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How to Use Conversational Keywords in Your SEO Strategy

Back when SEO first took off as a professional discipline, the gurus acted as puzzle solvers more than writers. They fiddled with keywords and linking strategies until they cracked the code of higher search rankings. Many of these strategists used so-called “black hat” tactics – they were literally gaming the system, but smart search engines like Google quickly caught on.

Thankfully, the SEO industry has evolved right along with Google. With its latest search algorithm update, Google has given SEO back to the writers – where any proper wordsmithing belongs. Google’s Hummingbird update understands the conversational phrases that users enter in a search query. Instead of focusing on each word, Google now perceives the phrase as a whole.

As a web writer, I’ve always kept an eye on SEO trends. After all, what’s the point of writing anything online if no one can find it? However, I have been frustrated by some clients’ perceptions – and expectations – of SEO. Several years ago, one client handed me a project consisting entirely of “sprinkling keywords” into pages and pages of website content. I did the best I could to weave those incongruent keywords into copy that would make sense, but the end result was a common one among websites at that time: awkward groupings of keywords that even Superman couldn’t bend into the prose in any meaningful way. In other words, the website was so obviously SEOed to the hilt that it was virtually illegible.

Thanks to Hummingbird, web writers everywhere can rejoice since we can be proud of what we’ve written online. And others can still find our writing since SEO has taken a more conversational – and human – form.

Conversational keywords are just what they sound like, no gimmicks, no hacks. Think of what your target audience might want to know, and put your journalist hat on. Ask the following questions: who, what, when, where, and how. Build your keyword phrases around these questions, and implement those questions into your content. Then, answer them directly so your audience finds exactly what they’re looking for.

Here are a few more tips to get you started with conversational keywords:

People don’t care which keywords Google will understand. They want to ask a question and get an answer. Stop thinking so much about Google, and start thinking like your customers. Talk to them in a natural voice, and give them the information they’re looking for.

Pay attention to the anchor texts that link back to your site. Since you are no longer focused on isolated keywords, you can make sure this text is conversational.

Conversational keywords fit perfectly with your social media campaign. Pay attention to the questions you receive from your social communities – these are valuable sources of conversational keyword phrases that you can use for SEO.

People always use superlatives when searching. They care about the best restaurants, the top dating sites, the latest trends, etc. Use these superlatives as cues for your conversational keywords.

Build out a detailed FAQ page by collecting the most common questions you get from users and answering them as clearly as possible.

Don’t forget about negative questions. People often ask a question in a negative format when they’re looking for a solution to a problem. For example, “Why won’t my iPad update?” or “Why won’t my frequent flier miles work?” Turn these negative questions into positive results for your website by creating blog articles around each relevant topic.

The bottom line is to make your website useful. The reasons people make a search query is to find information they need or to be entertained. Build your SEO strategy around this idea, and you will also build a receptive and engaged audience.

If your website could use an upgrade to become more conversational, why not leave the writing to the professionals? Our team of writers creates copy that is friendly to Google and to your readers!

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