Using Keyword Themes To Boost Ranking & Deliver More User Focused Content

using keyword themesRemember when you first started writing web content?

Keywords always stood out as the main focus.

They still do.  

But nowadays simply finding a good keyword phrase and using it within your tags and content doesn’t quite cut it.

Today the focus is on keyword themes as a way to deliver precisely what users are looking for and gain search engine recognition in the process.

Even if you’re ignoring the search engines and writing strictly for your readers using keyword themes will actually help you reach both.

What are Keyword Themes?

A keyword theme is your main keyword phrase or long tail phrase and its variations.

For example, take the phrase ‘link building’.  A few variations of that keyword phrase would be…

  • link building strategies for bloggers
  • link building definition
  • SEO link building
  • link building strategies for ecommerce

By finding keyword phrase variations you can expand your list of keyword phrases and connect your content to a central keyword theme.

How do Keyword Themes Boost Search Engine Ranking?

Remember Google’s Hummingbird update?

Hummingbird’s design was to improve Google’s semantic search capability.

As conversational search and searches in the form of questions become more and more common Hummingbird will become better and better at understanding what the user is looking for.

At the same time Google’s also becoming better at determining the contextual meaning of the terms and keywords used in your content as it relates to user queries.

That’s pretty significant if you think about it because it communicates to Google and your readers what needs and desires you are answering.  And you want to make sure Google recognizes that because that’s how you’ll boost your ranking.

Using keyword themes is central to that idea.

The best news of all regarding Hummingbird and using keyword themes is that your pages may have a better chance of being found for certain long tail keywords, even if they’re not optimized for them 😉

How do keyword themes help us deliver better content?

Using keyword themes give you a systematic and strategic way to develop your content.

We still need to start out with a specific, highly related keyword phrase but instead of focusing on using just that keyword phrase you want to expand it using   relevant variations.

In other words it’s not enough to write a piece of content on ‘Guest Blogging’ for example.   You have to ask yourself, what about guest blogging?  We need to drill down and  be clear about what specifics we intend to address.

For example, here are some drill down guest blogging specifics:

  • Guest blogging SEO guidelines
  • Guest blogging tips for moms
  • Guest blogging opportunities for writing students

Your focus needs to address exactly who your content is written for and provide users with exactly what they need, which is also Google’s goal.  So you must know what questions your target audience and customers are asking and you need to be able to answer those questions in your content using the right keyword phrases and keyword themes.

So instead of thinking about using one specific keyword phrase start thinking about the theme surrounding your keyword phrase and then provide  your readers with the answers they are looking for.

Let me give you another example.

Let’s say you are writing a blog post on the topic of ‘crock pot cooking’.  Getting back to our theme idea you would ask yourself  “What about crock pot cooking”?

You can think of ideas off the top of your head but using Google’s related searches can help help.

Simply type your main keyword phrase, in this case ‘crock pot cooking’ into Google and review the ‘Related Searches’ at the bottom of the page.

Here’s what I get for crock pot cooking:


You could also type any one of those terms into Google and expand them even further to give you more precise ideas for writing individual posts or articles that would effectively address what your readers are looking for.

An even better way to find relevant keyword themes suggestions is a tool called Ubersuggest.  You can find just hundreds of  keyword phrases and  related ideas on what your readers might be asking.


Now here’s the fun part. We’re going to get more into the mind of Google.

We can actually pick Google’s brain to dig down and find even more of what Google considers related terms.

These are terms Google relates to your terms so they are words you might also want to include in your copy if they apply.

To do this we will use the  Google spreadsheet Tool.

You can access this tool through Google Drive, formerly known as Google Docs, only more robust.

Simply go to the ‘Google Drive’ link here and click on ‘Download Drive’.

Once downloaded you will have access to the Google spreadsheets.

When you’ve downloaded the spreadsheets go ahead and open a new spreadsheet and let’s get started.

Start with two similar keywords or key phrase you want to expand on.

In our crockpot example two similar phrases might be:

  • crock pot
  • slow cooker

Type the two phrases into the Google Drive spreadsheet and highlight both cells as shown.









Next place your cursor on the tiny blue square until you see the cross hairs.











When you see the cross hairs press the CNTL key on your keyboard and drag your cursor down the page to about 80 or 100 lines and let go.

Now you’ll see all Google’s related keywords just as you see below.
















These are words that Google associates with the source words ‘crock pot’ and ‘slow cooker’.

For space sake this is just a partial list but when you create your own lists you’ll notice that many of the words are derivatives and synonyms of the original words. In our case for instance, derivatives would be cooks, cook, cooker, cooked and synonyms would be recipes, food, quick, easy, meals, etc.

Some of the words you get won’t apply to your content but for those that do, use them.  They are words Google associates with the source words and will recognize them as part of your theme.

In summary…

The last thing you need to do is to over analyze your keyword choices and themes, there’s already enough thought and process that goes into writing great content so keep your process simple.

The main idea here is to give your content focus using theme focused keyword phrases by first understanding what your readers are looking for and how they are looking for it.  Then of course be sure to deliver on the information they need and want.

Here’s what to do.

  1. Find the most relevant, descriptive keyword phrase for your copy and use it within your Title, description and URL for the piece. If you use WordPress I highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin for making sure you cover all your basic SEO bases, the plugin is free!
  2. Expand on that phrase using keyword themes to deliver the information and responses your readers are looking for.  Then make sure you actually provide the answers.
  3. Use keyword derivatives and synonyms throughout your copy.
  4.  Use Google related keywords if they apply.


P.S.  Keywords are a huge part of good content writing whether you’re writing for the search engines or your readers, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that everything we thought we knew about keyword optimization is changing f-a-s-t!

Here’s where I got the most up-to-date keyword optimization techniques and 9 clever tactics for writing more natural keyword optimized copy that both the search engines and your readers will zone in on.


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  1. Hey Liz…

    I believe you have done some re-designing with your blog recently… :)

    Thanks for the Google Spreadsheet details…. :)

    By the way, how is your granddaughter?



  2. Peggy Nelson says:

    Hi Liz,

    Another top notch, highly educational post as always! This is so timely for me because I’m studying all of this right now to better connect with my tribe. I appreciate your sharing so much great information and I always look forward to every post. Thanks again.

  3. Cole Wiebe says:

    Hi Liz,

    It will be interesting to see the role keywords play in the future, as Google shifts its focus towards topics and user intent. I read one post this morning from Wordtracker, saying keywords will always be the pillar of search (of course), then another this afternoon, on SearchEngineLand, saying the days of keywords are definitely at an end.

    Many top SEO firms no longer provide ranking reports to clients because keyword-based reporting has become so unstable. In our experience, reports can be completely different in only a few hours.

    Our approach has been to hedge our bets. We still conduct thorough keyword research and target them in our content. But we’re also trying to answer topical questions. Whatever happens, I’ve got a front row seat. :-)

    – Cole

    • Hi Cole,

      It’s definitely becoming more and more difficult to figure out the role keywords play. I don’t think that the days of keywords are at an end. Words are still the basics of communication, but how they are perceived and used by Google is definitely changing. How Google interprets what is being said is also changing, so what is said in context will be important as well.

      Don’t know where it’s all going but I try not to get too wrapped around the axle about it (as my husband would say, LOL!) Use your most targeted, relevant keywords and make sure your content is giving your reader good information that’s relevant. In the end it’s really what makes your reader happy so that’s where I’m putting my best foot forward.

      Thanks so much for stopping by Cole and sharing your thoughts :-)

      Elizabeth McGee recently posted..Using Keyword Themes To Boost Ranking & Deliver More User Focused ContentMy Profile

  4. This is great content Liz and to be frank, using the Google spreadsheet Tool is a completely new approach to me. Looks quite effective

    I have posted in recent days some articles on my blog about these SEO changes. I mentioned in one of them that keyword density should no longer be our main focus. Like you mentioned, Google now ranks content with semantically related key phrases. That’s just your definition of keyword themes. It’s no longer separate words but Hummingbird’s focus on context and which post is more relevant and more in-depth.

    I think it makes things better as one can rank well for phrases that were not targeted. You mentioned this in this post. I think a better understanding and implementation of this will lead to better results from search engines.

    Hope you are doing well though! have not been around for some time now but I think I’m more stable now so as to be more frequent around. Do have a wonderful weekend Liz
    Enstine Muki recently posted..DOFOLLOW BACKLINKS From PR8! Quick Steps Revealed!My Profile

  5. Hey Liz,

    You are right on with these tips! I started an SEO guy but have strayed some. Mainly because of these last couple updates Google made. I still focus on keywords but have honestly not done as much research as I have in the past to make sure it is probably the best.

    I say that just to say I have a serious love hate relationship with Google and have decided to not focus on search so much. I use and love SEO by Yoast but the steps they give are already a habit so it’s no biggie for me.

    I just decide to take an 80% relationship 20% SEO approach when it comes to my post. Google can’t touch my relationships :)

    I hope all is well Liz! Take care!
    Steven Wilson recently posted..Infographic: 31 Tips On How To Get And Keep Your Readers AttentionMy Profile

    • Hey Steven,

      Yes, I think we all have a love/hate relationship with Google. LOL! :-) And since there have been so many Google changes and more on the way I’m sure, it’s best to stick with the things Google can’t take from you and that’s your relationships. It’s a bit more work and a lot more time consuming but in the end it’s what works.

      Thanks for stopping by and giving us your feedback. Always good to hear from you :-)

      Elizabeth McGee recently posted..Know Your Target Market – It Means More Sales For You!My Profile

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