The five SEO rules of THUMB for keyword distribution

Those of us who are native Michiganders are known for holding up our hands as makeshift maps to show others where we are located within the state. For example, the Mackinac Bridge is just off the tip of your middle finger, Ann Arbor is located just below the center of your palm, and Detroit is a little closer to the base of your thumb.

Speaking of thumbs, our opposable digits also make for a handy mnemonic device for SEO keyword placement opportunities on a webpage. I often use this simple device when creating new pages of content or to review keyword distribution on live pages.

(T) Title Tags

(H) H1 (and other headings tags)


(M) Meta Description

(B) Body

Let’s say you have a website that sells bike supplies and one page is specifically devoted to vintage Italian bikes. You have done your keyword research and decided that the best keyword to target is “vintage Italian bicycles.”

Now is the time to get that keyword working for you! Insert that phrase as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.  Looking at the HTML source code your title tag should look something like this:

<title>Vintage Italian Bicycles and Bike Parts | Your Bike Biz</title>

Keep in mind that the title tag is perhaps the most important place to insert your keyword. The title tag is the information displayed at the top of your browser and also appears prominently in the search engine return pages (SERPs).

It is a strong indicator to your audience, as well as the search engines, of the subject of your page. When writing your title tag it is ideal to keep it fewer than 70 characters, as anything longer than this will be truncated in the Google search displays.

Working our way down through the “SEO Rules of THUMB”, you can similarly insert the keyphrase “Vintage Italian Bicycles” in the h1 of the page. This is a page heading tag that can be used to indicate headlines or the primary topic of a page.

<h1>Vintage Italian Bicycles – Current Stock of Parts and Supplies</h1>

Although there are occasions when certain designs require multiple h1 tags, it is generally best practice to only use the h1 tag once per page.

On to the URL. This is a great opportunity to use your keywords. Whether you are creating a basic HTML page, posting blog content or generating a page using a CMS platform (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) most systems allow you to customize your URL. Some platforms may not allow custom URLs as they are generated from database locations and session IDs, etc.; however, if you do have the ability, creating succinct, readable URLs is a great indicator of the content of the page.

Try to avoid using any unnecessary characters and make the URL as easy to read and remember as possible. For example:

The meta description should be a brief summary of the page content. Although it isn’t a significant factor of search engine rank for your keyword, it is displayed in the SERPs and therefore should contain your keyword as well as display information that would make searchers click on your site.

It is a best practice to keep your meta descriptions to 155 characters or less. Here is an example of a meta description optimized for the keyword “vintage Italian bicycles”:

<META name=”description” content=” We stock a large supply of vintage Italian bicycles and vintage bike parts by Bianchi, Cinelli, Colnago and more. Contact us for more information.”>

Lastly, it is important to use your keyword in the body of the page. This may sound obvious, but it is easy to overlook after working so hard to insert the keyword in all of the other places! While there are no rules about how many times your keyword should be used in the body, it should appear within the first 200 words and be repeated uniformly throughout the copy so that it sounds natural when read.

Although there are a number of other places that you could use your keyword (image file names, alt text, anchor text, etc.), these “Five SEO Rules of THUMB” are your roadmap to on-page optimization of your keyword target.