Keyword Prominence: Use Your Keyphrase Early!

one woman pointing to the other woman's computer screen while they look together

In today’s installment of Mediavine’s SEO series, we’re delving into keyword prominence — a term you may not be familiar with, but one that will help with things you definitely are familiar with.

Keyword prominence is a popular term within the SEO community, and it’s essential to understand before tackling things like page titles, heading tags and even your content itself.

To put it less confusingly: It’s hard to give on-page SEO advice without first discussing keyword prominence.

What is Keyword Prominence?

Keyword prominence is how close your keyword is to the beginning of a section, or element of your page. Basically, as the term implies, how prominent your keyword is.

For example, within a given blog post, how early do you use your focus keyword?

Let’s go back to the SEO example we’ve been using since we first discussed what a keyword is. Just how “prominent” is my favorite keyphrase “Cheesecake Recipe” among the page titles of search results?

“Weekend Recipe: Foolproof New York Cheesecake”

Yes, that’s a real page title I found buried deep under many pages of results. While “recipe” is displayed early in the page title, the word “Cheesecake” is actually the last word in the phrase!

That would be considered low, or no prominence.

Now’s let’s take a few from Page 1 of the results:

“The Best Cheesecake Recipe — Sugar Spun Run”

Better! Here we find the keyword intact — an exact match, if you will, rather than a partial match (see our anchor text blog post) — and in the middle of the phrase. This is what you’d call medium prominence, because it’s in the middle.

Now’s do a final result, again from Page 1 of the results:

“Cheesecake Recipe | Food Network Kitchen | Food Network”

By now you can see where we’re going with this, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. This example illustrates the highest prominence there is, as the page title actually begins with the keyword itself.

Keyword Prominence: Learn what it is and how early and often you should be using your keyphrase within a blog post

Does Keyword Prominence Matter for SEO?

We’ll leave the debate on how big of an impact keyword prominence has on rankings in 2020 to the SEO analysts that sit around and crunch numbers with each algorithm change.

To us, that’s not what SEO is. Algorithm analysis can be useful, but for content creators, it’s better to simplify your focus. What does keyword prominence accomplish for you?

In particular: How does this simple SEO concept impact your website in tangible ways, such as actual click through rate (CTR) and your users’ engagement with your content?

Page Titles

Take the three page titles for assorted delicious recipes above. Put yourself in the reader’s position as they scan through the search results to find their new favorite cheesecake recipe.

At a glance, as you’re looking for something buried in a list of 10+ results and now loaded with ads, which one is likely to catch your eye?

  1. “The Best Cheesecake Recipe — Sugar Spun Run”
  2. “Cheesecake Recipe | Food Network Kitchen | Food Network”
  3. “Weekend Recipe: Foolproof New York Cheesecake”

I’m not a mind reader, but if you scanned these results quickly, I sort of guarantee you chose one of the first two. Why?

In English, we read left to right, and that’s how our brains are naturally scanning results. Moreover, we’re looking for the keyword(s) we typed into Google to confirm it’s what we want before we click.

It’s tough to know if the third result is even what you were searching for unless you read every single word in that sentence, which you likely won’t if the first two options deliver instantly.

Whether I’m talking about SEO or improving your RPM, I often make this same point: Readers don’t read. They scan.

woman's hands scrolling on her smartphone with earbuds in

Meta Description

There’s another section within the search engine results pages (SERPs) where keyword prominence can impact your CTR, and that’s in the description that Google pulls for each result.

As we’ll discuss later, Google “typically” will pull the meta description.

Keyword prominence can have an impact on Google picking up your meta description, and in turn, having your keyphrase BOLDED in your search result. Talk about prominent!

Let’s look at examples from our sample search results:

Cheesecake recipe search results

Look at that extra bolded text the first result got!

Because they used the keyphrase “cheesecake recipe” early on in their meta description, this result is just asking to be clicked.

For meta descriptions, it certainly doesn’t need to be as prominent as in your page title thanks to the bolding, but as we discussed earlier, given how the human eye scans, it can only help.

Headings, First Paragraphs and Everywhere Else

When it comes to writing your actual content, consider keyword prominence as well. How early in your posts do you use the keyword phrase? Again, just consider the reader.

If a user selects your content from the search results, but you wait multiple paragraphs before addressing the topic at hand, there’s a chance that user will bounce (or leave).

There are lots of other results on Google after all.

Using your keyword in the first paragraph is keyword prominence in action. Whether it’s cornerstone content or you’re targeting long tail keywords, you’ll want to begin any post with your keyphrase very early on.

This is often cited by SEO experts as an important ranking factor, as it should be. Capturing your readers early on will deliver better user experiences, and justify those higher rankings.

Individual sub-headings use the same concept. Headings are often used by readers to scan ahead to a section they are interested in, especially if you feature a table of contents.

Think of headings as mini-search results within your individual page. If you want that scanning user to stop and read that section, use the keyword. It’s what they’re looking for.

hands scrolling on a smartphone to learn about keyword prominence

Keyword Prominence is SEO at its best

Why do we say this? Because it’s easy and it works, if you commit to it. Keyword prominence can be applied across all areas of content and website creation and will never steer you wrong.

What’s effective for garnering better search engine results is just as good for the audience you’re targeting, and it’s something publishers can do effectively without advanced technical SEO know-how.

Read our posts on keyword density and keyword proximity to further improve search engine results.

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