In SEO, we talk a lot about keyword research—which keywords you should use in order to improve your rank. Something that isn’t addressed nearly as often is where you should place those keywords once you’ve found them.
Keyword placement is an important part of any good content-writing strategy. When you’re in a highly competitive niche, it’s likely most of your competitors are going to be targeting the same keywords as you—by employing the right keyword placement strategy, you’ll have a leg up on them.
Does Keyword Placement Matter?
Google and other search engines care deeply about the hierarchy of your content. When a heading matches a particular query, the search engine assumes that the content below that heading will be relevant to the query.
By including relevant keywords and questions in your headings, you’re basically yelling to search engines, “Hey! If a user searches for this query, look here! We have what they’re looking for!”
Even in this article, you’ll notice that all of the headings contain keywords related to the topic of “keyword placement”. You’ll also notice (hopefully) that I’ve organized the content in a logical, easy-to-follow manner.
You don’t have to sacrifice readability for proper keyword placement—quite the opposite. When you’re using your keywords in the right places, it makes things better and easier for users and search engines.
Tools for Keyword Research
There are a ton of tools available for keyword research. Some of my favorites are:
These tools will help you find keywords that are relevant to your niche; they’ll also help you understand which keywords to target using metrics like search volume and keyword difficulty.
They don’t, however, tell you where to put those keywords. That’s why you’re here, and that’s why I’m writing this—to help you put the keywords you’ve researched to good use in your articles.
Understanding Where To Put Keywords in Your Content
With proper keyword placement, you can:
- Improve your clickthrough rate.
- Improve your rank.
- Increase your content’s readability, enjoyability, and shareability.
That’s powerful stuff, and it’s all gold for SEO. There are, broadly, six places where you can put keywords in your content:
- Your title tag
- Your meta description
- Your headings
- The body of your content
- Embedded media (alt tags)
- The keywords schema
There are advantages to putting your keywords in all of these places, and each of them offers different perks. The keywords you use in your headings won’t provide the same benefits as the keywords you use in your meta descriptions—but both are valuable.
The 6 Main Areas for Keyword Placements
Title Tags Keyword Placement
The title tag is one of the most important places for your keywords. Generally, the keywords in your title tag are going to correspond almost exactly with what your users are searching for. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
Almost every one of these title tags literally contains the keywords I’m searching for. The only exception is the CNET result, which is
1. The lowest of these results
2. Contains the term “PC” which Google is interpreting as almost identical to “computer” (remember, friends—Google is getting really good at semantics)
Your title tag should always contain the keyword you’re trying to rank for. Many title tags are basically nothing but the keyword the article is trying to rank for. That’s what you should be aiming for.
Meta Description Keyword Placement
You may have heard the long-held belief that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor for SEO.
That’s true—with a gigantic asterisk.
While meta descriptions alone aren’t a ranking factor—that is, Google’s algorithm doesn’t look at the keywords in your meta description and say, “Hey, there are relevant keywords here, let’s rank this page higher”—they do affect clickthrough rate.
CTR is a ranking factor, and an enticing meta description will help boost your CTR.
Part of what makes a meta description enticing is its relevance. Let’s take a look at our computer speaker search results again, this time with an eye for meta description keywords:
Tsk, tsk, New York Times! You’re not writing your own meta descriptions—or the ones you’re writing are being rejected!
Notice that the search query is bolded in the meta description, including “Best PC Speakers,” which, as discussed, Google sees as essentially the same as “best computer speakers”.
Using keywords in meta descriptions is especially relevant for service in location (SIL) queries—a meta description containing the words “Italian restaurant in Chicago” is going to be a good indicator that the restaurant I’ve looked up is actually a local spot and not a multinational chain.
Heading Tag Keyword Placement
Headings organize your content. By placing keywords in your headings, you’re telling search engines exactly which snippets of content are answering the specific queries made by your users. That makes answers easier to find, and it makes it more likely that you’ll appear in featured snippets (though you should be sure to use schema to increase your chances!).
Generally, you’ll want your keywords to follow a top-down approach in scope:
- Your H1 should be similar to your title tag and should offer a broad overview of the topic you’re covering.
- Your H2s should divide your content into smaller chunks, offering more specific information on the topic at hand.
- Your H3s, H4s, and H5s should break down the topic into even more granular bits.
Naturally, this should lead to your H1 covering shorter tail, higher density keywords, and your H2s and below covering long-tail keywords and questions with smaller search volumes but lower keyword difficulty.
All of your headings should include keywords that you’re targeting.
Body Content Keyword Placement
Most of your keywords will be found in the body of your content. Ideally, you’ll end up covering a lot of ground simply by writing honestly and expertly about the topic you’re covering. You’ll notice, for example, that terms like “keyword placement” and “SEO” have come up in this article.
I’m not forcing those to happen—they occur naturally because the topic I’m covering is relevant to both keywords.
Be sure, however, not to try any keyword-stuffing tactics. There are tools to help you improve the density of particular keywords in the body of your content while avoiding keyword stuffing—I’ll tell you about my favorite among them in the FAQ.
Schema Keyword Placement
Here’s a little-known fact: You can include “Keywords” structured data (commonly referred to as “Schema”, thanks to schema.org) on your pages. This structured data allows you to tell other web pages, including search engines, which keywords are relevant to that page.
Google does not use “Keywords” structured data as a ranking factor. Whether or not you use “Keywords” schema is really up to you—you should be using schema on your website, but it’s probably a good idea to avoid schema stuffing.
Media Keyword Placement
Both file names and alt text are crawled by search engines for video and image searches. Remember, crawlers aren’t great at interpreting media, but they’re incredible at interpreting language.
This means that alt text, image and video titles, and video subtitles are hugely important for SEO—you should have relevant keywords located in all three.
Tracking Your Results
I’ve given you a lot of information about the importance of keyword placement in SEO—but you shouldn’t just take my word for it. As with anything SEO-related, analytics is key, and you’ll want to track your results to ensure your newfound knowledge is paying dividends. Here are a few tools you can try:
By following the tips I’ve laid out here, you’ll be creating content that’s more likely to rank well on search engine results pages (the SERPs). Happy writing!
How should keywords be placed in title tags?
More often than not, the main keyword you’re targeting for the page should be at the start of your title tag and make up most of the title tag.
Is it important to consider keyword proximity and density?
Yes! Too many keywords—or too many keywords too close together—can be interpreted as keyword stuffing. Too few, and you risk not being seen as semantically relevant. I recommend Surfer SEO—I used it to help write this article. Read my Surfer SEO review for more info.
Should I include keywords in the anchor text of internal links?
Absolutely. Data points to anchor text being a ranking factor, so relevant keywords are essential in internal links.
Can keywords be used in the footer of a webpage?
Sure—just don’t keyword stuff. Footers are navigational tools and should be treated as such. The footer on my site has some keywords like “SEO Course” and “SEO Tool Reviews”—but those are some of my most popular pages, and I want them to be easy to navigate to. When it comes to footers, user experience comes first.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when placing keywords?
The biggest mistake is not taking placement into account. The second biggest mistake is keyword stuffing. Avoid both of these.
How can I effectively balance keyword placement with natural-sounding content?
Keywords will almost always sound natural if you’re writing high-quality content; when exact matches don’t fit, opt for partial matches. Don’t force keywords that don’t fit—if they’re really important but you can’t fit them in naturally, it may be a sign that you should build another piece of content focused on those keywords.
Should I focus on using long-tail keywords in specific sections of my website?
Long-tail keywords are often tackled in the body of your content and in H2s and H3s. For this reason, they’re often well-targeted by blogs and longer-form content. These blogs should always have internal links to your “money pages” so you can get link juice and conversions from your blogs!
Are there any differences in keyword placement for mobile optimization?
Phone screens are smaller—they’re more likely to cut off portions of your title tag and meta description, and they show less information above the fold. When optimizing for mobile, it’s even more important to put your most important keywords as early in your content as possible—without stuffing.