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Important Keyword Concepts

Here’s the basic concept of using keywords: You put keywords into your web pages in such a manner that search engines can find them, read them, and regard them as significant.

Your keyword list is probably very long, perhaps hundreds of keywords, so you need to pick a few to work with. The keywords you pick should be either

  • Words near the top of the list that have many searches.

  • Words lower on the list that may be worth targeting because you have relatively few competitors. That is, when someone searches for a keyword phrase by using an exact search in quotation marks (“rodent racing” rather than rodent racing), the search engine finds relatively few matches.

It’s often easy to create pages that rank well for the keywords at the bottom of your list because they’re unusual terms that don’t appear in many web pages. However, they’re at the bottom of your list because people don’t often search for them! Therefore, you have to decide whether it’s worthwhile to rank well on a search term that’s searched for only once or twice a month.

Picking one or two phrases per page

You optimize each page for one or two keyword phrases. Optimize means that you create the page in such a manner that it has a good chance of ranking well for the chosen keyword phrase or phrases when someone uses them in a search engine.

You can’t optimize a page well for more than one keyword phrase at a time. The <TITLE> tag is one of the most important components on a web page, and the best position for a keyword is at the beginning of that tag. Remember that you can place only one phrase at the beginning of the tag.

(However, sometimes you can combine keyword phrases — for example, optimizing for rodent racing scores also, in effect, optimizes for rodent racing.)

Have primary and secondary keyword phrases in mind for each page you’re creating, but also consider all the keywords you’re interested in working into the pages. For instance, you might create a page that you plan to optimize for the phrase rodent racing, but you also have several other keywords that you want to scatter around your site: rodent racing scores, handicap, gerbil, rodentia, furry friend events, and so on. Typically, you pick one main phrase for each page and incorporate the other keyword phrases throughout the page, where appropriate.

Place your keyword list into a word processor, enlarge the font, and then print the list and tape it to the wall. Occasionally, while creating your pages, glance at the list to remind yourself which words you need to weave into your pages.

Checking prominence of keywords

The term prominence refers to where the keyword appears — how prominent it is within a page component (the body text, the <TITLE> tag, and so on).

A word near the top of the page is more prominent than one near the bottom; a word at the beginning of a <TITLE> tag is more prominent than one at the end; a word at the beginning of the DESCRIPTION meta tag is more prominent than one at the end; and so on.

Prominence is good. If you’re creating a page with a particular keyword or keyword phrase in mind, make that term prominent — in the body text, in the <TITLE> tag, in the DESCRIPTION meta tag, and elsewhere — to convey to search engines that the keyword phrase is important in this particular page. Consider this title tag:

<TITLE>Everything about Rodents - Looking after Them, Feeding Them, Rodent Racing, and More.</TITLE>

When you read this tag, you can see that Rodent Racing is just one of several terms the page is related to. The search engine comes to the same conclusion because the term is near the end of the title, meaning that it’s probably not the predominant term. But what about the following tag?

<TITLE>Rodent Racing - Looking after Your Rodents, Feeding Them, Everything You Need to Know</TITLE>

Placing Rodent Racing at the beginning of the tag places the stress on that concept; search engines are likely to conclude that the page is mainly about rodent racing.

Watching keyword density

Another important concept is keyword density. When a user searches for a keyword phrase, the search engine looks at all pages that contain the phrase and checks the density — the ratio of the search phrase to the total number of words in the page.

Suppose that you search for rodent racing and the search engine finds a page that contains 400 words, with the phrase rodent racing appearing 10 times — that’s a total of 20 words. Because 20 is 5 percent of 400, the keyword density is 5 percent.

Keyword density is important, but you can overdo it. If the search engine finds that the search phrase makes up 50 percent of the words in the page, it may decide that the page was created purely to grab the search engine’s attention for that phrase and thus decide to ignore it. On the other hand, if the density is too low, you risk having the search engines regard other pages as more relevant for the search.

You can get hung up on keyword density, and some people use special tools to check the density on every page. This strategy can be very time consuming, especially for large sites. You’re probably better off eyeballing the density in most cases.

Here’s my general rule: If the phrase for which you’re optimizing appears an awful lot, you’ve overdone it. If the text sounds clumsy because of the repetition, you’ve overdone it.

Placing keywords throughout your site

Suppose that someone searches for rodent racing, and the search engine finds two sites that use the term. One site has a single page in which the term occurs; the other site has dozens of pages containing the term. Which site does the search engine think is most relevant? The one that has many pages related to the subject, of course.

In most cases, you’re not likely to grab a top position by simply creating a single page optimized for the keyword phrase. You may need dozens, perhaps hundreds, of pages to grab the search engines’ attention (with plenty of links between pages and from other sites back to yours).

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