Keywords are the words search engine users enter into Google's search box. So, if you're looking for baby shower gifts you might type in "baby gifts" and start clicking on links found on page 1 of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
As a web-based business owner, the keywords you select define the topicality of your web site - the products and services you sell and where you sell them. Thanks to localized search, a small boutique on Main Street can target local shoppers and not unqualified prospects in Mozambique.
Your web site should employ a number of keywords because you never know what a search engine user will enter into Yahoo's search box. However, too many keywords, ambiguous keywords and keywords that don't make sense to a search engine spider (also called a bot) will often get a web site slammed, panned and even banned if the search engine "thinks" you're trying to mislead its users.
The objective of any search engine is to deliver the most relevant web sites, ranked according to their relevance. The most relevant site ranks at the top, with sites of decreasing relevance filling up page after page of SERPs. That's why most search engine users never get beyond page 2 or 3 in any SERPs.
If your site doesn't rank in the top tier of SERPs you won't see much organic traffic - visitors who found your site via a search using keywords as part of their query.
Selecting the Right Keywords for Your Web Site
The right keywords deliver more traffic because a link to your web site appears on page 1 of Ask, Bing, Google, Yahoo or any of the other 4,000 search engines crawling the web today. Here's why.
Think of a search engine as an elephantine file cabinet with literally millions of file folders stored in millions of drawers. This is the search engine index - its taxonomy, the way it sorts web sites, blogs and information associated with digital spaces. Your web site will be placed in one of those file folders based on the keywords you use in your HTML code (the code that actually produces the presentation layer of the web site) and the site skin itself.
If you're a certified financial planner, you want to make sure that "certified financial planner" and "CFA" appear in your HTML keyword tag and in the site text itself. Typically, search engine optimizers recommend a keyword density of 2%-3%, though some of these on-line marketers will go as high as 5% meaning that out of every 100 words of site text, five will be keywords.
An overload of keywords should be avoided. It's a practice called keyword stuffing, something search engines frown on.
Start by making a list of intuitive keywords - the keywords that you, the business owner, believe would be entered by search engine users looking for your goods or services. You, better than most, know what your prospects are looking for so start by making a list of 10 to 15 intuitive keywords.
Then do a little research on each one.
The Google Keyword Generator
Use it. It's one of the most valuable tools available to new web site owners:
- The Google Keyword Generator doesn't project results, it delivers actual search terms and phrases entered by Google users in the past 30 days.
- These are real users of the most popular search engine in the world.
- It indicates the number of searches conducted for each keyword or phrase.
- It will expand and refine your list of intuitive keywords.
- It's really simple to use and interpret the data.
- It's Google, for goodness sake.
Enter each of your intuitive keywords and phrases to determine how often these terms were used. Simple changes to your list will make a huge difference in the delivery of visitors to your website through organic search results.
Long-Tail Key Words
Long-tail keywords are typically keyword phrases. The disadvantage to using long-tails is that fewer search engine users enter these keyword phrases. The advantage is that those who DO enter these long-tails see your web site at the top of page one of SERPs.
Example: if you own a bicycle shop that specializes in high-end, Tour de France quality racing bikes, then using "bicycles" as a keyword won't deliver as much traffic as "high quality racing bicycles." Why? EVERY business related to bicycles will use "bicycles" as a search term so your little site may be buried deep in the SERPs, never to be seen be serious biking enthusiasts.
On the other hand, fewer search engine users will enter "high quality racing bicycles" into a search box, but if you use that long-tail, your web site will rank higher. And as a side benefit, you get more qualified buyers - buyers willing to spend a great deal of money on their hobby.
Add a couple of long-tail keywords to your list and track their performance. Your keyword list is always a work in progress with successful keywords added and poorly performing keywords - long-tails or otherwise - dropped.
Local Search Keywords
Local businesses - the ones that line Main Street in your town - are turning to the web more and more thanks to local search.
Local search enables small businesses to target local prospects. A bistro downtown can post that evening's specials for local diners to check out. Search engines offer the option of local search, but you'll help search engines by adding your town's address, including zip code.
If you type in "racing bicycles 78201" you'll see a list of bike shops in that part of San Antonio, Texas. You'll also see a map with "pushpins" providing addresses, telephone numbers and printable directions to the local shops that sell bicycles in zip code 78201.
Be sure to add the name of your community and state, as well. This information should appear as text so it can be read by spiders. If your bike shop's local search information appears in a graphic, it can't be read by search engine bots so it won't do you any good.
Display complete address and other contact information on every page of your site. It increases the likelihood of appear on the top SERPs during a local search and it provides quick information for site visitors who want to pick up the telephone to give you a telephone call.
Think of keywords as the means by which your web site is sorted in that gigantic index called a search engine, whether it's Yahoo, Bing, Google, Ask or any of the other general search engines we all use every day. Choose the right keywords and your site will be placed in the proper "file folder" of the search engine. Choose ambiguous keywords, or conflicting keywords, and search engine bots won't know where to file your site within its index.
With keywords, it's better to be clear than clever so keep it simple, constantly tweak your list, test new keywords against existing keywords and make it a good web business practice to constantly refine the keywords in your HTML code and on site.
Bots aren't bright so explain, exactly, what your web site is about to ensure you're properly indexed. It could well mean the difference between fast growth and business success and a web site with cob webs on the home page.
Which would you rather own?
Ms. Rosendahl has over 19 years experience in systems analysis, hosted applications, and management as well as 13 years experience in web hosting and Internet marketing. Ms. Rosendahl has a Bachelors from Houston Baptist University with a double major in Computer Information Systems and Business Management. Stephanie is the founder and CEO of website hosting firm - GreenHostIt.com green hosting.
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