increase the number of people contacting you via your website

Team Conscious is also running a range of other webinars over the next month covering subjects such as ‘Building Relationships in a Digital World’ and ‘Marketing Strategy and ROI’. You can check out the full schedule and book your spot here.

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