SEO Basics for the New Writer - Using Keywords to Boost Your Overall Pageviews
You want more eyes on your articles -- that's only natural. You put the effort into writing and you want people to see the fruits of your labor. Any writer wants people to see what they've written outside of the odd cathartic word-spilling.
There are countless writers that focus on web-based content for both hobby and professional purposes, which makes it hard for an individual to stand out. You may know your writing is good, the people who have read it may know it's good, but penning a quality piece of content isn't the only thing to be done in order to bring more eyes to what you have to offer.
My forte lies in a facet of writing for internet audiences separate from the actual writing itself. My goodness, what could that possibly be?
I am GameSkinny's most popular writer if you gauge popularity via traffic numbers. This isn't because my writing is amazing (it's passable) nor is it because I really and truly do go out of my way to pick fights in comment sections. It's because I know the ins and outs of mid-level search engine optimization (also known as SEO) like the back of my hand.
My experience and skills with SEO has wound up being our biggest boon, with my traffic alone pushing well past the million views per month mark -- and at times over two million. I've been pulling in that much traffic for a while.
A good portion of the credit for my amazing monthly numbers goes to my never-ending researching vigilance, but most of the credit goes to my ability to pinpoint and use strategic keywords to my advantage, which isn't as intimidating as it sounds.
What is search engine optimization?
To cut it short, it's what really affects your pageview numbers. In an ideal world, the best and most accurate content would be at the top of any search engine's results, but that is not the case.
Strong, valuable, and reliable content often finds its way near the top of the search results, but it needs a little extra voodoo to be indexed (ranked) highly among other content on the same subject. That voodoo being Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Making good use of keywords is the most basic type of search engine optimization you can do for a website or page. Keywords make or break your articles and other content (think titles and tags on YouTube videos) and not using them properly is doing your content a disservice.
I wrote a few articles nearly three years ago going over some of the basics of search engine optimization. You can feel free to go back and read these if you want, but anything regarding keywords is best referred to in this article as it comes from nearly three additional years of experience.
So first and foremost is the question:
What is a keyword?
The whole "keyword" thing is complicated but the gist for our purposes is that a keyword is a term or a phrase that should be in key parts of your content for search engines to pick up on and use to sort your content with other content focused on the same topics.
Yes, it's intimidating. No, it's not hard.
If you're part of our JTP program you may be provided keywords for your use, but if not you will have to figure it out on your own.
Generally a safe keyword to use is the game title along with whatever the topic is, which is much easier than it sounds. So easy, in fact, I'm going to spit out a bunch of generic keywords for you to get an idea of what they generally entail:
- [GAME TITLE] guide, [GAME TITLE] cheats, [GAME TITLE] character guide, [GAME TITLE] boss guide, [GAME TITLE] pre-order, [GAME TITLE] buying guide, [GAME TITLE] review, [GAME TITLE] vs [GAME TITLE], [GAME TITLE] walkthrough, [GAME TITLE] strategies, [GAME TITLE] unlocks, [GAME TITLE] secrets
More often than not, it's more complicated than that because generally you're not working with generics as your "primary keyword". I'll explain more on that below, but for now all you need to know is the primary keyword indicates the main subject of your content.
Every niche (in the case of GameSkinny, that's generally a game [title]) has terms people are searching for more than others.
Generic keywords as listed above are commonly primary keywords, but often have to be supplemented by "secondary keywords"-- keywords that aren't quite the content's full subject but are related in some way -- and you want search engines to index your content using that keyword as well.
Choosing exact keywords is a complicated affair, and takes time whether you're fresh or a veteran to search engine optimization. It's of the utmost importance (sans the content itself being correct in the quality department) that you choose and use the right keywords, and that you do it well.
There are numerous keyword suggestion tools found sprinkled about the web (Google "keyword suggestion tools") that give insight on the exact terms people are looking for when you input the basic subject, such as a game title.
You can pair the suggestions you get from these tools with Google's own provided tools like Google Trends and Adwords to get an idea of a keyword's recent history and number of search queries per month. You can make relatively safe keyword choices by going off of that data (a rising or steady trend along with high search volume).
Primary and secondary keywords
It gets more complicated.
Since we're a gaming site, most of your primary keywords are going to include the title of whatever game you're writing about. The primary keyword being either the only one you're working with or the big one you want to focus on.
It's possible to have multiple specific keywords per article. Two rules of thumb are:
- Your primary keyword is generally the one that fits best in the title and is the one the article's main topic (focus) should be
- Secondary keywords will/should appear in the article itself as well as in the tags, but is less important than the primary and probably doesn't go in the title
For instance, if you're writing a short guide on a super hot tip that could potentially be considered an exploit, you would generally use the game title along with "cheat" or "exploit" as the keyword in the title, article, and tags.
On the flip side, if you write a short guide on something not quite simple but is something that cheats or exploits often make use of or deal with, the game title along with "cheat" or "exploit" would be used as a secondary keyword with the primary most likely being the game title along with "infinite money" or whatever the topic is.
The art of keyword placement is not as complicated as it was a decade ago. You used to have to make sure to use whatever your keywords were in certain parts of an article and you had to err on the side of caution in terms of usage. Use it too much or too little and your content wouldn't even have a chance to succeed.
Today it's much easier to use keywords effectively, thanks to search engine algorithms' improvements over the years. You don't want to go crazy, but you have a lot more wriggle room.
Placement and keyword density (the percentage of a piece of content that is the keyword, which is ideally kept low) are still important. Here's some important info (and tips) in convenient bulletpoints:
- Your primary keyword should go in the title, in the article, and in the tags
- Use your primary keyword in the first paragraph and at least one other time in your article
- The longer an article is, the more times you should ideally use your primary keyword at approximately 5% density or above, but a safe volume can follow these numbers:
- Ideally aim for once or twice in 150-300 word articles
- Ideally aim for two or three times in articles that are 500-600 words
- Ideally aim for 5 or 6 times for articles that are 1000-1200 words
- Multiple parts of (either a primary or secondary) keyword do not necessarily need to be together
- Try to have both (or all) parts of a primary keyword either together or separated by only one to three words in the title and at least once in the article
- Further keyword usage does not need to be together, for instance you can separate the game title and whatever the topic focus is in the article ("[GAME TITLE] walkthrough" can be split into separate uses of "[GAME TITLE]" and "walkthrough" past the first usage)
- Secondary keywords are often shortened to only the topic as opposed to the game title and topic together ("[GAME TITLE] guide" as a secondary keyword can be simply shortened to "guide"
- A secondary keyword should appear once (at minimum) in the article and once in the tags
- If a secondary keyword is used in the tags, it can be either the whole keyword or simply the topic portion
- Keep your tagging at a minimum, otherwise search engines have a tougher time indexing your content accurately
GameSkinny-specific note on tags
Tags are your best friends, and they're a little weird here on GameSkinny.
If you check out the SEO tab you can see there are three fields to the left: Games, Platforms, and Tags.
These three fields look to be totally different since you input pertinent information into them in different ways, but the reality is that all three fields are your tags.
- Put not only the specific game title you're writing about in the 'Games' field, but also the series name if the game is part of a series as well as any other game titles mentioned in a significant way
- The 'Platforms' section should have any and all platforms the game in question is on checked
- The 'Tags' section should be used for publishers, developers, any keywords (primary and full or shortened secondary), and generics
- Game titles do not go in the 'Tags' section
- Platforms do not go in the 'Tags' section
- There is no need to include more than 5 tags in the 'Tags' section, as anything further does more harm than good
These points are important to remember because tags not only affect how search engines see the site (and index your content in particular), but also how readers browse the site.
Overlaps when a particular tag is present in two of the aforementioned fields can be confusing for readers trying to read more articles related to that tag. You never want any aspect of your content to be confusing.
While this article touches upon the basic concepts of keywords and their place in internet articles and content, there's much more to learn beyond what's written here.
Search engine optimization is a huge hidden modifier that affects how we all use the internet. Understanding keywords, their purpose, and how to use them is the beginning of your journey toward publishing and maintaining content people not only want, but will actually be able to find -- thanks to appropriate search engine indexing.