Keyword optimization is a term you might hear being tossed around the analytics or SEO crowd of web development for a while now, but what does it all really mean? If you still hear this term, and think to yourself “Who has the keys to these words, and how can I help optimize them?” then you are in the correct spot my friend. Today were going to break down the concept of keywords and keyword optimization in to three time saving questions:
- What are keywords
- When do I use keywords
- How do I use keywords
It’s my hope that with just these three simple questions, anyone can understand the basics of keywords and keyword optimizing. Let’s being!
What is a keyword?
Keywords are 1 to 3 words or phrases that best describe what a web page or web site’s topic of idea is about. Keywords are used to describe your page’s topic in a variety of ways, but all methods are primarily used to accomplish the one goal; the goal of higher indexing in search engine result lists.
Now days, search engines use sophisticated methods to weight and legitimize your site’s content, and as a direct result of this, the number of factors that are taken into account for what may actually result in better indexing becomes very large. So yes, it is a true statement that keyword optimization is only one factor under better search result indexing, but you will eventually see that keywords are the first and most important factor out of them all.
Keywords have a few forms of implementation that I like to break down in to the following categories:
- META implement
- Attribute implement
- Content implement
It’s no longer acceptable to just associate a page or site with a large list of keywords in hopes you will out rank another group of sites, in fact, this has become so abused you might be ranked lower for doing that. You now must back up your “META keyword list” (a comma separated list of words or phrases in the head of a HTML document) with actual relevant, and legitimate attempts at using these keywords in your content and HTML element attributes.
Through our content, and document element attributes (such as anchor link title attributes, or image alternative description attributes) we can take relevant and meaningful attempts to use the META suggested keyword list to scream how relevant our content is to a search engine. Whoever can scream the loudest, and screams relevancy most efficiently, wins that top spot in search engine results.
When do I use keywords?
If you are now thinking to yourself, “great, so what comes first, the content creation or keyword creation?” then you have the right question in mind. It’s kind of like the old “Chicken an Egg” riddle if you will.
It’s never a good idea to have a writer attempt to create web content around a list of very specific set of keywords designed by someone with analytics in mind. More times than not, writing content with specific keywords in mind kills the creative process and leaves you with robotic sounding copy. Also, are you absolutely 100% without a doubt positive that the list you have come up with is the best choice of words? If not, that is a lot of time effort spent creating content around a bad list that may come out sounding very stiff.
So really to answer the original question of when to use keywords, as often as possible through little content updates or enhancements; but do so after the content of the page has been developed, not before hand or during.
How do I use keywords?
The first step to using keywords is to gather keywords. Article underground has a nice freely available tool that will slice and dice a page’s content into numbers and figures that can produce a great list of repeated keywords and phrase. Start by going to the following URL:
Once you are at the keyword density tool, simply fill out the form with a URL to the page in question you would like to optimize, and click submit.
Once you are presented with the results of your density report, scroll down to the report section titled “Keywords found on page“.
The first column of this “Keywords found on page” section is single word keywords, the second column is two word key phrases, and the third column is; you guessed it three word phrases. Each keyword / phrase has a repeated score and is sorted by its density amount.
Taking a look at the first column, try and choose 6 words from its list that best describes your page, then 4 from the second column and 3 from the last column. (Of course you can choose more if you like, but please note that you are only allowed up to around 16 unique keywords in your keyword list.)
Let’s assume I own a fishing web site that sells fishing products, here is my list I might choose for a products or category page from our keyword density tool:
- fishing poles
- fishing gear
- fish hooks
- fishing worms
- fishing pole hooks
- fishing pole gear
- fishing gear hooks
As you can see, I only have six unique words but a lot of combinations of these unique words. We are allowed up to 16 unique keywords, but really an endless amount of combinations of these 16 keywords.
The next step is to take this rough draft of keywords over to another tool that will allow us to better see how widely searched and competitive these chosen keywords indeed are. Google offers a wide base of monthly search users around the world to test our list against, so let’s pull up their Keyword suggestion tool here:
Once at the Google Keyword Suggestion page, paste the rough draft of the keyword list we just gathered into the “Word or phrase” text field, and click search.
The next screen you will be presented with is a list of “Search Terms” you told Google to look up that can be sorted by competition, global searches and even local searches. Depending on how well your words or phrase are performing across these stats, you may want to remove or alter some keywords in your list to yield better results. One can use the second list on this page as possible replacements of once you remove out of the original list. (Note: you don’t want to use high competitive keywords)
So, having gone over my list with the Google’s Keyword Suggestion, my example list looks like this:
- fishing poles
- fishing gear
- fish hooks
- fishing pole hooks
- fishing pole gear
(What I found out was that worms are not really something people are search for in association when wanting to buy fishing products, so it was a waste of space to continue to use worms in our keywords list.)
So after we have refined out list, we want to implement this list into our page of question:
By placing this META tag into the head of your document (above any CSS or JS declarations) and filling out its content attribute with a comma separated version of our list, we can tell search engines “Hey, rank this page based on this keyword list please”.
Put this META into the page now and hit save; once saved go back to the Article Underground Keyword Density tool and run another test on this page in question. One of the reporting sections at the top shows you the score for how relevant your keyword choice is to your content, so the goal here is keep trying different combos of suggested keywords that Google offers up, in order to get a great relevancy score from our keyword density tool.
With a few try’s, it really becomes easy to accomplish a good score, and knowing that using under 16 relevant keywords can get you to that 100% relevancy score faster. (Note, if you are getting a low score from keyword density tool while testing suggested keywords, it is most likely that you are using words that are not heavily used in your page’s content and is ok to slightly enrich you content to use the keywords more as long as it’s still relevant to the topic you want to succeed under in search engine results.)
So now that we have a META keyword list that results in a good relevancy score from our keyword density tool (score of 85%-95% is the goal), you want to let this list influence the page’s META description, page title and even the pages URL slug by using a few words from our list (eg: /fishing-gear/ vs. /products/). Also whenever you link to this page from another, it is a good idea to have that link’s title attribute filled out and containing a keyword or two from the page’s keyword list as well.
Finally, as you expand this method of keyword optimization to other pages on your site, it is important to point out that home pages continue to be a one off from sites and should never really describe the home page’s content (like my products page keyword list example) as much as it try to describe the entire site’s topic or point. Meaning that if I want to optimize the keywords of my home page, I would not try to use keywords around fishing product deals or discounts, but rather I would try to describe my home page as a place to buy fishing products, fishing gear, fishing store etc.
And that’s it! So with a little bit of elbow grease in keyword sifting, you can really enrich the way you scream to search engines about your site’s topic or page’s idea to gain greater ground in getting higher indexing with in search engine results.
Thanks, and enjoy.
Devin R. Olsen.