5 Do’s and Don’ts When Choosing Keywords for SEO

Keywords are the bread and butter of SEO. When potential customers search for something in Google, you want your website to be in the top 3 results. Here’s how choose the best keywords to improve your SEO and increase your search ranking.

Best keywords for SEO. Courtesy of seo-summary.de

How Search Engines Work

Before we delve into the do’s and don’ts of keywords and SEO, it’s important to understand how search engines display results.

Google, Bing and other search engines use software — often referred to as “spiders” — to crawl and index the Internet. These spiders are constantly reviewing information and ranking it against similar content by relevance and popularity.

Say you run a food blog. Tomorrow you plan on posting your best recipe for blueberry pancakes with maple butter. When you publish your blog, Google’s spiders will index your post based on the relevant keywords: blueberry, pancake, maple, butter, recipe, etc.

Suggested SEO keywords

When someone searches for “blueberry pancake recipe,” Google will recognize that your blog is relevant to those search terms and display it in the results. SEO helps you move to the top of those search results.

SEO in a Nutshell

Search engine optimization isn’t very complicated. Sure, some people will try to impress you with new tricks for the latest algorithm changes to Google. But you don’t need an expert to optimize your website.

A few simple strategies will get you 98% of the way there. If you’re very competitive (and have lots of time on your hands) some fancy SEO strategies may be helpful. For most of you — especially if you’re new to optimization — it’s best to stick with the basics.

SEO essentially comes down to 2 strategic principles:

  1. Choosing the best keywords. What are your potential customers searching for?
  2. Signaling the search engines. Helping Google connect your website to those keywords.

Use the do’s and don’ts below to choose the best keywords for your site.

1. Do Check Out the Competition

Take your top 3 competitors and visit their websites. Read the landing pages and blog posts. What topics do they focus on? What keywords do you see over and over?

Do a quick Google search for those keywords. Does their website show up on the first page of the search results? What about your website? If you both rank high in certain keyword searches, it could be an opportunity to steal some market share.

2. Do Keyword Research

Keyword research will put you on the right track for optimizing your website. If you choose the wrong keywords, you won’t be able to connect potential customers with your brand.

Create a list of topics related to your business. A good place to start is the topics you regularly blog about. For food blogs, it may be recipes, celebrity chefs and kitchen accessories.

Use the topics you’ve selected to brainstorm specific keywords. Write down a long list of potential words and phrases to use. Some search terms related to recipes might include: “quick dinner recipes for two,” “5-minute meals” and “healthy recipes for kids.” Jot down everything you think of. You can trim down your list later.

3. Don’t Use Generic Keywords

Choose phrases over words. Remember, keywords don’t have to be just one word. Ranking high in the search results for “food” will be an uphill battle because it’s so competitive. There are a lot of food blogs. Instead, focus on phrases like “quick and easy dinner recipes.”

Look for related search terms. Search for one of your keywords in Google. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to view related searches. Then add those to your list of keywords.

Related searches tool for SEO keywords

4. Don’t Miss Out on Local Opportunities

Use region-specific keywords to let Google know where your business is located and help potential customers in your area find you. Adding your city and state to your keyword choices and listing your physical address tell Google that you serve a localized market.

5. Don’t Rely on Your Intuition

Test your keyword choices. Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner will help you narrow down your list based on quantitative data. If you want to capture customers quickly, check out Google Trends. It will show you which keywords are growing in popularity and help you ride the initial wave.

For more SEO tips, read Improving Your SEO to Generate More Leads.


  1. Because search retargeting ads are served on display inventory rather than search engine inventory, pricing is not dependent on keyword competition, making it an extraordinarily profitable solution for marketers whose choice keywords are highly competitive.

  2. So if there are several words that could relate to an almond milk recipe (easy, simple, delicious, creamy, etc.), is it best to pick just one of the adjectives for the keyword phrase and go with that ( I.e. “easy almond milk recipe”) or try to incorporate several of them? (I.e. “Easy delicious creamy almond milk recipe”)

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall July 6, 2017 at 8:10 am

      Your best bet is to make the content sound natural, Brice. We’ve got some more tips we hope will help in our recent article, Keyword Research 101. 🙂 And if you follow us on Twitter, you’ll be able to keep up to date with our content as it’s published.

  3. When we’re looking up these key phrases should we grab one that has more results or fewer results? and how do we decide which one to use?

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall July 25, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Shannon, we’ve just published an updated keyword research guide. It explains how to understand keyword intent, and how that helps you choose the right keywords. Hope you find it useful. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the info. It was pretty informative, and some points really gave an idea to help me ranking around my business keywords relating to digital marketing training for my brand site.

    Thanks again!

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall July 31, 2017 at 5:42 am

      We’re happy you found this article useful, Ranjan. We’ve got more in-depth information on keywords in Keyword Research 101. Hope that helps. If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll be updated every time we publish a new article.

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