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Don’t Tank Your SEO: Choose the Right Keywords

Sometimes, using a keyword tool feels like shopping on Amazon. You suspect the perfect choice is out there, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the suggestions.

Do you go with the most popular item, even if it doesn’t quite fit your needs? What if you spot a great match but then realize it only has a few reviews?

Keyword Selection: Fighting the Urge to Rush or Panic

The answer, at least for SEO keywords: Search volume is great, just not when it compromises relevancy and specificity. And not when it sours you on options that precisely reflect your page topic?.

Instead, consider a wider view. Doing so can help you carefully choose keywords and guide readers to your content.

Targeting the Best Keywords to Match Your Focus

Rule No. 1: Resist the temptation to go overly broad when selecting keywords. For an example, let’s look at a blog post we wrote about bariatric surgery and the types of people it may help.

Our keyword tool revealed 60,000 searches for “bariatric surgery” — a top result, outpacing even “weight loss surgery.” An obvious choice then, right? Nope – because our post had a specific angle: people more likely to benefit from the surgery.

But a glance at our tool’s other suggestions didn’t reveal any focused, relevant alternatives. So we made a few educated guesses with Google search, finding words to tack on to bariatric surgery: candidate, eligible, qualify. By narrowing our keywords, we avoided getting buried and ignored in a vast topic.

How to evade similar pitfalls:

Check the search engine results page

Take a stab at what searchers might type to find your page. Look at the SERP to see what keywords others use to build their page titles. This strategy provided us with options for expanding our bariatric surgery keywords.

Look for “long-tail” keywords

These phrases are at least 3 words long and often finer-grained. Many keyword tools let you set a range for the number of words you want. Google’s auto-fill feature can also help.

Since “bariatric surgery” is already 2 words, useful long-tails might start at 4 words. We then find an additional option, “criteria for bariatric surgery.”

Find the questions your intended audience asks

What is the main thing they want to know? And the additional things? Sites such as Answer the Public provide a great resource, as does Google’s “People also ask” feature. Many keyword tools also provide lists of common questions.

For our post, let’s move past keywords we’ve already seen. That leaves possibilities such as:

  • How to get bariatric surgery?
  • When to get bariatric surgery?

Keywords for Low-Volume Subjects

For another project, we wrote about neuropsychiatry, an important field but one with limited visibility. The namesake keyword returned more than 6,000 searches. However, volume for additional suggestions – such as “neuropsychiatric disorders” and “neuropsychiatric symptoms” – quickly tailed off.

Since few people had searched for these related keywords, should we have targeted “neuropsychiatry” on every page? Not according to Rule No. 2: Never use the same primary keyword on more than one page.

If you do, you’ll:

  • Confuse Google and tank your SEO
  • Lose the chance to highlight the unique content you should create for each page

For our project, that meant taking another look at our keyword tool. For our interior pages, we chose “neuropsychiatric testing,” then “neuropsychiatric treatment” and so forth.

The lesson? Lower-volume keywords can still offer value. Sure, not many people are searching for those phrases. But those who do will find exactly what they need.

Striking the Right Balance With Keyword Volume

When looking for your primary keyword, you may find a higher-volume target that fits just right. Congrats! But don’t overlook less-obvious possibilities if that dream scenario doesn’t materialize. Make sure to look outside your keyword tool, too.

By running Google searches with possible keywords, you can determine if your content fits well with the results. And you can see if it has a reasonable chance of appearing on Google’s first page.

With finely tuned keywords, you stand a better chance of answering the longer queries of voice search. You’re also more likely to capture a featured snippet, the coveted “position zero” in search results. Oh, and a bonus holiday tip: Get more specific with those Amazon searches, too, for more satisfying results.

Happy shopping, and optimizing.

More ways to work SEO into your content:
SEO Cheatsheet for Content Marketers
What’s a Language Board? Does it Matter?
Getting Your Healthcare Content Ready for Voice Search

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About Michael Morton

As a health writer, Michael seeks to make complex and important topics accessible to his readers. He previously covered health care for a daily paper in Massachusetts. In addition to completing a national health reporting fellowship, Michael holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MS from Columbia Journalism School. His work has been honored by the National Association of Health Care Journalists.