Using Keywords to Achieve Search Engine Optimization

What are Keywords?

A keyword is a word that forms all or part of a search engine query—the word or phrase that Internet users type in a search box when they are seeking information in a search engine.

Keyword phrases must be carefully selected and placed strategically throughout your web pages to draw users to your content.

Note: When we refer to “keywords” in this context, we’re not referring to the “keyword” metatag that is in included in some metadata. Keyword metadata refers to a particular field filled out in an html document. Search engines don’t pay a lot of attention to these fields, although sometimes they are used in site descriptions. The search algorithms that search engines have use adjacency, frequency, and field position in the actual text to determine how search terms (keywords) are weighted in a result that is displayed in response to a search.

General Best Practices

  • Search engines prefer pages with at least 250 characters.
  • Use the keywords a user will use to find your website or web pages, not the keywords you want your content to be found on. Use words on your page that resonate with your target audience and are descriptive of your site. For example, consider using the search term "car sales” rather than "vehicle auctions." Get inside the mind of the user.
  • Map keywords and phrases to their implicit intent. How are the keywords related to how the visitor is trying to solve their problem? How do the keywords and phrases relate to what stage visitors are in their seeking process? What would the visitor consider a success based upon the keyword? Use these keywords to plan internal hyperlinks that provide the most relevant and persuasive content.
  • On your home page, select phrases that describe the general theme of the site, but don’t try to cover everything on your home page.
  • For your site’s internal pages, identify the most important subject of that page and pick words that are specific to that subject.
  • Hint: Looking for a key phrase you want to target? Search for it in Google, MSN, and Yahoo! and see what results come up. If the results aren’t relevant to your product or service, it’s not a key phrase you want to target—no matter how many hits it gets!

How to Determine the Best Keywords

Look at Your Log Files. Log files can be a good way to determine what your audience is searching for and what keywords you should use to draw users to your content.

Log files:

  • Capture the "exact phrase" that searchers entered.
  • Give insight into the number of words searchers are using.
  • Provide a rich source of keyword data.

Remember, log files only show the keywords that have brought users to our site. They don’t show you the unsuccessful keywords that didn’t bring users to your site.

Target Variations of Your Keywords. Be sure you target your content to address the following:

  • Variant spellings
  • Slang, acronyms, and abbreviations
  • Plurals
  • Synonyms

Evaluate Your Keywords. Keywords may have multiple meanings. "Accessibility" might mean "handicapped access" or "website monitoring." "Chips" may refer to the snack food or computer part.

Pay attention to keywords used alone or combined with another word. For example, "passport" by itself is likely a search for information; “passport” searched with a location is likely a search for services. Keep this in mind when choosing keywords for a page.

Use Keyword Tracking Tools

Data from Metasearch engines, Dogpile and Metacrawler, so data is skewed slightly by rank checking software, not as inflated as with Google or Overture’s tools.

The keyphrase search is free, but you’ll need to sign up.

Where to Put Your Keywords

Major search engines emphasize text found in:

  • TITLE tag
  • Text in the H1 and H2 tag
  • In paragraphs and general text on the site
  • In STRONG tags: <STRONG>Keyword</STRONG>
  • In the URL
  • ALT description attributes on image tags: <IMG SRC="" ALT="A picture about Keyword">
  • Text placed in and around hypertext links
  • TITLE attributes on anchor tags: <A HREF="" TITLE="Here you can get info about Keyword">
  • SUMMARY attributes on tables: <TABLE SUMMARY="In this table you will see keyword">
  • In the file names of images: <IMG SRC="keyword.gif">
  • Most commercial search engines don't use meta-tag content to determine relevancy, but meta-tag content can be very useful in your own site's search (enterprise search).

Resources

 

 

Content Lead: Ammie Farraj Feijoo
Page Reviewed/Updated: April 25, 2013

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