Do you need to use the exact same keyword over and over in order to rank for it? And is a keyword just one word? Find out what you need to know to up your SEO game.

Do you need to use the exact same keyword over and over in order to rank for it? And is a keyword just one word? Find out what you need to know to up your SEO game.

What is the exact anatomy of a keyword? And is a keyword just one word? Find out what you need to know to up your SEO game. #keyword #SEO #blogger #beginner #bloggrowth

Singular vs. Plural

Imagine my shock when I read somewhere that ‘keyword’ didn’t just mean what it said. For years, I thought that ‘keyword’ meant a single word. My literal, English-teacher mind just works that way. But no. Computer programmers, algorithms mavens, and search-engine creators have changed the meaning of the word.

Keyword’ actually means a string of words. Back in the days when we found things by looking in indexes and card catalogs, people organized things around an exact keyword. But nowadays, we have things like Siri and Alexa who want us to talk to them in natural sentences.

That means the computer wizards have figured out how to have search engines sort through multiple words in order to find exactly (or as close to exact as possible) the thing we seek. After all, we’d sound pretty funny if we said, “Siri, track.” She wouldn’t know if we wanted her to track our progress, find a racetrack, or track lighting.

The Exact Anatomy of a Keyword

Although it pains me to call something singular, plural, I will now refer to a string of words by its group noun—keyword. According to WordTracker’s Keyword Research Guide, each keyword has three parts: head, modifier, and tail. The more exact information a searcher gives the search engine (or Siri), the more relevant results the search engine can display.

Think of the main topic as the head. Whether I want to find a horse race track or a track to run on, the word ‘track’ serves as the principal focus of the search.

If I say ‘running track’ or ‘horse race track,’ the words ‘running’ and ‘horse race’ act as modifiers. They modify what kind of track I want to find. People also use brand names, locations, or styles to modify the head keyword.

The tail serves as additional information that helps the search engine distinguish the exact thing I look for. For instance, I could ask, “Where is a running track near me?” The ‘near me’ acts like a tail to let the search engine know it needs to identify my location before it starts spitting out results. A running track in Mozambique won’t do me any good.

Search engines have come such a long way from their inception that the exact order of the head, modifier, and tail holds no importance. I could say, “Find a nearby track for running,” and I’d get good results.

Discover the anatomy of a keyword and learn to boost your organic blog traffic. #blogger #write28days #keywords #SEO Click To Tweet

But Do I Need to Use the EXACT Keyword Over and Over?

No! You don’t! In fact, search engines have evolved to handle long-tail keywords (or combinations of words) because content creators stuffed the first 600 or so words of their posts with awkward uses of the keyword.

Use your keyword naturally (don’t try to torture it into place like a bad poet). If a similar word sounds better, use that word instead. Google looks for authenticity, not just the number of times the keyword pops up on your blog.

Do Keywords Really Matter?

Yes! Without keywords, searchers would have a hard time finding your content. Think about the ways you interact with Google, Siri, or Alexa. You ask questions, right? “How do I…” “Where can I find…”

What is the exact anatomy of a keyword? And is a keyword just one word? Find out what you need to know to up your SEO game. #keyword #SEO #blogger #beginner #bloggrowth

Which brings up a no-brainer insight. Using keywords that answer questions people ask will help boost your SEO. “How to Art Journal in Your Bible” will help you find searchers faster than “My Bible Art Journal.”

Remember to use your keyword in your post title (I use CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer to do this), at least one of the subheadings (check out this post on the importance of subheadings), in your snippet, and the metadata for your graphics. I just copy and paste the snippet in certain places.

While I cringe at seeing passive voice, using it in your snippet will make it easier for search engines to find your posts. Especially if you position the keyword at the front end of your snippet.

What is the exact anatomy of a keyword? And is a keyword just one word? Find out what you need to know to up your SEO game. #keyword #SEO #blogger #beginner #bloggrowth

Surround your keyword with a question, “Do you want to use art to journal in your Bible? Find out how to get started today!” Search engines pass over the deadwood (words like ‘to,’ ‘the,’ ‘and,’ and ‘if’), and just see ‘art journal’ and ‘Bible.’

What is the exact anatomy of a keyword? And is a keyword just one word? Find out what you need to know to up your SEO game. #keyword #SEO #blogger #beginner #bloggrowth

Keywords and SEO go together like lava cake and raspberry sorbet. While they both taste wonderful alone, when intentionally paired together, you’ll experience heaven by the spoonful—or increased organic blog traffic. I got distracted for a moment by the lava cake-raspberry sorbet combination.

Come back tomorrow, when I’ll talk about using nostalgia in your writing.

6 Comments

  1. If the bots don’t need to have the exact string of words to pull our post up, does it then mean we can ignore the fact that Yoast does not show me a green button then?

    1. Hi, ElizaMae! Shoot me an email (anita@anitaojeda.com) and I’ll try to explain it more in depth. I use Yoast on my self-hosted WP site, so that’s all I’m really familiar with. I enter a keyword (which can actually be a phrase), and try to put it in my post several times. I also make sure the word or words are in the slug for my permanent post title and in the post title itself. So, for the one you mentioned, the post title didn’t say all of that (it would have made no sense to most people). But I manually changed the slug to include all of those words so that search engines would pick up on them. I hope that helps!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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