As you build good SEO habits and start getting more comfortable with the basics of optimization, you’ll get to a point where you start to wonder: what keywords do I rank for?
When you’re wondering what page of Google you’re on, the first step is understanding that you rank for keywords, not just in general. For a deeper explanation of how Google rankings work, check out our previous blog post.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is a keyword ranking?
Keyword rankings are the way your website shows up in Google. Keywords are the phrases people type in to make your website show up in Google, and your ranking is where your website is placed in the results. For some keywords, your website will show up close to the top of the list, and for others, you’ll be several pages deep in search results.
Rank tracking – keeping track of which keywords you rank for, how well you rank for them, and how much traffic those keywords generate – is as much a part of your search engine optimization strategy as writing blog posts, generating backlinks, and tweaking your meta data. As your rank improves for important terms, your strategy evolves to drive more traffic and increase your exposure.
So, how do you do it?
Answering The Big Question: What Keywords Do I Rank For?
When someone types a question, phrase, or keyword into a search engine, the list of results is called a SERP – a search engine results page.
To find what keywords a site ranks for, use a SERP keyword tracker or SERP checker tool such as Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools), SEMrush, or ahrefs. Enter your url or a competitor’s address, and look at organic keyword rankings to find out your Google rank.
Each tool has advantages and disadvantages, and many SEO specialists use more than one at a time. All of these tools have layers of functionality, and as you click around and explore, you’ll find the features and functions that suit you best.
Your Keyword Metrics
To find the keywords you rank for, you’ll look at organic keywords in ahrefs, keyword analytics overview in SEMrush, or search analytics in Google Search Console.
You can see metrics like your rank for each keyword, the number of clicks to your website from those results, the average number of searches for that term each month, and an estimate of how difficult it is to rank on the first page for that keyword. Sometimes, you’ll even see that you’re ranking for keywords that don’t make sense to your website. Here’s what to do about strange keyword rankings.
You can also use these tools to research the search terms you might want to target. Look at metrics such as search volume, keyword difficulty, and related keywords to determine whether or not a keyword is worth your time to target. We talk about the basics of keyword strategy in our recent blog post.
Ranking well for some keywords, even high volume keywords, might send less traffic to your site than you expect.
How do I find the best keywords for my site?
Determine the best keywords to target with a tool like SEMrush’s related keywords feature. Aim for balance between high search volume and low difficulty. If your website is new and your traffic is low, target less competitive search terms, while more authoritative sites can go for harder keywords.
You’ll generate more traffic (and see a higher conversion rate) when there’s a close match between your business, your content, and the keyword that content ranks for. In other words, if your business sells products that help people control weeds in their yard, your content gives great advice for controlling weeds, and the people searching for a specific keyword are actively looking for weed control solutions, that’s a recipe for search success.
Meanwhile, about 200,000 people search for the word “business” every month. Some of them are looking for business magazines, others business advice, and a few are probably checking to see if they’re spelling it right. The term is too vague for those 200,000 searches to have significant conversion value to the websites that rank.
Tracking your keyword rank and the traffic that comes from those keywords gives you the insights you need to create a smart keyword strategy.
How do you rank for keywords?
Once you’ve selected a keyword to target, the first step is to use that keyword in the right places on your website. For example, if you want to rank for the term “how to boil eggs,” make sure you actually use the phrase “how to boil eggs” in your website content. When blogging for SEO, put your keyword in the title and meta tags, in your excerpt, at the top of your post, and in at least one of the headings within your post.
Meanwhile, don’t just use that phrase again and again, because keyword stuffing doesn’t actually help and it makes your content frustrating to read.
Instead, use lots of related keywords to further clarify what you’re talking about in your post or on your page. In this example, you might use phrases like “how to hard boil eggs” and “how long to boil eggs” throughout the text.
Connect your related pages with internal links – if you have another blog post about making soft boiled eggs, link it to your post about hard boiled eggs – and also link to external sites that add value to your content, such as linking to FDA advice about consuming undercooked eggs.
Optimizing your page for a keyword is not going to instantly put you into Google’s search results.
Other ranking factors come into play as well, including:
- The age of your website and content
- The number and quality of backlinks to specific pages
- Your domain rating
- The quality of your content
- The quality of your coding
- Your ranking history
And lots and lots of other things that you may or may not be able to directly control. The better your general SEO habits and the longer you’ve been doing it, the easier it is to rank for the keywords you want. Ranking takes time, strategy, and consistency. Keep going, and you’ll get there.