All About Keywords
The secret to building a high-ranking Web site can be boiled down to three simple steps:
- Targeted Keyword List
- Get Links Site
- Targeted Keyword List: Assemble a smart list of relevant search words (aka, keywords) that your target audience is using to locate your products and services; and then strategically insert those keywords into the proper locations within your Web pages.
- Search-friendly Site: Build your site so that it is easy for search engines to locate and properly index.
- Get Links: Accumulate the right incoming links coming from the right places.
Regardless of what you may have heard, 95% of professional SEO (aka, search engine optimization) is really all about focusing on these three basic steps.
What are Keywords?
The singular term keyword is actually misleading. You’ll almost never be optimizing your Web pages for a single keyword because single keywords are typically too general. Single keywords are also highly competitive—in fact so competitive that it is unrealistic to expect that your Web pages can score at the top of the search results for a single keyword search. But, that’s ok because you don’t need to, nor do you especially want to. The search terms that convert best to sales are typically very specific key phrases comprised of two to five words. Although this is sometimes called a keyword phrase, it is most typically called a keyword.
For example, hotel is a keyword. But it would do you no good at all to score at the top of the search results for any single keyword like hotel. That’s because such generic keywords are far too general. When we search Google using the keyword, hotel, the search results give us a list of hotel directories featuring hotels located all over the world. This is what’s known as an untargeted search because the search results we get are not actually very useful.
On the other hand, for example, let’s say you own the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook Hawaii. Some of your target keywords would be: hotel Hawaii Captain Cook or hotel captain cook Hawaii—both of which reflect the location of the Manago Hotel situated in the little upcountry town of Captain Cook, on the Big Island of Hawaii, in the state of Hawaii.
Another keyword possibility could be, affordable accommodations captain cook. Yet another keyword possibility could be, big island affordable accommodations. Notice that, in each of these cases, our keyword is actually a keyphrase.
This is almost always the case.
So, get used to thinking of each of your unique keyphrases as a keyword. Using our example above, our “keywords” are actually four different keyphrases:
hotel Hawaii Captain Cook
hotel captain cook Hawaii
affordable accommodations captain cook
affordable accommodations captain cook
Of course, there are many more keyword (i.e., keyphrase) possibilities which we could potentially target, but you get the idea.
The Importance of Keywords
Keywords are the cornerstone of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).
Every aspect of crafting a Web site-for-profit revolves delicately around carefully chosen and strategically placed keywords.
Behind the scenes of every top-ranking sales page is a company’s systematic campaign to win dominance in an escalating battle over specifically targeted keywords. The stakes can be high. Billions of $$ have already been earned and billions more are in the queue waiting to be tapped. Clearly, keywords are big business. There’s much to be gained by getting them right. Be systematic and select carefully! While the effort required can be great, the rewards for mastering the skill of keyword selection are substantial.
The key to keyword success is two simple items.
- How to find them, AND
- What to do with them once you have them!
We will get to more on that shortly but first some background on sales and money keywords.
Finding the Money Keywords That Trigger Sales
As you now know, keywords are the search words and phrases people use in their online searches. Be aware though, there are three different types of searchers.
- Academic Information Searchers
- Product or Service Research Searchers
- Buyers that already know exactly what they want and are searching to make a purchase right now!
To clarify, sometimes the searcher’s motives are purely academic, even scientific. For example, they may be looking for information on a medical condition or a geographic location for a school report, or perhaps even a political or science answer—something that does not involve a commercial transaction of any sort at any time, now, or in the future. We call this an academic search.
Another type of searcher is a person who is interested in making some sort of purchase at some time in the future; doing research in preparation for making a purchase decision at a later time—maybe 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, or even 5 months later. We call this kind of search activity, research prior to making a purchase.
The searcher you really want is a buyer—a consumer who has completed their research and is ready to get involved now with your product or service. In other words, they are ready to pick up the phone and call to make an appointment or, perhaps, place an order for your product(s). They are ready to move forward with a decision that is likely to involve a commitment or purchase of some sort. They have done their research, however brief or long, and they know what they want to purchase.
Of course, a Web site is well advised to build Web pages and use keywords that are geared for all three instances. But, if your site is to successfully close the sale, you must realize that it’s only in the latter case—when a searcher becomes a buyer—that there’s any statistically significant chance for an online company to make a sale in an unbroken buying process that looks like..
So, while all three searcher-types involve keywords, only one type consistently converts to sales. That’s why today’s professional SEMs (search engine marketers) spend the extra effort necessary to identify the keywords that customers are using when they are ready to BUY their product or service.
Professional SEO’s know the difference. They know to focus their efforts on determining exactly which keywords people use to buy and which ones they use to research.
Get relevant, get tactical and get granular to get sales.
So, your job is to reverse engineer the keyword buying process for your market, making sure your pages score well in the keyword searches your customers are using to buy. Once you’ve covered that base, then you can build your informational funnel pages to help snag even more buyers.
How to Find All the Right Keywords
Start by making a list of every possible search term that people might use when searching for whatever you’re selling. There’s a good chance you’ll easily come up with a list of twenty or so before you start to run out of ideas.
That’s the point at which you should resort to the following tips and tools that’ll help you continue the brainstorming process of building your raw keyword list.
Be specific. When selecting your keywords, you want to avoid stand-alone words that are too general, such as travel. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you will face very stiff competition. Big money sites like Expedia and Orbitz sites have already spent enormous sums of time and money to secure top positions for such general keywords. Knocking those sites out of the top results can be extremely difficult to impossible. Besides, it would also be unproductive from a sales-conversion perspective because people who buy things don’t typically search using only these general keywords.
General keywords like “travel” are so broad they could apply to all kinds of products and services—travel guides, travel insurance, travel accessories, and travel tours are just a few of the possible key phrases associated with the keyword travel. Unless you happen to sell every product and service related to travel, you shouldn’t waste your time and resources bringing traffic to your site that isn’t likely to buy what you are selling.
For example, let’s say you sell travel packages to Europe. Obviously, you want to attract European travel package buyers. But, rather than targeting the keyword travel, a much better keyword would be travel Europe or European travel packages. By targeting these much more specific keywords, you’ll bring a far more targeted prospect to your site—one that will be much more likely to find what they’re looking for and to actually buy from you.
However, when looking for keywords that are specific to your business niche, bear in mind that sometimes keywords can be too specific.
A rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t optimize your Web pages for keywords that none of your potential customers are using.
Instead, you should focus on keywords that are in the mainstream. Fortunately, there are free keyword tools available (that we’ll tell you about in a minute) to help you determine how many people are searching for any given keyword each month.
Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes, ask yourself…
What problem does my product or service solve for my typical customer?
Sometimes the difference between a company that succeeds and one that fails is simply a matter of talking to its customers and asking the right questions. A while ago we published a critically important article in this regard—The Missing Link to Writing Effective Ad Copy—it’s included in the Advanced SEO Tutorial portion of this course and you should study it.
Learning how to interview your customers can be the X-factor, the magic bullet, the missing link between failing miserably and succeeding spectacularly. These days people who shop online are abundant and growing. It isn’t hard to gather an informal group and watch as they attempt to locate a product or service within your company’s sales niche. If you’re selling a consumer product or providing a professional service, then friends and family could help in this regard. Sit down with them at a computer, ask them to find your products or services, and see what searches they perform. You may discover a keyword or group of keywords that you and your competitors have overlooked. Remember to keep the customer’s perspective in mind. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what customers call your products. Do the necessary research to find out what keywords that customers are actually using to locate your products or services. Learn to speak like your customers. Real people don’t generally use insider terms of the trade (aka, jargon) when searching. So, unless you’re selling to insiders within your own industry, you should avoid using industry trade terms. Think about words and phrases that real customers, not industry insiders, would use in a search.
On the other hand, if you are selling to industry insiders, then by all means, jargon away! Reading trade magazines is a good way to become familiar with industry catch phrases. You can also scour the indexes and glossaries of books about the business you’re in. Be sure to also browse the Internet forums that are dedicated to whatever specific industry, product, or service you’re targeting.
Glean Keywords from your Web site’s Referral Logs
Probably the most overlooked source of keywords is your Web site’s referral logs. This can be an indispensable source of feedback regarding what keywords your site visitors are using to find you.
Referrals coming from search engines will include the keyword query that a searcher used to find your site. People often search using some very creative search queries—terms that you and your competitors might never think to optimize for. Once again, this can give you a leg up on the competition, even in competitive fields, by enabling you to capitalize on overlooked highly targeted keywords.
Check out Your Competition
Once you’ve acquired a small list (shoot for about 30 keywords), start entering those keywords into searches on Google and Yahoo. Scrutinize the Web pages that are coming up in the search results—these are your competitors. Scouring their pages can help you uncover the keywords your competitors are actually targeting, some of which you may have overlooked.
You can also view the source code of your competitors’ Web pages to determine what keywords they’re optimizing for.
- If you are using Internet Explorer (IE) then, in your browser’s menu, click View, then Page Source.
- If you are a Firefox user, use Ctrl+U to view the source code.
Once you see the source code, inspect the title tag which looks something like this:
Baby Strollers – The best strollers and infant supplies for your baby
<title>Baby Strollers – The best strollers and infant supplies for your baby</title>
Notice the keywords sandwiched between the start tags. This title tag is where Web pages generally place their money making keywords.
A word of caution is in order here: There are court cases where the use of a competitor’s company name, product names, or trademarks, when used as keywords, is being interpreted as trademark infringement. Bear that in mind when scanning your competitor’s pages to brainstorm new keywords.
Cover All Your Keyword Variations look for variations on keywords you think might be successful. This includes plurals, synonyms, merged words, or keywords separated-by-hyphens.
Misspellings…Sometimes targeting common misspellings of your keywords can be an easy source of traffic. For example, one estimate says that 20% of Britney Spears related searches are misspelled (why are we not surprised?). In some cases, you may even find the misspelled or non-grammatical version of a keyword gets more searches than the keyword itself. For instance, let’s say that you’re optimizing your page for the keyword children’s clothing. Your keyword research shows there are actually more searches for the non-grammatically correct version childrens clothing when compared to the proper children’s clothing. Here is an instance where you should consider optimizing for both versions of the search term.
Never mind which one is actually correct. Your customers are always right. Whatever search term they are using to seek your product is functionally correct.
Of course, one must also take into account that Google and other engines have factored-in the reality that many people are lazy spellers. That’s why they offer their Showing results for: feature, as in…
…where they provide the option of clicking a link that leads to a corrected version of the search term’s results. Our research shows that most people actually click this corrected version of the link, since it is so conveniently found above the rest of the search results. Even so, there is traffic to be had from common misspellings of search terms. Whenever your offerings lend themselves to such, you should consider optimizing companion pages that glean traffic from bad spelling and other typical grammar mistakes whenever you know the terms involved are keywords that buyers use.
Plurals and Synonyms – Many search engines utilize a process called word-stemming to identify plural versions of a keyword. In theory, this means that a search engine should recognize charity and charities as being the same keyword. In practice, however, the search results for singular and plural versions of a keyword are rarely ever the same. This means that you should optimize for both versions by working them into the visible text on your Web pages.
The same can be said for common synonyms and descriptive terms. For example, a site selling auto parts would ideally optimize for variations on the keyword auto parts, such as car parts and automobile parts. In addition, they should also optimize for the various qualifiers (like best price, high quality, lowest priced) that buyers tend to use when searching.
Here’s an example of text that works all of the related synonyms with typically descriptive terms into a single paragraph focused on selling car parts…
Looking for the best price on car parts and accessories?
You’ve come to the right place.
We’re your vehicle’s one-stop source for the lowest priced auto parts and accessories.
If we don’t have the high quality automobile parts you’re looking for, no one does!
Merged and Hyphenated Words – Be aware that some keywords may be commonly merged or hyphenated. An example of a merged keyword would be webhost versus web host. In some cases, both the merged and unmerged versions will garner about an equal number of searches. In other cases, one will far outpace the other.
Hyphenated keywords, such as e-commerce versus ecommerce, should also be taken into account. Again, keyword tools are available to help you determine which variation is the more popular. Remember, search engines will treat them as different keywords. So, if your research suggests you should target both hyphenated and un-hyphenated keywords, be sure to work them both into your webpages and your Web pages 😉
Keep in mind that Google and Bing are both quite good at understanding that hyphenated and non-hypenated words often mean the exact same thing, and search results often are very similar regardless of the variation. You may see a variation in search, and therefore an opportunity may exist for the keywords your working should you address both variations.
Once you’ve covered all the variations of what you expect to be your most important keywords, begin adding descriptive terms to augment your existing terms.
For instance, cheap, low cost, affordable, or inexpensive can go with most consumer products, as can superlatives like best or cheapest.
Sometimes, using reverse descriptive words (words that describe the opposite of what your product does); can work to your advantage. For example, if you’re selling fast Internet connections, then slow Internet connection is at least as good a keyword as fast Internet connection, since a person typing the query slow Internet connection has a problem they’re actively seeking a solution for.
Use Action Words
Try to recreate in your mind’s eye how your typical customer conducts their various searches. It’s likely that many will use action words in their searches. Words such as buy, find, or purchase are examples of actions words that are widely used by buyers. Depending on your market, it may be well worth appending these types of words to your primary keywords as such:
- Buy Droid Razr
- Find Droid Razr
- Purchase Droid Razr
- Best Price Droid Razr
- Free Shipping Droid Razr
- Low Price Guarantee Droid Razr
Many searchers will also phrase their queries in the form of a question. For instance, the query, where can I buy a cell phone, actually receives a fair amount of traffic. As you grow your keyword list, consider using questions for which your site provides an answer in the form of a solution to their problem.
Target Local Markets
If your product or service is geographically relevant, then be SURE to mention the location in the text at every opportunity.
For instance, if your motel is in the little town of, say, Port Angeles, WA, then a normal sentence might begin as: The Uptown Motel boasts an unlimited panoramic view….
A better, keyword laden sentence would be:
“The Uptown Motel in Port Angeles boasts an unlimited panoramic view……even when the reader already knows it’s in the town of Port Angeles.”
When you’re selling to a local market, it helps to be familiar with local idioms and unofficial place names. For example, Philly vs. Philadelphia, Big Apple vs. New York, or Big Island vs.
But don’t leave out official place names. If you sell mobile homes in San Diego, make sure you optimize for california mobile home and san diego mobile home, in addition to so called mobile home. You’ll also probably want to pull in traffic from surrounding cities and counties, so you could add mission beach mobile homes, la jolla mobile homes, etc…
Break out a map and add those relevant place names to your keyword list.
Use Keyword Tools to Complete Your Selections
Once you’ve assembled your basic list, you’ll need to determine relative keyword popularity. You must know which keywords are the most popular as compared to other related keywords.
For example, if you sell coffee, you need to know if French Roast is more popular than Dark Roast, if decaffeinated is more popular than caffeine free, and so forth. Keyword tools are there to help you determine these differences.
Long Tail keywords are those 3 and 4-keyword phrases which are very, very specific to whatever you are selling. You see, whenever a customer uses a highly specific search phrase, they tend to be looking for exactly what they are actually going to buy. Very specific searches are far more likely to convert to sales than general generic searches which tend to be geared more toward the type and depth of research that consumers typically do prior to making a buying decision.
- Consumer becomes aware of a product.
- Consumer seeks information about that product in preparation for possible purchase.
- Consumer evaluates alternatives to product (features, pricing, etc…).
- Consumer makes their purchase decision.
- Consumer pulls out their credit card and completes the transaction.
- Consumer then evaluates the product after buying it and decides if they want to keep or return it.
Using the above six step process as our model, you can probably already see that you want to target the consumer who is somewhere around step 4.
Where do I get Wicked Cool Keyword Research Done?
These tools will provide you with ALL of the information you’ll need to sharpen and hone your keyword selection process.
The Google AdWords Keyword Tool is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to quickly assemble several hundred highly relevant keywords. Although originally designed to be used by AdWords PPC advertisers, this great tool is also available to anyone doing keyword research for organic search.
There are tons of features this tool offers, but we find the following four keyword research options most useful…
- Keyword search volume (monthly number of searches by region).
- Search volume trends over time.
- Ad position and cost estimates.
- Advertiser competition.
How to Estimate a Keyword’s Potential Traffic.
Of course, not everyone who searches for your keyword will click your listing. At best, even if your site occupies the top position, you can only expect about 40-50% of those searches will yield a click. So, if a keyword is receiving 4400 monthly searches (and assuming you think you can rank at the top), you’d divide the monthly searches by 30 (4400/30 = 146) then multiply by 50% (146*0.5 = 73). At best you can (very theoretically) hope for a traffic count of maybe 73 visitors a day generated by that keyword.
The purpose of Google Trends is to show how demand for different keywords fluctuates over time. It also differentiates what keywords are most popular by countries, subregions and cities. This enables you to more accurately target your advertising when using a PPC platform like Google AdWords or Facebook Social Ads.
Google Trends can provide data for a single keyword or enable you to compare multiple keywords. Entering a single keyword will display a chart as such:
Google Insights for Search is basically Google Trends on steroids. It builds upon, and greatly expands, many of the demographic research features found on Google Trends. So why use both?
Well, Trends still offers useful information that Insights for Search doesn’t, like the Also visited feature. And they each tend to find keyword data that the other misses. So if you want to get the full range of (ahem) insights into your keywords, it’s useful to run your research on both tools.
Yahoo Clues was launched in November 2010 as an alternate to Google’s Insights for Search and has had major updates as recent as June 29th, 2011. Yahoo Clues provides keyword trending data with a rich feature set for user demographics. It’s also a very good resource for finding related search terms.
YouTube has a great keyword research tool that people often overlook. Of course the data it provides will be more oriented towards video content, but it’s still a great resource to peer into the mind of your customer and understand better how they search for information. With the huge amount of traffic YouTube receives, it’s a very rich source of data for search engine marketers!
There are many different ways and search features available including:
- Information based on a specific language or country.
- Ability to search by Video ID to find keywords related to a specific video.
- Search by Demographic which allows you to drill down by Gender, Age Range, Location and even Special Interests.
A search for the keyword welding, generates a 100 line report listing the top related searches done on YouTube.
The keyword tools tutorial will provide you with ALL of the information you’ll need to sharpen and hone your keyword selection process. These two tutorials will also give you all of the information you’ll need to precisely target your Web pages to the right audiences using the right keywords. Consider these tutorials to be a CORE part of the Advanced Section of this SEO course.
Keyword Placement: The Location of Your Keywords Count
There are numerous places on your Web page where you might place your keywords—and some page locations are much more effective than others. We’ll show you how keyword placement can make a big difference in terms of ranking well within the search results.
The most critically important location to place keywords is within your Web page’s HTML title tag. Search engines consider the keywords found in the title tag to be extremely important. These are the keywords that literally tell the search engines what your Web page is about.
Therefore, you should always place your most important keywords within the source code of your Web page’s <title> tag. You should also avoid wasting valuable space with words like your company name, unless your business is so well known that people use your company name as their primary keyword while searching for what you sell (like eBay, for example).
Another mistake that we commonly see in title tags is something like Welcome to our Home Page. This is pointless since nobody will be using that phrase to search for your site.
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of keywords within the <title> tag located within your Web page’s source code. Here are two important points to remember:
Your Web page title tag is the most important aspect of Web page design in regards to ranking well on all search engines. The title tag tells the search engines what your page is about.
Your title tag is what Google and most other search engines use as your Web page’s link within the search results. It confirms to your potential site visitor that your page
has what they searched for.
Let’s say, for example, that you own a Bed & Breakfast called Kiluhana Inn, located in Hanalei Bay on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. You should not use Kiluhana Inn as your title tag. If you do, your business will be handicapped in a search for anything related to Hawaii, or bed and breakfast, or Kauai, or Hanalei Bay, because none of those relevant keywords appear in your title. You’ll more than likely be buried in the rankings by your more knowledgeable competition.
A better title tag would be: <title>Bed & Breakfast Kauai – Hanalei Bay & Beach – Hawaii</title>
There are three reasons why this is a better title tag:
- Hawaii, Beach, Bed, Breakfast, Hanalei Bay, and Kauai are all keywords in your <title> that people are likely to enter when searching for this type of service.
- The keywords Hawaii, Beach, Hanalei, and Kauai are all terms that are entered when people are doing research related to your location. For instance, if someone does a keyword search for hanalei kauai your B&B has a good chance of showing up near the top of the search results.
- The name of your business, in this case Kiluhana Inn, is almost always very easy to rank well in the search results because business names tend to be somewhat unique which makes them less competitive as keywords.
Therefore, it is usually more than sufficient to place your business name within the normal body content (text) of your Web page. This alone will rank your Web pages at the top of the search results when searching for your business name. Stated another way, it is usually considered a waste of title tag space to place your business name within your Web page’s title tag unless your business name also happens to be the primary keyword that your customers are using to find your goods or services.
Take note that you should limit your title tag to 65 characters or less—usually about 7 to 10 words. Anything longer and you risk getting part of your title chopped off by some search
engines. In our example above, we might consider placing Kiluhana Inn at the end of our title tag only if it fits within the 65 character limit and there aren’t any better keywords to use in its place.
By the way, here’s a shortcut to help you find all of the other Web pages that are using your keywords in their titles. Go to Google and enter intitle:”put your title keywords here” into the search field. This will help you get a handle on how many other pages are competing for the same keywords.
While inserting your keywords in your title tag is very important, it’s also quite important to craft a title that makes people want to click the link. This means your title needs to appear to be high quality, relevant to the search query, and ideally invoke a bit of curiosity. The goal here is to not only rank highly, but to actually get users to click your link. Search engines track what your pages click through rates (CTR) are, and depending on how well your listing performs, that performance can also affect your search ranking. It’s understandable that search engines do not want to rank a page highly if nobody clicks on it, that tends to mean it’s a low quality result.
After your title, your Web page’s header (aka, headline) tags are the next most important place for your keywords. Header tags are specified with the following HTML source code:
<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, and <h6> tags.
Generally speaking, an <h1> tag (because it is typically a larger font), is considered more important than an <h2> tag, which is larger and considered more important than an <h3>
tag, and so on.
Since your header tags will appear as headlines on your Web page, it’s important that they look natural and appeal to customers who visit your site.
Good examples of keyword-rich header tags would look something like:
<h1>Your San Diego Real Estate Resource</h1>
<h2>For buying San Diego real estate and selling real estate in San Diego, we’re your one-stop source.</h2>
Next on the chain of importance comes your page’s <body> text. This is the source code tag that refers to the visible text on your page. Think of this as your Web page’s general content that site visitors will be viewing. While it’s very important to place your keywords in page titles and headers, it’s also beneficial to feature your keywords throughout the rest of your page within the <body> content. Generally, Web pages should have about 200 to 300 words of text with special emphasis on two or three carefully chosen keywords. Within this keyword-rich <body> text, search engines respond favorably to keywords placed within boldface and italic fonts as well as bullet points. The style tags that look like <b>, <strong>, <i>, <em>, and <li> within the source code of your Web page.
Here’s an example of some keyword-rich body copy for a site that sells San Diego Real Estate:
<p>The <b>San Diego Real Estate MLS</b> is your source of information and services for anyone buying or selling <b>real estate</b> in <b>San Diego</b>. We specialize in <b>San
Diego real estate</b> and are committed to providing the expertise, professionalism and superior customer service today’s market demands. </p>
<li>Buying San Diego real estate?</li>
<li>Selling San Diego real estate?</li>
Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually very simple.
The above paragraph would display in your browser, on your Web page, as something like this:
The San Diego Real Estate MLS is your source of information and services for anyone buying or
selling real estate in San Diego. We specialize in San Diego real estate and are committed to
providing the expertise, professionalism and superior customer service today’s market demands.
- Buying San Diego real estate?
- Selling San Diego real estate?
Put us to work for you!
<p><i>Put us to work for you!</i></p>
In case that looks like Greek to you, then here’s a translation:
The <p> tag begins a paragraph, the </p> tags ends the paragraph
The <b> tag begins the bold typeface, the </b> ends it.
The <ul> tag begins a bullet section, the </ul> ends the T
The <li> begins a bullet point, the </li> ends it.
The <i> begins the italic typeface, the </i> ends it.
As you can see, the tags are invisible when the text is displayed on the Web page. Cool, eh?
Link Anchor Text
When another site links to you, the text they use in their link is called the anchor text. This is an extremely important concept to grasp because Google and the other search engines look for keywords located within the anchor text when ranking Web pages in the search results.
Getting your keywords placed within the anchor text of links that point to your pages will be a strategy that we will be discussing frequently within this book. It is arguably the MOST important ranking factor of all!
Here is an example of a typical looking link: Homeschool Learning Style Quiz
This link shows Homeschool Learning Style Quiz as the anchor text. The actual HTML source code for the link itself looks like this: <a href=”http://www.homeschoolviews.com/”>Homeschool Learning Style Quiz</a>
This link’s anchor text tells Google that the page located at: http://www.homeschoolviews.com/quiz/quiz.html is “about” Homeschool Learning Style Quiz.
And, if there happen to be a lot of Web pages on the Internet that link to this page using Homeschool Learning Style Quiz as the anchor text, then that page will rank well in the search results for any search query that uses homeschool learning style quiz.
In fact, this specific keyword strategy is one of the primary tactics for ranking at the top of the search results.
There are some caveats to this – because of heavy manipulation by marketers, Google regards high percentages of keyword anchor texts links to be spam.
Natural anchor text links tend to contain the domain name, company name, brand names, and specific URLs.
When a site has a large percentage of inbound links containing a specific keyword phrase it can trigger a penalty. Yes, you want keyword anchor text links, but they should not often be more then 25% of your inbound links as a general rule of thumb. For example, if your company name is Good Times Realty and your offices are in San Diego, if you have a high percentage of your inbound links says “San Diego Realtors”, then that may very likely cause you problems with Google. If the majority are “Good Times Realty” and goodtimesrealty.com, that would be a more natural link profile.
The Higher Up on the Page, the Better
It’s very important that you place some of your best keyword-rich text as high up within the visible content of your Web page as possible; we often refer to this area that you can see without scrolling as “Above the fold”. Search Engines regard above the fold content as the most important on the page. They often rank pages that are have a lot of ads above the fold lower than those that put their content in the primary visible area.
This means placing your keywords within your first headline (aka, header) tag (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) and in the first paragraph of your page.
Styling HTML Tags
Whenever the layout of the page allows, you should place a sentence or two of text containing the primary keywords near the top of the page in an <h1> tag . Important tip: At the risk of sounding complicated, you can use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to alter the standard appearance of any tag. In such cases, <h1> tags, which are normally very large, don’t actually have to be large. Bold <b> tags don’t necessarily have to actually make text look bold and links can even be made to not look like links. It all depends on whatever style you’ve assigned to the tags within your Web page’s associated stylesheet.css file.
The logic for using an <h1> Headline tag is to lead Google and the other engines to believe that the keywords located within the tag are very important. However, you may find, and we agree, that the <h1> tag makes ugly headlines because they are far too big. That’s where CSS comes to the rescue by making the <h1> tag look like a reasonably-sized people-pleasing font – but without sacrificing the ranking advantage you would otherwise have if you had used the default big <h1> headline tag.
Obviously, these are tricks of the trade that require a bit of understanding of HTML and CSS. If you are fluent in this so-called ‘markup’ language, that’s great. If not, then pass along this info to your technical Web people. Let them perform these worthwhile tricks. And, if you want to learn how to do it yourself, here are a couple of (separate from THIS course) tutorials that can bring you quickly up to speed.
CSS is a powerful design tool for formatting Web pages that are pleasing to the eye of your site visitors while maintaining your competitive edge in the search engine rankings game.
PLEASE NOTE: It isn’t so important that YOU actually know how to “do” CSS. It’s only important to know that you should consider working with, or hiring someone who knows CSS and that you show them this section so they can see how to use CSS for SEO when developing your Web site.
Use a Small Number of Keywords on Each Page
In most cases, each Web page should be focused on no more than two or three keywords and these keywords should be related to each other. There are a couple of reasons to limit the
number of keywords per Web page:
- Your most important keywords should be placed into your Web page’s title tag. Since a title tag should be limited to no more than 60 characters, this functionally limits the number of keywords that can realistically be placed within it.
- If you optimize a page for too many keywords, you’ll end up diluting the focus of that page in respect to those keywords. Each page on your site should be tightly focused to rank very highly for a specific set of terms. If you want to rank for a greater number of keywords, then you should increase the number of Web pages on your site.
This doesn’t mean that your page won’t rank for other related terms. Oftentimes keywords overlap. Ranking highly for one keyword can also help your page rank highly for a whole host of related keywords. For instance, if your page ranks highly for the keyword direct marketing, then it’s likely to also rank highly for professional direct marketing or direct marketing services, assuming those keyphrases appear somewhere in your <body> text; the viewable content of your Web page. Piggy backing related terms onto your primary keywords like this is a good way to boost your Wed page rankings for a broader range of searches without diluting the focus of your pages.
<Images Alt=” “> Tag – Use it wisely and quickly turn Images into Assets
Your company logo may show what you are, who you are, and even state a benefit—but the engines can’t index your image (not for keyword purposes, anyway). The search engine’s indexing-bot is oblivious to everything but text. The only indexable keyword aspect of images is the text content you place within the <image alt=”put text here”> tag. Regardless, you can turn all images into keyword assets by placing keyword text within the Alt tags. Here’s an example.
<img src=”logo.jpg” alt=”Beachfront Hawaii Vacation Rentals – Big Island”> Notice how we’ve placed the keywords Beachfront Hawaii Vacation Rentals – Big Island into the alt=”…” portion of the image tag. Although the search engine cannot “see” or read the image, it most certainly can read the alt portion of the image tag. This enables us to tell Google or any other search engine what that image is about and get just a little bit of keyword relevance help from an image that the engine could not otherwise read.
Use of the alt tag also is very effective in helping your images rank well in Search Engines Image Search, so it should not be ignored.
Bear in mind that you shouldn’t expect a big ranking boost from this tactic—in fact you may get none at all. Including image alt text is however a optimization technique that even Bing suggests you use for better ranking.
Three more reasons for using the alt tag are:
- Web browsers designed for the blind make use of the alt text information to help describe what the content of the image is.
- When you make an image a link, the alt text functions as anchor text and can therefore influence the ranking for the target page similar to how text based anchor text works. Typically text links are regarded as better for this purpose, but if you have to use an image for your link, make sure to include the similar keywords optimized text in the alt text.
- The latest HTML specs require that images have an Alt tag, failure to include this information will cause validation errors. In essence, using the alt tag can sometimes help, and will never hurt your ranking and web design efforts. Therefore, you should use the alt tag whenever doing so holds any chance of making an image keyword-meaningful and thereby stacking the advantages in your favor.
In essence, using the alt tag can sometimes help, and will never hurt your ranking and web design efforts. Therefore, you should use the alt tag whenever doing so holds any chance of making an image keyword-meaningful and thereby stacking the advantages in your favour.
Image File Names
One of the most important signals for ranking within image search is the image’s file name. Not only do image file names help describe the image, they do double duty as anchor text when someone hot links direct to the image. Ideally your image’s file name should describe the image to a certain extent, but don’t get carried away. We’re sure there’s some part of the algorithm that says – as the number of dashes or overall length of the file name increases, so does the likelihood that it’s spam, just like a Web page. So short and sweet is the best approach here.
Image ALT Attribute
ALT text is an HTML img tag attribute, also at times incorrectly referred to as the Alt Tag, that stands for Alternative Text. It was originally used to provide alternative text to the reader in place of the image, such as when someone is using a text only browser, or a visually impaired person using a screen reader.
Search engines found ALT text was a great way to figure out what an image was about, so early on all of them indexed the text within the alt attribute, similar to visible text on the page and the practice continues to this day. When image search came out, engines continued to use the alt attribute for image ranking purposes as it’s one of the most frequently used ways to describe an image.
Here’s an example of the Alt Attribute in use:
<img src=”http://www.domain.com/images/droid-razr.jpg” alt=”Droid Razr” />
The alt attribute is one of the primary ranking signals for image search and is used by all image search engines. Do not ignore it!
Keyword Density: An Enduring SEO Myth
Worth mentioning is the often-misunderstood concept of keyword density. In its pure form, keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword appears in relation to all of the other words on the same Web page. For instance, if a page only contained one word of text, say…
Chicago, the keyword density for the keyword Chicago would be 100%. On the other hand, if the only text on the page was
Eat at Chicago’s finest seafood restaurant …then the keyword density of the keyword Chicago would be 20% since each word on the page represents one-fifth of the entire text. By the way, search engine’s ignore common stop words such as the, at, of, etc. – therefore the word at would not be included in our keyword density calculation.
Optimum Keyword density is one of the tactics that some search engine optimizers (SEOs) place way too much emphasis on. They’re usually under the mistaken impression there is some magic formula for calculating the optimal keyword density that will appeal to each search engine. While this was true in the past, it has effectively ceased to be a factor anymore. At best, keyword density is only a bit-player in the big algorithmic search engine formula for top ranking pages and no longer worth the effort to factor into your strategies. Regardless, you may still hear stories that Google prefers pages with a 5% keyword density or Yahoo likes pages with an 11% keyword density. There are, however, a number of reasons why this is not an effective strategy for optimizing your Web pages.
First of all, the concept of keyword density doesn’t take into account the location of the keywords on the page. As you learned in the previous lesson, keyword placement is an important element of optimizing for search engine ranking. To say that a page has a 10% keyword density says nothing about whether those keywords are featured in your title tags, header tags, link anchor text, or any other of the important places to feature your keywords.
Secondly, keyword density also ignores the distance between keywords on a page, a concept known as keyword proximity. In general, the closer your keywords are to each other, the better. For instance, the phrase: Your premier resource for San Diego real estate information …is better optimized for the keyword San Diego real estate, than the following phrase: Your premier real estate information resource for the San Diego area And finally, our analytical research of top-ranking pages in any search engine shows an enormous variation in the keyword density of those pages. Some top-ranking pages have a 50% keyword density. Others have as low as 0% keyword density. Indeed, we’ve found a few pages that rank highly for a keyword in spite of the fact the keyword doesn’t even appear on the page!
In such cases, it’s the keywords in the anchor text of external site links that point to the page that’s causing it to rank at, or near, the top. This alone illustrates just how important it is to get your keywords into the anchor text of offsite links pointing to your Web pages!
As you might imagine, such a large degree of variation makes it all-but-impossible for anyone to determine just exactly what the “ideal” keyword density actually is. Restated simply, you should insert your keywords into the natural flow of descriptive text without wasting time stressing over the exact number of times a keyword should appear on a Web page.
- You’ve gained a detailed understanding of the importance of keywords: what they are, how to find them and where to place them.
- You’ve learned there are three kinds of ‘searchers’ and how certain keywords (actually keyphrases) appeal more to a specific type of searcher who is ready to buy.
- You know there is a difference between general keywords and money keywords that trigger sales.
- You’ve been given 10 steps for finding all of the right keywords.
- You’ve learned exactly where to place your keywords.
- And you’ve been given an explanation of Keyword Density and its associated overall lack of importance.