Online marketing map and termsGoogle algorithm updates have made keywords a tricky topic for business owners and marketers everywhere. Sure, it’s easy to play it safe and ignore keywords all together. You’ll avoid any search penalties and you’ll naturally fill your content with key phrases as you go along.

So why bother with keyword optimisation at all? Because your industry is highly competitive and the only way to get ahead of your rivals is to be competitive in every aspect. Which means finding the right balance between keywords that rank well and natural content that keeps readers and Google both happy.

Keyword research is worth the investment

Keyword research is more time consuming than ever as Google demands more from the content it indexes. The days of keyword stuffing are long behind us and the art of reinforcing content with keywords naturally takes plenty of research and a touch of finesse.

Individual pieces of content can afford to be more focused in terms of topics keywords – something you want to strive for. Pick your root keyword for each piece of content and find variations, synonyms and long-tail alternatives to naturally build your keyword balance.

Google puts a greater emphasis on variation and synonyms these days, while long-tail keywords mean you can use entire search queries that are less competitive than specific keywords. And it’s also worth noting that Google Hummingbird makes the search engine more accurate at returning results for “natural” speech – something that may reflect in your long-tail keyword choices.

Keep an eye on your anchor text

Another area that has landed many website owners in trouble over recent years is over optimised anchor text. Once upon a time it was a given that keywords should feature prominently in your anchor text – but this isn’t the case anymore.

It’s more important that you have variation in your anchor text – with a mix of branded, keyword inclusive and anchors without any keywords at all. This is how you would naturally write a piece of content and link to external (or internal) sources anyway – so it shouldn’t be a difficult approach to take.

Don’t force feed your content

With a list of keywords, variations, synonyms and long-tail alternatives you have everything you need to start writing content to boost your search ranking. But don’t sit there and try to force a fixed number of keywords into your content as you write it. Instead, create your content without a thought for keywords and see what comes out naturally. Focus on the purpose of your piece and what it offers your audience.

By the time you have a first draft complete you will have a piece of content that naturally contains your keywords, variations and long-tails. And from here you can refine the use of keywords, quantity and variations without forcing them in your copy. All the natural stuff is taken care of and with a few simple tweaks you’ll have a fully optimised piece – with the right balance between keywords and natural content.