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SEO Workshop – Keyword Content Optimisation

Date: 17/04/2023
Person Completing Doc: Simon Brooker – Digital Lead
Purpose: Script for the internal skill share SEO workshop
Total run-through time 15 min


  • What are Keywords
  • Keywords and content creation
  • Using Analytics to Find Keywords
  • Long and short tail keywords
  • Analysing Content with Keywords – and some free tool
  • Keyword Stuffing and Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword Content Optimisation

Understanding what Keywords are and how to implement them into content, is the fundamental building block of SEO success. If you get this right, you will find yourself attracting high-quality visitors looking for answers to questions your content is covering. Get this wrong and you will attract the wrong type of users and this will result in articles with High Bounce Rates.

Bounce rate is the term associated with how frequently users land on your site from a search engine and leave without clicking any further into your website. If they leave shortly after landing on your page, this is an indication to Google that the article was not suitable and it will be less likely to recommend the article for that search query again. So we know that keywords can affect our SEO score, but what are they?

What are Keywords?

“Keywords (also known as “SEO keywords,” “keyphrases,” or “search queries”) are words and phrases that users type into search engines to find information on a particular topic.”Yoast SEO

Important note: any term used in a search engine, whether a single word or a long phrase, is considered a keyword.

Success in SEO is often measured by how often and how high a website ranks with keywords associated with your site. Keywords, in their simplest sense, are words or phrases people would search in Google that are present in our content. Sounds easy right? Chuck a load of mental health words here and there, sprinkle in the word University as text and slap a keyword like a student in every paragraph and job done…Well, unfortunately, it isn’t as straightforward as that.

When trying to understand how keywords are used in the content writing process it starts to become a little bit abstract. When approaching any online content, the main thing to consider above all else is to Write the highest quality content possible that solves or answers a user’s problem. This way of thinking should always be at the forefront of everything you do. The use of keywords shouldn’t compromise the integrity or quality of the content.

When SEO was just getting started. Keywords were assigned to articles and these were hidden in the code above the content. This would be read by search engines and used to help better understand the article topics and categorise them. Other search engines like Bing still follow this practice, however, recent updates to Google’s algorithms now ignore these Keywords hidden in the article and focus entirely on the content found on the page. This is a deliberate move to ensure that the quality of content is a priority over and above everything else.

As Google now bypasses the Keyword hidden in the article’s code and reads directly from the text. Your article may now also rank for a wider variety of keywords that you may not have accounted for. This means greater reach and impact. Keywords should integrate seamlessly into your content and naturally form part of your writing.  As such, when Google reads through your content, it should be structured in a way that it can understand keywords and points of your content without having to explicitly tell it.

You can structure your content through the use of Keywords in Titles or Headings to help better communicate this to Google. We will be looking at this in more detail in the next workshop. Google will also flag content that clearly focuses on keywords first and compromises on quality. Bad practices like this are Keyword Stuffing and Keyword Cannibalization we will look at both of these later in this workshop.

So from this, we are already starting to understand that keywords are used to help search engines better understand and categorise your content so they can offer more accurate recommendations to a search query.

Keywords and Content Creation

We are starting to understand what keywords are, and that they should complement our content rather than be the sole focus. But how do we approach creating high-quality content that makes effective use of keywords?

Writing content with SEO in mind typically follows 2 steps.

  1. Using analytics & insights to find popular search queries or what your audience needs 
  2. Creating content based on your insights and then optimising it to meet a specific search term 

But when approaching Keywords always ensure to write the highest quality content possible that solves or answers a user’s problem. 

Using Analytics to Find Keywords

When looking for keywords for ideas for content creation, a good place to start is Google Keyword Planner

Here is a screenshot of Google Keyword Planner with some areas for discussion highlighted in colours.

At the top, highlighted in blue, we can see our Keyword search term for Student Mental Heath. After keying this in, Google Keyword Planner will provide a long tabled list, highlighted in red of other search terms related to the initial search query we inputted. 

In the Average Monthly Searches, highlighted in orange, we can see how often users are searching for this in Google and this gives us an indication of search popularity. 

Next to this, highlighted in purple, we can see the Three Monthly Change column. This column shows any change in search patterns over the past three months. This can be useful in identifying trending topics.

As you can see on the line highlighted in yellow, we have the Search query University Mental Health Day, whichincreased by +900%. 

Finally, in the pink highlighted column, we can see Competition. This is a really important column to review. When deciding on a keyword, you need to weigh up the word search popularity vs the competition of other sites trying to rank for the same keyword. Remember: It’s all about getting onto the first page of Google. This is where 90% of search interaction happens. We want to be getting our articles into the top 1-3 spots in the SERP

From this table, the search query line highlighted in green – “Counselling and mental health services” has more competition than the other Keywords. But the search volume month on month is low. This is an example of a keyword you might want to avoid. You are looking for keywords with high monthly searches and low competition. 

Long-tail vs Short-tail Keywords

When choosing a keyword for your article, there are two main approaches, the use of:

  1. Short-tail keywords 
  2. Long-tail Keywords 

Short-tail Keywords

Short-tail keywords are keywords that are usually one or two words long, i.e Mental Health. These keywords are often very broad and have a high level of competition. As short-tail keywords are broad, they can initially increase the chances that your article will be offered up to users’ search queries in the SERP. 

When they do offer up your article, you may find that there is so much competition that your article appears on pace 5 or 6 of the SERP. Articles that are optimised for broad short-tail keywords run the risk that a search engine struggle to accurately index your article and offer it up against a search query that might not be relevant. 

Remember: If an article isn’t suitable for the user and they leave straight away, this will increase your bounce rate and this can negatively impact your SEO score.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are keywords that are much more specific to the article content, an example of this could be Mental Health Support when Starting University. This keyword includes the above short-tail keyword but has been extended into a long-tail keyword to make it more specific.

As articles can rank for multiple keywords, your article may still be offered up for a search query using the term Mental Health, but you may now also rank for more specific keywords like the one shown here.

Using Long-tail keywords could mean your article doesn’t appear as often in the SERP, but increases the likelihood of the article matching a search query. Relevant content will reduce your bounce rate and keep users on-site for longer.

Analysing Content with Keywords

So we now know how to choose keywords based on insights from Google Keyword Planner. Now let’s look at how we can analyse our content for the keywords we have chosen. Some of you may be aware, I run a community magazine called REACH Local Magazine. Our goal is to provide free marketing opportunities to small local charities and disadvantaged community groups that are looking to set up a business. We take students from Brookes University and I teach them how to write articles that will rank in the SERP.

One of the systems we use to analyse our content is called Rank Math. This is a tool that analyses the on-page content against keywords to help optimise the articles for SEO. Here is an article written by one of our fantastic writers Jaliisa. As you can see screenshot, the area highlighted in red gives you a space to input keywords and the software scans the article and gives you feedback/prompts below.

In this example, the primary keyword is Food Waste Action Week. The system gives the article a score out of 100 highlighted in the top right. This indicates the success of each keyword shown on the right using a red, amber, and green process. It is worth noting that this score is a score the system gives based on the relationship between the keyword and the content. It is not an SEO score.

I particularly like this system because each SEO grading criteria has a question mark that takes you to a full article that explains what the respective point means. As you can see here.

This way of working is great for those new to SEO and that want to read and learn more. There are other websites that can offer similar content analysing features. I recently found a free tool called SEO Review Tools. SEO Review Tools has a Free Chrome extension which allows you to quickly check the URL you’re visiting, with one of their 66 SEO tools.  SEO Review Tools has so many other onsite features where you can search for keywords, use AI to write content or even review your existing content against Keywords as shown previously like with the Rank Math example.

Here is an article I wrote in 2022 about the use of AI in web development. I pasted my article into the tool and it gave me a 93% score and recommended:

“The focus Keyword doesn’t appear in the first paragraph of the text”.

So you can see how recommendations made by these systems can help content writers tweak the content and optimise it for SEO.

When choosing your keywords, some systems may allow for a primary or focus keyword. This is the main keyword of the article. You will then have the opportunity to track other keywords that have lower importance associated with them. 

This tool can help you rank one article for multiple keywords. In the previous example, we saw that the primary keyword was Food Waste action week with other keywords being analysed such as Food Waste and Green Habits being secondary keywords.

You can see that the system has scanned the content for all 5 of these and given a RAG score for each.

But remember Google bypasses these keywords. So we are only adding them to the system to check we are using the keywords consistently and to flag any gaps.

Some core Keyword takeaways when writing content are

  1. Keywords in your page title and subheadings
  2. Keyword in your meta description and URL – we will look at this in future workshops
  3. Keywords appearing in the first paragraph or 10% of your content
  4. Keywords found in alt text on images and article featured images – we cover how to do this in future workshops
  5. Keyword article density is less than 5 
  6. The unique use of Keywords that they haven’t been used before on your website

Now let’s look at some do’s and don’ts in Keyword optimization

Keyword Stuffing and Keyword Cannibalization

The last thing I want to quickly cover is some things to avoid when approaching Keyword Optimisation. These are

  1. Keyword Stuffing 
  2. Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing or keyword overloading is where you include your keyword too many times in your text. 

It is natural to think that if you want to rank for a specific search query filling your content with these words is the way to go. However, Google sees this as a poor user experience and will downrank your content. 

Your Focus Keyword should appear no more than 5 times in your article, this includes any titles and the body of text. Keep things varied and interesting by using synonyms or other related keywords in your content.

Keyword Cannibalisation 

Keyword Cannibalisation isn’t as scary as it sounds. It is the term given to articles competing for the same keywords on the same site. Getting to the first page of Google is hard enough, don’t compete against your own articles. Instead, write articles that are different but cover a similar theme. More diverse articles around a specific subject will better help Google categorise your site.

Remember, every article should be of the highest quality. So if you have written a piece that is competing for the exact keyphrase as another on your site, consider reviewing or editing the existing one instead. As this has already built up its own SEO score and may already have multiple high-ranking keywords associated with it.

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