How to Use Keywords in a Meaningful Way

If you want to rank your content, simply using keywords at a particular density is no longer enough. Google now uses AI to understand the text, and it’s getting much better at it. 

All the old tricks that people used to use to write keywords into text aren’t going to work anymore. Instead, business owners must take pains to ensure they’re using keywords in a meaningful way. 

What does using keywords in a meaningful way mean?

It means being up front about what you do and putting your most important keywords front and center. The keyword should go in the first paragraph, and preferably in the first sentence, even if using that keyword in that way doesn’t make your marketing copy as beautiful or as clever as you might like. 

It also means being brave about using those keywords. 

For example, you might be a super high end bistro providing a unique culinary experience, and your impulse may be to avoid ever using the words restaurant or French restaurant. To you, those terms feel too provincial and run counter to your brand.

Meanwhile, the French restaurant down the street is outranking your bistro hands down, because “French restaurant” is what people are actually searching for when they want to go to a restaurant like yours.

It may be time to replace “San Francisco’s Most Exquisite Bistro” with “San Francisco’s Most Exquisite French Restaurant.” 

Why is it important to use keywords in a meaningful way?

Google and other search engines have to “understand” what you’re writing about to rank you. 

Marketing copy is wonderful; you of course want content that converts. You want to speak to the humans in a compelling way.

Yet you have to “speak” to the search engines, too. If the search engines don’t understand you, your web copy is not going to rank. 

Plus, Google isn’t interested in your marketing. It’s interested in providing customers with the information they need at the point they ask for said information. So that will demand certain sacrifices to your copy.

The good news is, of course, that a good SEO copywriter can accomplish both with a balance. They can say that you’re a French restaurant, and then go on to describe all of your mouthwatering delights, crafted with love by your classically trained, award-winning chef. 

Where should you be up front with your keywords?

Target keywords should be clear and concise in:

  • Your title
  • Your subheadings
  • The first sentence of your page
  • The first paragraph of your page

These are your best opportunities to use keywords. Do so if you can, even at the expense of using a more clever or interesting subheading. 

This doesn’t mean you can forget about them in the rest of your copy. These are the areas you want to focus on the most.

Example #1 of using keywords in a meaningful way

Google rewards specificity and clarity. 

Here are two sentences using the keyword “plumbing services.” One is specific and clear, the other is not.

Finding an experienced and skilled company that offers plumbing services is the key to your project’s success. 

This sentence isn’t nearly as specific or clear as saying:

We are a plumbing services company that has over a decade of experience.

This second sentence is easy for the AI to process, and serves as a signal that it should rank your company higher for plumbing services and that you are well qualified. The first sentence isn’t about your company at all, it’s about generally finding plumbing services and what to look for. There is a big difference here, both for people and search engines. Say what you do and say it clearly.

Example #2 of using keywords in a meaningful way

Here are two competitors with similar names serving similar service areas.

The first is not using keywords in a meaningful way. They start with “gutter experts,” which is unlikely to be the keyword the average customer is going to search for.

Their next sentence is “Suppose you are looking to install your new gutter system or apply soffit and fascia to your commercial or residential property.”

They worked “gutter system” in there, but again, that’s not a keyword that’s likely to be searched. 

The copy here isn’t even particularly good from a marketing standpoint. 

example of a website that doesn't use keywords clearly or in a meaningful way

Here’s the competitor. 

example of a website that  uses keywords clearly and in a meaningful way

Much better.

Primary keyword: gutter installation, Tampa, FL. Right in the title.

Secondary keyword: seamless rain gutters, the type of gutters they install, right there in the first sentence. Gutter installation is repeated in the first paragraph.

Google won’t have any trouble discerning what this company does, and neither will the customers. 

Are you using keywords in a meaningful way?

Given Google’s recent helpful content update is all about creating clear and satisfying content, using keywords in a meaningful way is essential.

It may be time for a full-scale content audit on every page of your website to see if your keywords are being used correctly and are helpful.

Remember, specificity and clarity are always good choices for your human readers, too. Revamping your content to use keywords more effectively might just get you better results from both of the parties you’re trying to please!  


  1. Kathleen Mullen on December 12, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Excellent article!

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