When you began learning SEO, someone probably told you not to optimize a webpage for more than two or three queries. At the 101 level, treating each keyword with the same reverence makes a lot of sense. It is easier to teach and execute. Now, at the 303 level, we want to wring out every last drop of SEO copy goodness we can get.

In this article I will lay out several steps on how to do this. How formally you execute them depends on your situation. If you are unfamiliar with the topic or working on a single page, you may want to stick close to this script. However, if you know the subject you are writing about well, some of this can be done more intuitively or you can combine steps.

Relevance vs. Authority

Optimizing one page for multiple keywords is about relevance and authority. Let’s begin with a little theory.

I like to divide SEO by relevance and authority. It’s simple and easy for clients to grasp that relevance is how germane a document is to a search query, while authority gives a page the strength necessary to secure a top ranking.

The combination of relevance and authority is an attempt to measure quality and over the years search engines have developed lots of ways to determine quality.

They also employee algorithms like Query Deserves Freshness, Query Deserves Diversity, geo-location, search history and more to improve search results.

However, the foundation of ranking documents in search is still relevance plus authority.

This tutorial is about creating on-page relevance for many keywords. It doesn’t matter whether you’re executing a Web search, news, image, shopping or any other type of search. Search engines need identifiable signals within the HTML code and text to match a document to a query.

Understanding Relevance

What demonstrates relevance? While the presence of a keyword or phrase within a document is the most obvious signal, there is more to it than sticking a keyword onto a page a few times.

  • The highest relevance comes from exact matches. If your query is Major League Baseball No-Hitters, then that is exactly what search engines try to find.
  • They will look for all the words on the same page, first in sub-groups like Major League Baseball then as individual words: no-hitters, league, baseball and major.
  • Finally, search engines will look for any of the words on the page.

By the time you get to that last bullet, your page might still be relevant for Major League Baseball No-Hitters, but it will be at the bottom of the list and unlikely to rank.

At this point you might think, why bother? Or, because the topic is optimizing a webpage for multiple keywords, the light bulb inside your head may be going off.

  • If you can write phrases into your page that incorporate the most important keywords on the page you may rank for several long tail keywords.
  • If you can work additional search queries into the copy you might rank for them too.
  • If you can use single words or short phrases that are parts of queries you may earn additional rankings from unexpected queries.

Create A Vocabulary

During a conversation about baseball one might hear words like bat, ball, bases, diamond, hit, run, earned run average, percent on base, team, league, series and dozens more.

Gather these words and use them in your writing. I believe natural language patterns create relevance in search engine algorithms.

But even if you are skeptical, including words that get used together frequently may net additional long tail matches. It also makes it easier to write interesting copy. Good places to look for your vocabulary are:

  • Keyword tool suggestions
  • Alternative search query suggestions in ranking results
  • The dictionary and thesaurus
  • Top ranking pages
  • Wikipedia and other authoritative sites
  • Books on the topic

As you build your vocabulary, be certain to go beyond nouns and include frequently used verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

Selecting Multiple Keywords

Select the top one to three keywords using your normal keyword research and selection process. These will be your page’s high priority keywords. Once you have these you can add medium and low priority keywords to your list.

When optimizing one page for many keywords priority refers to importance within a page. If a word is important enough to your entire website or business it may be better optimized as a high priority keyword on its own webpage.

Then again, a medium priority phrase on a page with lots of off-site links or authority may be easier to rank for than by placing the same search query as a high priority keyword on a separate page with lower authority.

If you are unsure, test both options with different key phrases to see how the search engines react. Some old school SEO practitioners will tell you authority usually trumps relevance.

To select the medium priority keywords, use your vocabulary to generate a list of words and short phrases. Order these by search volume or rate them by how likely someone might search for each. Because you will have longer phrases that do not appear in keyword tools, this can come down to a judgment call.

Move obvious long tail keywords into the low priority list. Now, go through the leftover words and phrases from top to bottom and ask whether or not you can write a section about it. If you answer yes, add the query to the medium priority list. Otherwise, assign it a low priority.

This is where it helps to understand keyword difficulty. Medium and low priority keywords ought to be easier to rank for than the high priority keywords.

Keyword Placement

Now you are ready to write and optimize your webpage. In SEO 101, you want to get all your keywords into the title tag, the #h1 headline, image alt tags and, of course, the actual body text.

Obviously, this will not be possible and you will have to make some choices. Relevance is generated by a combination of multiple signals. If you cannot perfect one thing, strengthen something else.

Title Tag

It is difficult to get three complete keywords into the title tag within 70 characters. How are you going to get even more keywords in there?

Either create a longer title or leave some key phrases out. Yes, shorter titles are more relevant. Yes, keywords at the front of titles are more relevant. But while search engines may only display the first 70 or so characters, they will index much longer titles.

  • Set a maximum length of 200 characters (This is the number I suggest, but search engines can index longer titles.)
  • Include the high priority keywords in the first 70 characters
  • Continue the title tag using medium priority keywords
  • If you cannot get all your medium priority keywords into the title, use ones that include words that appear frequently throughout the medium priority keyword list
  • Include individual words contained in the medium priority list
  • Massage it all together to make the title meaningful and readable

Don’t worry too much about how your title tag will appear in a browser or on the search engines. If a page appears in the SERPs, search engines will display an excerpt of the title that contains the keyword.

As for the appearance in the browser, the title does not appear until someone is on the page. At that point, a clean headline is far more important.

#H1 Headline

In the on-page headline, I suggest sticking to the top tier keywords. It is more important to have a clear, readable headline than to stuff it full of words and phrases you want to rank for. Incorporate individual words that appear frequently within your medium priority list.

On-Page Content

I am terrifically keen on #h2 sub-headlines when it comes to multiple keyword SEO. Not because search engines consider the #h2 tag to be a strong ranking signal, but because it affords the opportunity to write entire sections about medium priority keywords, complete with image and optimized alt tag.

<h2>Knuckleball Pitchers Who Threw No-Hitters</h2>

Try to create a section of on-page content for every first and second tier keyword. It does not always work, but each time you can, get that keyword into an #h2 and write optimized content.

<h2>Knuckleball Pitchers Who Threw No Hitters</h2>

<p> <img src=”knuckleball-pitchers-threw-no-hitters.jpg” alt=”Knuckleball pitchers who threw no hitters” class=”align-left” /> Lorem ipsum dolor sit knuckleball pitchers who threw no hitters amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation pitching ullamco laboris threw nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in no hitter voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non no hitters thrown by knuckleball pitchers proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est knuckleballs laborum.<p>

After you finish writing the first draft of your page, revisit it and insert medium priority keywords where they fit naturally.

Just as you would with basic SEO copywriting, use different forms of the words (singulars/plurals, past/present/future tense, adverbs, etc.)

Third Tier Keywords

Revisit your entire page to make minor rewrites to sprinkle in the third tier keywords where they will make sense and sound natural.

Break-up Your Keywords & Revisit Your Copy

Break apart all of your keywords into two word phrases and single words. Go through your copy again, this time rewriting to insert these.

Revisit Your Vocabulary

Yet another pass. This time look for opportunities to replace generic words like pronouns with specific terms. For example, he went around the bases might become the base runner rushed around the diamond.

Smooth It Out

This is the final pass. Read your SEO copy out loud. If any of it trips you up or sounds robotic, rewrite it to until your entire page sounds natural. Try to keep all your SEO goodness, but be willing to make concessions to SEO in favor of readability.

A Final Word About SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting is about writing keyword optimized copy which is readable and persuades visitors to take action. While the instructions may sound similar, there is a huge difference between writing SEO optimized copy and keyword stuffing. Write optimized copy.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO

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About The Author: is a longtime Internet marketing analyst and consultant specializing in inbound marketing, social media and SEO. He enjoys helping enterprise brands organize their Web presence and grow search engine and referral traffic. Tom began Internet marketing in 1996. You can read more of Tom's musings at http://inboundbound.com.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/egiethoorn egiethoorn

    Tom you have expressed beautifully in a short article!
    But I see, hear and read more and more SEO “experts” indicate that headings no longer matter for SEO within Google. Self I focus still on Headings in H1 and H2 with the keywords in my mind.

  • http://www.portent.com Tom Schmitz

    Thank you for the comment Egiethoorn.

    Correlation studies show that the h# tags hold little value as stand-alone ranking signals (Insert disclaimer that correlation is not causation and the map is not the territory here). Regardless whether or not you subscribe to this hypothesis, h# tags provide an excellent way to structure page content because that is what h# tags were designed for. If you are writing about your keywords this means that they provide natural places to put search queries on your page and to write entire sections about specific keywords. They provide an infrastructure for writing quality content, which is what search engines really want, and that content is keyword rich.

  • neil

    Hi Tom

    I’m a new member here and I really enjoyed your article. What are your thoughts on keyword density? I know some people think it matters to Google and others think not.

  • http://www.portent.com Tom Schmitz

    Hi Neil,

    I never measure keyword density when I write and I do not suggest it to others. It’s a poor substitute for critical thinking. Words are not uniform; they do not appear with the same frequency as each other. Also, keyword density cannot account for related words and other things one encounters in language.

    I realize that some popular SEO writing tools use keyword density. They use it, not because it works, but because it is something they can measure and put on the screen (IMO). Even when most SEO experts used keyword density – back when the Google algorithm was a lot simpler – there was little agreement among professionals on what the best keyword density was.

 

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