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What is keyword targeting in SEO?

Keyword targeting is the strategy of using relevant keywords throughout your website’s content to help search engines (like Google) understand what your website is about.

Now, before we get any further, here is an important disclaimer: there are over 200 Google ranking factors. Keyword optimization is an important one, but simply using keyword targeting doesn’t mean that your content will shoot to position one.

Take this blog post, for example; we’re writing it because we know many small businesses struggle to understand what keyword targeting is and how it works. Of course, we would love nothing more than for new audiences to find out about our agency by clicking on the article (sitting at position one) when they Google “what is keyword targeting in SEO?” But that kind of thinking would be overly optimistic.

For one, our website is only a couple of years old, so although we’re providing quality content and have a technically sound website, our domain isn’t yet seen by search engines as a stalwart of informative and relevant content. As a small business, we’re not a household name, so we don’t have millions of other websites and social profiles linking back to ours as a trusted resource. We’re also competing with some big names like Wordstream, Hubspot, and Semrush. So, yeah, a position one or even a page one probably won’t happen anytime soon for this little post.

But we’re not writing for algorithms and bots; we’re writing for you—small business owners and marketers who want to learn how to make marketing work with the limited time and resources you have at your disposal. So, let’s get into it!

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What is a target keyword?

A target keyword is a specific word or phrase that represents the main focus of a piece of content or a webpage. It is chosen to align with the topic or theme of the content and is often used in SEO to enhance visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). In essence, it’s the term you want your content to be associated with when people search online.

How does keyword targeting work?

In SEO, keyword targeting is like playing matchmaker between your content and what people type into search engines. You do some research to figure out what words or phrases your target audience is likely to use when looking for topics related to your site. Then, you strategically sprinkle those keywords throughout your content—in titles, headers, and naturally within the text. When search engines crawl your site and see that your content aligns with what users are searching for, they’re more likely to serve it up in search results.

What is an example of a target keyword?

In this blog post, our primary target keyword is “what is keyword targeting seo?” (this question gave us a great opportunity to insert it naturally in the copy!). But we suggest using a couple of semantic keywords, too. Instead of focusing solely on exact-match keywords, semantic keywords allow search engines to comprehend the broader meaning of a piece of content.

A semantic keyword encompasses related words, synonyms, and concepts. In the context of search engines and SEO, semantic keywords are used to improve understanding of the content’s context and relevance. In this example, the term “what is a target keyword” would be a semantic keyword that supports the primary target keyword.

But how do we come up with target keywords in the first place?

Target keyword research option 1: Semrush

My keyword research process usually starts in Semrush, a popular keyword research and SEO platform.

  1. I type the keyword I have in mind into the Semrush search bar and see what broad-match keywords and questions it returns
  2. I look at the volume to see how many people search for that particular keyword per month*
  3. The keyword difficulty (KD) gives me an indication of how difficult the keyword would be to rank for, i.e. how competitive it is*
  4. Ideally, I’m looking for keywords with high volume and low keyword difficulty, which means lots of people are searching for that target keyword, but not many other websites are providing content that answers their query (hooray for low competition!)

*Bear in mind that these are estimates provided by Semrush, as everyone has a personalized search experience

what is keyword targeting results from Semrush

From the list provided by Semrush, I narrowed down the relevant keywords for this blog post to:

  • “what is keyword targeting”
  • “what is a target keyword”
  • “what is keyword targeting seo”

“What is keyword targeting” had a fairly high keyword difficulty of 50%, which is why I went with “what is keyword targeting seo” as the primary keyword (not pictured above, but the KD was 0). Bonus that it includes the higher volume keyword anyway.

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That said, you don’t need to pay for a tool like Semrush to come up with target keywords and phrases. There are other (free!) methods to help you arrive at a similar end.

Target keyword research option 2: People also ask snippets

people also asked examples for keyword targeting

When I’m finished researching in Semrush, I’ll also enter the target keyword into the Google search bar to see related questions that people ask about this topic. Answering these questions enriches the article for the target audience, adds more semantic keywords, and also increases the chances of my answer appearing as a snippet answer in the search results, like this:

people also asked snippet for "what is a targeted keyword in SEO?"

See if you can spot the answers in this article!

You can simply use Google for keyword research, although you won’t get the same data about search volume and ranking difficulties that you get from a paid tool. The simplest method is to Google your subject and see what comes up. With a few pointed searches and some time spent in the People Also Asked queries, you’ll gain new ideas that likely weren’t part of your initial concept.

Where to include target keywords

Keyword optimization is not about stuffing your content like a Thanksgiving turkey; it’s about being relevant. Keyword stuffing is an outdated SEO tactic that will actually penalize your rankings these days, so it’s crucial to be mindful of where you place your keywords. We suggest placing keywords:

  • Where they make sense in your body copy—don’t include target keywords in weird and wonderful places for the sake of it
  • In your page headings
  • In your page meta-description and title
  • In your image alt text—again, if it makes sense to do so
  • In your URL
  • Within anchor text when linking from other pages from your site

There’s your quick 101 of keyword targeting in SEO!

I hope it helped you feel more confident about identifying and placing target keywords in your content. Remember, there’s more to SEO success than keywords alone. In fact, we’ve created a free eBook, 5 things your small business can do right now to improve SEO. Give them a try and let us know how you get on! If you need additional support, the team at Brighter Messaging will be happy to assist.

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