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Keyword best practices

The internet is a marketplace. Whether or not you sell items, your site is competing with every other website for search engine attention.

Adding keywords to your site helps search engines match your site to specific search terms. Search engines can have a significant impact on your site traffic. For example, around 50% of the traffic for support.squarespace.com comes from organic search.

Use this guide to help you design your keyword strategy for SEO.

Write for humans, not robots

The goal of a search engine is to connect people with sites they find relevant and compelling. The methods search engines use grow increasingly more sophisticated, and are designed to mimic human behavior. By writing clear, coherent text that visitors find useful and easy to navigate, you're also optimizing your site for search engine robots.

Don't "keyword stuff"

In the past, search engines' emphasis on keywords led people to overload their site with them, sometimes called "keyword stuffing."  One example of keyword stuffing would be an image name like wedding-photographer-wedding-nyc-wedding-photographer-weddings.

Not only is this off-putting to visitors, but search engines have become more sophisticated, and now may penalize your site for this. Rather than using large numbers of keywords in a nonsensical manner, focus on a few essential keywords and integrate them in clear, human-readable text.

Check your keyword density

One way to ensure you're not keyword stuffing is to evaluate your "keyword density," which is the percentage of times that the keyword appears on a page.

For example, if your page has 200 words, and the keyword is used 20 times, that's a keyword density of 10%.

A good keyword density is 2% - 3%. This helps search engines understand what your page is about without looking spammy.

Keep in mind that while density is one factor, you still need to add the keywords in strategic places and a natural way.

Add keywords in titles and names

For site and SEO and page titles:

Tip: Use characters like - or | to separate phrases or keywords: Excelsior Designs | Digital Branding Agency

For page slugs and image file names:

  • Be descriptive and specific. For example, handmade-ceramics-NYC is better than pageid10 or IMG_01.
  • Where it makes sense, incorporate the page's focus keyword.
  • Only use letters, numbers, underscores, and hyphens.
  • Separate words with hyphens.

Structure your pages

Visitors are likely to skim your site to find what they're looking for, rather than reading all the text on the page. Structure your pages in a way that helps visitors and search engines navigate your content and find what they're looking for quickly.

Headings help visitors and search engines navigate your content and find what they're looking for quickly. As a general rule:

  • Structure your pages so that Heading 1 headings are at the top and the heading sizes descend as you scroll down the page.
  • Headings and subheads should be unique. Don't use the exact same text for multiple headings.
  • Keep headings short and to the point.

For body text:

  • Try to include the target keyword at the beginning of the first sentence on the page.
  • Repeat keywords throughout the body text a few times if it makes sense to do so.
  • You can mix up the order of the words. For example, if you're trying to rank for "building design," the phrase "design a building" would count towards your keyword density.
  • Include clarifying words and synonyms for your keywords. If you're writing compelling text, this usually happens naturally.
  • Check for broken links.
  • When adding links to your own content, ensure the text you're linking from is relevant. For example, linking the words "v-neck t-shirts" is better than "click here."
Tip: For more help, watch our Writing for the web video.

Focus on one keyword per page

To demonstrate relevance to search engines, try focusing on one keyword per page. For example, if one of your keywords was baby parrots, you could use that keyword in the SEO title, page slug, heading text, body text, and image file names on one page.

Add alt text to images

Search engines use alt text to identify the content of a page. It also makes your site more accessible for people who use assistive screen readers and browsers with images disabled. 

Follow our image best practices and alt text best practices to ensure your site is optimized for visitors and search engines.

Tip: For Google Image search results, Google prefers .jpg over .png or .gif file types.

Observe similar sites

Even if you're not competing for profit or business, if you'd like to be found by new people, you're competing for attention and space with websites that offer similar content to yours. Examples include other bakeries in your city, nonprofit organizations serving the same communities, or bloggers who also review natural beauty products.

Keep tabs on your top-ranking competitors and think about what parts of their content strategy might be useful for your site. Here are some things to look for:

  • Number of words on the page
  • Content quality
  • How often they're publishing new content
  • How headings are structured
  • Number of tags and categories
  • Type of content, such as images, video, and audio files
  • Social media integrations
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Keyword best practices