SEO Keywords: Where Do They Go?

on under Keyword Research, Tactic Tuesday.

Most people know they need to use keywords on their page in order to capture search engine traffic. But not everybody knows where they should place keywords in order to get optimal results. These 8 factors are all completely concrete, backed by Google patents and statements from Google representatives. Take advantage of these to boost your rankings.

1. In The Title Tag

If you've done any research into SEO, you know this already. That said, even people who know that this is the place where their keywords will have the absolute most impact on search results end up failing to put this knowledge to use.

Yes, it's important to create engaging, natural looking titles that grab attention and bring in readers, but you also need to clue search engines, not to mention users, in on the primary topic of your post. That's not being manipulative. The sheer opposite, clickbait, is the truly manipulative approach.

Not that anybody doubts it at this point, but a patent refer explicitly to titles.

2. In Your URL

If you're already putting your keywords in your title, and you are using a modern CMS, this is probably already being taken care of for you. Even so, it's an easy one to miss. Sites with junky URLs made up of letters and numbers are still very common, and this is a missed opportunity.

And yes. URLs definitely matter. There are patents and interviews to prove it. Make sure you're not missing this easy boost in the search results.

3. Words That Have Been Formatted To Stand Out

This one often goes ignored. There's a good reason for that: it became common practice for hardcore SEOs and blackhatters to bold or italicize keywords every time they used them in the content. This comes across unnaturally to users and it may be the first sign to a Google manual review team that your site could deserve a penalty.

That said, bold, italic, underlined, and large font words are still weighed more heavily by the algorithm than other words. Matt Cutts and a Google patent refer to this explicitly.

This one should be used carefully, but not avoided. In particular, it is most natural to bold words in a way that accentuates a reader's ability to skim through a page, to use them as mini subheadings, and to use them to highlight definitions or as a summary of a point in a list.

The other obvious place to put this to use is in actual subheadings, which had better have a larger font size that the surrounding text.

4. In Image Alt Tags

The image alt attribute's intended purpose is to serve as replacement text for an image. It's primarily meant for cases where the image doesn't load, or for visually impaired users using screen readers. But Matt Cutts has confirmed that the image alt is also used to help Google identify what an image is about. This improves your performance in image search results for obvious reasons. Make sure that every image you host has an alt tag. At the same time, do not try to force a page's primary keyword into every image you host on that page. This should only be done if the keyword is directly relevant to the image.

5. Keyword Stemming

This isn't exactly a "place to put your keywords," and it's more about avoiding pain than seeking pleasure. Even so, I believe it belongs on this list. Keyword stemming means using different variations on a keyword, such as "stemming" and "stemmed." I am not arguing that you should use every variation on a keyword somewhere in your content. Instead, I'm arguing that you should use the most natural variation on your keyword within context, rather than phrasing things awkwardly in order to force the use of the exact variation you are targeting. Keyword stemming has been in use since the Florida update in 2003, so this is hardly new to the algorithm. Avoiding keyword stemming leads to poor readability which can negatively impact search performance.

6. In Your Domain Name

It pushes the limits of even calling it SEO when it requires modifying the brand name itself to rank for a query, and I'm not really recommending that you do. Nevertheless, you need to be aware that this is still very much a factor, despite the fact that its impact has been diminished. A Google patent validates that this is in fact taken seriously by Google, and experience has shown us that it certainly improves chances of ranking.

7. In The Anchor Text Linking To The Page

When you link to your own pages, you should try to use the keyword in the anchor text of the link. This should be fairly natural if the keyword is also used in the title of the page. You can also use a different variation on the keyword, if linking with that anchor text is natural in context. This is a known factor. Pages can rank for a phrase even if that phrase is only contained in the anchor text and not on the page itself. Google patents confirm it.

8. In The Image Alt Of An Image Link To The Page

This serves the same purpose as anchor text in a text link, but it is far less frequently used. Any time you use an image link, make sure you take advantage of the alt tag. This factor is referenced in the same patent as the one for anchor texts.

All set.