In the What is SEO and Why it’s Important article, we learned about SEO’s (Search Engine Optimization) role in search engine rankings, where it fits into Internet Marketing, as well as how SEO benefits you as the owner of a website. If that article achieved its goal of instilling the value of spending some time to organize your web content in a way that search engines can digest, you will now be hungry for details on how to go about doing that. In fact, that is exactly what we’ll be covering in today’s article!
Why It Doesn’t Pay to Think like a Bot
I could go into great detail on how bots/Web crawlers/spiders work, but to do so would be pointless because the people who fine-tune the search engine algorithms have learned from past mistakes and have now configured their bots to better recognize relevant information, whilst spotting abusers. The net result is that the better your site serves your human visitors, the better it should rank in search engines.
While each search engine has its own algorithm for determining how relevant a page is, two key factors are the particular SEO keywords on the page AND their location within the page. Keywords found on the page title, meta data or the body are all weighted in decreasing importance. And what exactly is an SEO keyword, you might ask? SEO keywords – and phrases – are what the search bots pick out your content for indexing. Later, when someone searches for some particular terms, the search engine fetches them from its database to display and rank the matching sites. As you may well imagine, a website that is well optimized for search engines will be better able to draw visitors. This is why developing a list of keywords is one of the first and most important steps in any search engine optimization initiative.
It should be said that keyword placement is an ongoing process. Even SEO gurus don’t get the first iteration perfect. There are always some improvements to be made. Moreover, you have to separate yourself from the pack by including keywords that differ somewhat from those of your competitors. This is where keyword search tools can be of great benefit. A few standouts include:
- Long Tail Pro:Uses a step-by-step process to determine a large number of profitable, targeted keywords and calculate keyword competitiveness for virtually any niche.
- Market Samurai: Traffic-hunting software that includes a whole slew of SEO tools from Competition Analysis to content publishing. A free trial is available as well.
- Google Adwords: This popular marketing utility comes with a Keyword Planner tool.
- Google Trends: Provides valuable insights into seasonal, geographic and search-related trends.
- Google Analytics Site Search: This free keyword tool is quite easy to use, and includes a few useful features worth noting. Besides helping you find new keywords, it also accepts targeting criteria, such a target location, language and networks to produce more precise data on your keyword recommendations.
- SEMrush: Among its extensive functionality, the Advertising Research > Positions section allows you to submit your competitors’ URLs to generate a report of the keywords they are bidding on, along with other insightful data. It even offers estimated Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) that they’re paying for these terms, the share of traffic the words generated and the percentage of overall costs associated with each.
- Google Search Autocomplete: Type some search terms into Google and see what the autocomplete comes up with. It’s based on thousands (if not millions) of real previous searches.
Once your site is up-and-running, you’ll want to keep track of the results, as well as experiment based on your own research and experience. One of the easiest ways to do that is to make use of your web host’s web stats utility. It should display a list of recent search terms and phrases that led visitors to your site.
My own stats made me realize that my cover of Ballroom Blitz is by far my most popular song, accounting for the bulk of my MP3 downloads.
Location, Location, Location
The real estate agents’ mantra: location, location, location, is equally applicable to SEO keywords. Recall that a keyword’s location within the page affects its ranking. Keywords found on the page title, meta data or the body are all weighted in decreasing importance. Therefore, SEO best practices recommend that you include relevant keywords in several high-attention areas on your site, including the titles and body text of your pages, as well as your URLs, meta tags, and even image file names.
With regards to larger sites, these might contain thousands or even millions of keywords. Therefore, you can’t dedicate individual pages for every one of your keywords; at the same time, you can’t cram all of your keywords into a handful of pages either. That’s called keyword stuffing and is frowned upon by search engine providers.
The good news is that a well-organized site will invariably translate to a well-optimized one as well. For instance, imagine that you are the owner of a music store site. It would make sense to give each instrument type its own page or section, i.e., guitars, drums, keyboards, effects, PAs, etc… From there, just be sure to include the relevant keyword(s) in:
- the title of the page
- the URL (i.e. robsmusicstore.com/instruments/guitars/electric)
- the meta tags – especially the meta description
- any image file paths and in the images’ alt text
- the anchor text in links back to the page from elsewhere on the site
Finally, intersperse the keyword and variations (e.g., “lifeson gibson double neck”), throughout the page.
I hope that you find this SEO Keyword primer to be beneficial. There’s obviously a lot more to SEO than covered here today, and we’ll be exploring more specific aspects of SEO in future tutorials.
Rob Gravelle resides in Ottawa, Canada, and is the founder of GravelleWebDesign.com. Rob has built web applications for numerous businesses and has recently developed his own jquery-tables library.
Rob’s alter-ego, “Blackjacques”, is an accomplished guitar player, that has released several CDs. His band, Ivory Knight, was rated as one of Canada’s top hard rock and metal groups by Brave Words magazine (issue #92) and reached the #1 spot in the National Heavy Metal charts on ReverbNation.com.