Why and How to Select Keywords and Where to Use Them

Before you start writing your next blog post or creating any other type of content, take a minute to think about how someone would search for the specific information you plan to add.  What words or phrases would YOU use in your favorite search engine search box to research your subject? What words would your friends and family who don’t know as much about that subject use?

Make each post or page about ONE subject best described by a specific two to three word phrase.

Select Keywords How-to - What To Do With Them (Cartoon Typist)

These words and phrases are called keywords or keyword phrases. While some appear to advocate targeting one KEYWORD which I would not agree with, it appears he actually means one PHRASE and that is exactly what I do recommend. Targeting one word, especially if it is a common or very competitive word, is not going to be nearly as effective as targeting a two or three word phrase.

Here are some examples:

The more individual pages you create that each target a specific phrase the more likely your site will be found in organic search. This is not something that you can do overnight. While there are automated ways to create these pages if you have advanced skills, anyone can create quality content over time.

Decide on the appropriate keyword phrase before you start writing and only use one keyword phrase for each page.

You may have to use your imagination to create unique content especially where you wish to be found in many locations. It usually is not necessary to use the names of every town; in places where most people shop in a major city they will often automatically search in the closest larger city.


  • As the name of the page – [Example: the name of this page is select-keywords]
  • As the title on the page – be sure to use a Title tag – some believe the first three words are the most important so in this post “Select Keywords” appears first. [Avoid using these special characters in titles: & % * @ “(quote marks)]
  • Name images using Alt Image Tags
  • Throughout the content include each variation and inflected form of the words and phrases: plural and singular, past and present tense when applicable.
  • In the Keyword meta tag field
  • In the Description meta tag field
  • In header tags. You may notice that the additional resources titles in this blog use H4 and are specific to the links found in them
  • Keywords closer to the top of the page and in bold or italics are considered slightly more important

WordPress, WordPress plugins like All-in-one-SEO, and advanced themes like Thesis and Genesis either provide fields for the above information or automatically handle many of the above tags for you. If you have specific questions ask in the comments and I can provide additional details specific to your circumstances. Be sure to be as specific as you can and include what CMS, blogging platform or type of program you are using so if I don’t have the answer someone else can provide it.

While you want to target your specific phrase, consider also using variations of those key words within your page content. You may choose to target these other forms in specific pages later, but it won’t hurt to mention them in your current content.


  • Singular and plural: gift, gifts /car, cars
  • Inflected form of the words and phrases: engrave, engraved, engraving, engravable
  • Past and present when applicable
  • Synonyms are usually best targeted with separate pages (car, vehicle, automobile, auto)


It is imperative that you clearly understand what keywords to use and which are too broad or too specific. In Evaluating AdWords accounts I regularly saw businesses targeting words that would NEVER work. You can not expect to rank for words that are too generic and not included in a phrase with your target product or service. You don’t want to buy that traffic and you are highly unlikely to rank for it in organic search.

It is very countries, states, major cities, or any word that applies to hundreds or even thousands of products. For example, Good Millwork would not be able to rank for the word “wood” but certainly should target wood shutters, wood baseboards, wood moldings, wood cabinet moldings, etc.  They are unlikely to rank for mahogany but should certainly target mahogany moldings.

They should never target the word “crown” but the phrase crown moldings is so important to them that they definitely want to target all the variations: crown molding (singular), crown moulding (alternate spelling), crown mouldings (plural of alternate spelling).

They should (and do) also couple crown molding with other words like red oak crown molding or maple crown molding while not targeting “red” or “oak” or “maple” for the same reason they can’t rank for the words “wood” or “crown”. I hope you’re getting the idea.

They can also target more specific wood phrases like Fire Resistant Wood or reclaimed Cypress wood. Apply these examples to your own products and services. If this is not crystal clear do ask questions in the comments. For every person courageous enough to ask there are dozens more who have the same question.

Incorporate your selected keywords and phrases into what you write and your posts and pages will be much more concise and targeted and receive more search engine traffic

Proper selection and use of keyword phrases is one of the most basic and important concepts to understand when using the Internet to grow your business. Apply these basics to your content to grow your business.


I recommend using the WordStream tool linked above to generate lists and then saving them in a keyword searchable program like Tomboy Notes. As you write posts be sure to cover each of your most important phrases. I paste the URLs of the posts targeting each phrase next to the keywords. This is especially important if you have many similar keyword phrases or write about many similar products.


NOTE: Originally published May 30, 2009. Updated and republished 2/2/15. Added SlideShare and custom video produced by Julie Weishaar of NewHorizons123.com @NewHorizons123 2/5/15.

Additional Resources:

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Gail Gardner

Small Business Marketing Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of GrowMap.com, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.

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