If you’re just getting started in search engine optimization (SEO), you likely associate SEO with one thing: keywords. Researching and incorporating keywords into content and copy has long been an on-page SEO best practice though the strategies and emphasis on keywords have evolved over the years.
In part one of our three-part series covering on-page SEO best practices for financial advisors, we talked about creating well-written, informative content. Now it’s time to learn how to optimize that content with keywords.
It was once thought that keywords were the be-all and end-all of SEO. Companies would stuff keywords into their content without concern for how it read. But Google caught on to the flaws of the keyword-stuffing strategy and altered their algorithm, so these days, great content wins. But keywords are still extremely important. They tell the reader (and Google) what the topic is and can serve as a great jumping off point when it comes to creating content. But before you can analyze or incorporate your keywords, you need to find them.
There are a number of tools and strategies you can use to develop a list of keywords. But first, it’s essential to have a deep understanding of your business, your mission, your products and service, and your customers. It’s easy enough to find popular search terms, but they are useless unless directly related to your financial advisory firm.
Conducting keyword research
When it comes to generating a keyword list, start with an internal brainstorm of words or phrases associated with your firm and your services that your customers might type into Google. Think “financial planning strategies” or “best financial advisors” or “financial advisors in Toledo.”
Google has become incredibly sophisticated at understanding search queries, so try to use the vocabulary of your audience. You can also scan through questions submitted through your social networks, sales reps or customer service center to find keywords that are used frequently. Be sure to include branded (Peregrine Financial Advisors) and long-tail keywords (best financial planning strategies) on your list as well as shorter, more broad terms (personal finance, 401K).
Once you have a list of words and phrases from your brainstorm, you can use tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner, Yoast Suggest and Answer the Public to see the search volume of each term and get suggestions of other related terms you might want to use. Just be sure to look at the competition for the keyword in addition to the search volume. For instance, if a keyword related to your business has a high search volume but is hard to rank for because other high-domain sites are ranking well for it, it could take you years to build up a domain authority score that would allow you to compete for that keyword.
You can also open up a browser window in private mode (so your previous search history doesn’t affect search results) and see which terms your competitors are bidding on for ads or using in their content. Click through to their site to determine if you can better answer customers questions with your own content.
Finally, type your top keywords into Google to see what prepopulates in the search bar. This will give you an idea of the user’s search intent.
Identifying search intent
Search intent is perhaps one of the biggest differences between the early days of SEO and now. While it was once important to research and insert keywords into your website, it’s now much more important to identify the user’s search intent. Search intent goes beyond what the user is typing and instead focuses on what it is they’re searching for. For example, if you type a word into the Google search bar and an image carousel is at the top of the page, Google has determined that it’s likely a person is trying to find an image when they type in that keyword. If a map appears, it’s likely the user is looking for directions. Once you have your list of keywords and have spent some time typing them into Google, come up with a list of blog topics that use the keyword and address the user’s search intent.
Incorporating keywords into the page
With your final list of keywords and blog topics in hand, you can now start to incorporate them into your copy. As previously mentioned, keyword stuffing is not recommended and can even result in penalties from Google. It’s far more important to incorporate keywords in your copy naturally. In fact, if you’re writing content well, you won’t likely need to incorporate many more keywords than you already have in your post.
However, it is a good practice to make sure your keywords are listed in the first paragraph and perhaps in the first sentence of subsequent paragraphs. You’ll also want to make sure it’s in your blog title or headline and at least one subhead. There are a few additional places to tuck in your keywords, but we’ll get to that in part three of our on-page SEO series.
You might think you’re done, but your SEO efforts are never really over. Search volume and rankings are constantly changing, so in order to stay competitive, make it a habit to conduct new keyword research and update your posts and pages on an ongoing basis.
Ready for the more technical elements of on-page SEO—and how your keywords fit in to them? Learn more in part three of our on-page SEO best practices blog series.