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Keywords - 3 Critical Things To Know

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Search Engine Keywords Ė

3 Critical Things to Know

The Billboard in the Woods

A beautifully designed web site just isnít good enough. To help your business, customers and clients have to find it. A few may find it because they see the address on your business card or through a link on a related site. But most wonít. How do you get them to your site?

When a customer is looking for your product (or service), they may not know about your company. So theyíll find vendors and manufacturers by searching for your product in Google, Yahoo, Msn, or one of the many other search engines.

If your web site isnít listed in the top three pages of the search engines, customers are giving up before they find you. Then your web site is like a billboard in the woods. It may be beautiful, but no one gets to see it.

Unfortunately, only a handful of web sites can be found in the top 30 listings in the search engine. And itís wishful thinking to expect yours to get there by accident.

There are only two main factors that govern where your web site will show up in the rankings: Relevance and Reputation. Is a page on your website really relevant to the keyword phrase thatís been searched for? And do you have a good enough reputation to compete for the top spots? Your reputation has to do with link popularity: simplified thatís the number and quality of other web sites that link to you. But a great reputation wonít help without good keyword relevance.

The single most important concept in being relevant is this: keywords.

Whether you hire a search engine optimization professional or do it yourself, there are three critical things you need to know about keywords.

Keywords are phrases not words

Single Word keywords are seldom successful for a couple of reasons. First, they are seldom well focused enough to bring targeted visitors to your web site. Second they often relate to such a vast number of web sites thatís itís hard to get your site into the top 30.

Suppose someone here in New Jersey is looking for a criminal defense attorney. If they search for "Attorneys", Google returns 104 million web sites! (As overwhelming as that seems, it's better than the 116 million hits returned on a search for "Lawyers"!) Either way, that's too many to wade through, and it doesn't take the user long to realize that. Even worse, it's chock full of lawyers from across the country and around the world, who would be too remote for this user's needs.

Faced with that, the user will probably narrow the search down geographically and search for something like "attorneys in New Jersey". That narrows the list down to "only" 4Ĺ million sites. Still too many. And at the top of the list are directories and lots of divorce attorneys, real estate lawyers, patent attorneys, and business lawyers, all of which are no use to out hapless seeker.

Faced with this glut of useless results, the user is likely to narrow the search one step further and look for "criminal defense attorneys in NJ" or some similar phrase. This reduces the list to 1Ĺ million, and focuses it so that the results are limited to sites likely to be useful to the user. This is the list you want to be near the top of if you defend accused criminals in New Jersey.


The trick is to configure your web site so that the search engines will rank you somewhere in the top 30 listings for your important keywords. A NJ criminal defense attorney we know currently ranks #11 on this list, which we consider a very good result. Heís nowhere to be found near the top of the list for "lawyers", yet heís getting most of his new clients form the web site. Obviously, his clients are searching for phrases like "criminal defense attorneys in NJ" and "New Jersey criminal defense lawyers".

So the first rule about keywords is to select phrases that focus well on your products or services, not individual words.

Use Your Keywords Visibly on Your Page

The search engines make judgments about how relevant your page is to the keyword phrases being searched for based on the text it finds on your page. Itís no longer possible to rank highly on keywords simply by including them in something called the "meta keywords tag".

Thatís one of the more persistent myths about search engine optimization. Search engines used to rely on the keyword meta tag to tell them what a page was about. But it didnít take long for somebody selling widgets to realize that if he used the word "widgets" in his meta tags three times, he ranked higher, than his competitor who only used it once. Pretty soon another competitor decided to put "widgets" in the meta tag ten times and another competitor put it in 30 times. Well, the search engines soon realized the game that was being played and reduce the importance that they assign to meta keywords. In fact Google, which at the moment is the most popular search engine of all, completely ignores the keywords tag.

So what you do? The phrases youíre optimizing your web page for must appear in visible text on your page. And they must appear more than once.

Search engines love content, and that means text. To rank well, a page generally needs to have at least 200 words and use your selected keyword phrases at least three times each within that text. Generally, the more times your keyword appears, the better. However, it is possible to overdo a good thing. If you use your keyword phrases too often on the page, the search engine might think that youíre trying to unfairly manipulate your ranking for that keyword phrase and penalize your ranking as a result. A good rule of thumb is to use each keyword two to four times for every 250 words of text on your page.

Repetition of your keywords on the page is the second critical keyword concept to keep in mind.

Send Visitors to the Page They Need

Youíve spent a lot of effort, time and money designing your web site and its navigational structure. Itís only natural to imagine visitors to your site entering through the "front door", which is your home page. Fight that impulse!

When someone does a search for Palm pilots they want to end up on pages that describe Palm pilots and allow them to buy a Palm pilot. If you put other pages of your web site in their way, youíre sending them to your competitors. Itís far to easy to hit the "back" button and click on your next competitor in the search engine results.

This has a number of implications for your keywords. One of them is that you want individual target pages on your web site to be optimized for the appropriate keywords for those pages.

Another is that you may not want to optimize your home page for much more than your company name and website name. You want people searching for products to skip that and go straight to your product page.

So the third critical concept is to focus your keywords on the inside pages of your web site where the valuable content is.


The Bottom Line

One important key to good search engine placement is picking the right keywords and using them appropriately on your site. How well you handle your keywords will translate directly into how your site ranks in the search engines and how well that translates into increased business.

Bill Treloar is president of Rank Magic in East Hanover, NJ, a consulting firm specializing in making Internet marketing and search engine positioning more efficient and cost effective. He is also on the ASN board of directors.

(973) 887-0778 or http://www.RankMagic.com


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Last modified: September 01, 2007