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How to Select Great Focus Keywords for Your Content

Focus keywords are the building blocks of on-page SEO. Selecting great keywords can help you set your blog, website or landing page up for success. But actually finding those keywords is often daunting. What makes a good keyword? And where can you find new keywords? Here are a few tips to increase your keyword selection expertise:

Google AdWords is your friend. If you’re stumped for keywords, the best place to start is the free Keyword Planner tool in Google AdWords. Type in a subject or set of words, and Keyword Planner will generate a list of related suggestions. These suggestions range from variations on the words you typed to other words that are associated with your subject matter. Keyword Planner is a great place to discover keywords you might otherwise miss out on. This tool also shows you how many people a month search for a given keyword (known as search volume) and how in-demand a keyword is on Google AdWords (known as competitive level). This information is essential for another important aspect of selecting good keywords…

Pick keywords that give you a chance of getting noticed. Say you’re writing a blog post about how to choose the right insurance for a small business. You might think “business insurance” is the perfect keyword for your post—after all, it describes what your blog is about. But according to Keyword Planner, over 40,000 people a month search for “business insurance.” The likelihood of your blog post finding the people to whom it will be relevant is very small. “Business insurance” also has a high competitive level, meaning that advertisers are paying big bucks to run paid focus keywordsGoogle AdWords ads that appear when users search the keyword. Without paid promotion, your blog post will likely fall behind these paid ads. The best focus keywords have plenty of searches, but not too many, and a low to medium competitive level. Selecting a keyword that fits this description makes it easier for your page to compete and reach viewers.

Related: Find keywords that fit your niche. Google tracks bounces—how often visitors leave your site immediately after clicking on it—and uses them to evaluate a page’s SEO. If a site has a high bounce rate, it usually means that visitors aren’t finding it helpful or relevant. One way to lower your bounce rate is to select keywords that accurately represent what you offer. Be as specific as you can without being esoteric—you want to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in your products and services. The more your focus keywords align with your content, the more likely it is that a potential customer with strong interest will view your pages.

Keep the writing in mind. Google doesn’t just check for the presence of keywords in copy—they also analyze the quality of the site. Shoehorning a keyword that is stilted or awkward into your copy will downgrade the quality of the site and make it difficult for visitors to navigate. For instance, “Best bagels Chicago” has hundreds of searches a month, but it’s extremely difficult to insert that phrase naturally into written copy. Don’t forget that getting your site to the top of Google is not an end in itself, but a means to an end: drawing in new visitors and generating new leads. If the site isn’t readable by your audience, its position on Google won’t help you get new business.

Thoughtful keyword selection can go a long way towards improving the SEO of your website. Whether you’re writing a blog post, a landing page or a site page, a strong keyword will bring focus to your copy and give you a greater chance of getting to the top of Google.