How to Use SEO Keywords to Improve Your Writing

When we talk about SEO keywords, we talk about search volume, competition and search algorithms. We focus on ways we can use keywords strategically to get noticed by the major search engines. But keywords aren’t just for robots. They can also help us improve our content’s usability, findability and conversions.

With so much focus on our search engine rankings, it’s easy to forget that keywords originate with our customers and the ways they talk about our products. In this context, keywords have a lot in common with another important term for web usability: trigger words. As usability expert, Jared Spool explains: “Trigger words are the words and phrases that trigger a user into clicking. They contain the essential elements to provide the motivation to continue with the site.”

Not surprisingly, the most common SEO keywords are often the most effective trigger words for your audience. This makes sense, considering that keywords are based on search data–meaning the most popular keywords for your products are the ones your customers use to find them online. In one series of tests, Spool and his team interviewed users before they visited a site, asking what they hoped to find.  The result? “Users were far more successful at finding their targets when the description words, which they told us before they saw the site, appeared on the home page.”

This research shows how important keywords are, not only to our rankings, but to our customer experience. By using the same terminology as your customers, you’ll help them find what they’re looking for and, ultimately, make a purchase. Here are some tips to help make that happen.


1. Categories & navigation

As Spool found in his studies, customers are most successful at finding what they want when their trigger words appear on the home page. You can only feature a handful of products on the homepage, but you can use trigger words to help guide customers to the products they want.

Consider using keywords for your category names, which would put important trigger words right in your store’s navigation. Instead of placing all of your products in a single category called “Store,” you could create separate categories for the main types of products your customers are searching for, like Men’s Apparel, Women’s Apparel & Kid’s Clothes. This gives your customers three major trigger words, and three clear paths to the type of product they’re seeking.

It’s important to find a balance between creative brand messaging and clear terminology and keywords. Putting your kid’s clothes in a category called “Sprouts” can help create a unique personality, but some customers may never click to find out what’s in there.


2. Product names & descriptions

Product names can also serve as some of the most prominent trigger words for your customers. Depending on your store settings and where they are, customers may only see the product name, so it should match their expectations as closely as possible.

Look through your SEO keywords and see if there are any terms that you should include in specific product names or descriptions. Instead of naming a product “Men’s Black Jacket,” maybe you could name it “Men’s Ski Jacket – Black” or “Men’s Windproof Ski Jacket with Hood.” You can also include additional relevant keywords in the product description, features or technical specs. Just like any other SEO content, it’s important no to overdo it with keywords in your product titles and descriptions, but adding some of the most popular terms can improve findability as well as search rankings.

If you’ve created unique brand names for your products, try to find ways to include more generic, search-friendly terms either alongside the product name or in the description. That way, you can still appeal to customers that are seeking that type of product, but who may not know your specific brand name for it.


3. Online marketing

Trigger words can help your customers find their way even before they get to your store. Especially in banner ads, PPC ads and other online marketing, effective use of keywords can encourage customers to click.

When you’re writing content for your online ads, look for keywords and phrases that may work as triggers for your customers. It’s most important to include these terms in your headlines and the calls to action in your ads, as they’re more likely to draw attention there. Including relevant keywords in your call to action can make ads significantly more effective than simply asking a customer to “Learn more” or “Visit us.”

If there are popular search terms that apply to specific products you have, consider writing ads that link directly to that product. You may not get as many clicks, but they’ll be much more targeted and, ideally, more likely to purchase.


4. Social media

Today, your customers are just as likely to find your products through social networks as through a traditional search engine. But that doesn’t mean your keywords aren’t important here too. First, social sharing implies that someone had to find your content meaningful in order to share it. That’s where the first three steps in this article matter. But once someone does share your content, their friends have to notice it, or it won’t matter.

When a customer shares a product on Facebook or Pinterest, it will most likely display the product title, a brief excerpt from the description and a thumbnail. These are exactly the kinds of places where trigger words can be effective. People on these sites aren’t necessarily shopping, so they’re less likely to respond to generic, customer-centric messaging. But if the link describes something that they’ve been looking for outside of their social networks, it’ll likely catch their attention here too.

If you’re writing your own Facebook or Twitter posts, try including some of those keywords to help grab a potential customer’s attention and increase their chances of clicking. As we discussed with online advertising, consider creating posts about a specific product or category with highly-relevant keywords.


Good for robots, good for people

We all know that effective keyword usage can give your site a significant boost in the search engine rankings. But it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal of search engine algorithms is to choose the same content that you’d choose as a human being if you could browse through all the sites on the web. So by paying attention to our search data and keyword metrics, we can create content that appeals to the real people behind those searches.


This post is part of our Method & Message series. Check back every other Wednesday for the latest discussions on content, context and commerce on the web.


Clay Delk writes about the intersection of copywriting, usability and design, and how it can help others create the best content to serve their users. Outside of work, Clay enjoys mantiquing, making furniture, homebrewing and doing things outside.

4 Responses to “How to Use SEO Keywords to Improve Your Writing”

  1. 5 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your SEO - AdRoll Blog

    […] Think about their intent, and don’t forget to sprinkle in a couple keywords here and there. (They can actually help your writing.) And if you’re still at a loss for what to write after that, try stepping away for a moment […]

  2. Adele Gockenbach

    Great ideas, no but mention of where to find free tools to find keywords and trigger words.

    • Clay Delk

      Hi Adele,

      That’s a great point. The tool I find most useful is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. You can enter the keywords you think will work, or even enter in your URL, and the tool will generate a list of possible keywords to consider. From there, you can choose which ones you want to focus on, based on the number of searches and the relative competition.

      You also can learn more about keyword research with Matt’s post on How to Do Keyword Research Without Going Insane.

    • Gary

      Try using the Google Keyword Tool. It’s free. There are several very good blogs out there to help you. Good luck.


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