SEO: Keyword Basics
In our previous SEO blog post we discussed how to ensure your website is crawler friendly. As we continue our series on the basics of SEO, we find ourselves approaching a topic that causes dread in many who are just starting out in SEO. It is also the area that the overwhelming majority of my clients are approaching incorrectly. Do not let any of this discourage you. In fact, it is very simple to master if you put in the time.
Keywords use to be the end all be all of SEO. Because of this, they became the most abused tool in the SEO world. It took a surprisingly long time for Google to put an end to this, but they did so emphatically by teaching their software how to interpret the data on your website instead of just taking your keywords and using them to influence search results. Google looks at your website and develops its own understanding of what your content is about instead of relying on keywords. An easy way to understand this is by reading the next sentence and transposing the word “Google” for “woman” and the word “websites” for “men”. Google has found a way to ignore the rugged, preplanned, overly efficient descriptions of websites by interpreting the real inner dialogue of these websites and using that interpretation to rate and categorize them. My wife keeps telling me to open-up more because my keywords aren’t cutting it. I guess Google felt the same way about the internet.
is a Keyword???
If you look up keyword in the dictionary you will find this:
- a word that serves as a key, as to the meaning of another word, a sentence, passage, or the like.
- a word used to encipher or decipher a cryptogram, as a pattern for a transposition procedure or the basis for a complex substitution.
- Also called catchword. Library Science. a significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of a document or other item being indexed, used as the index entry.
- Digital Technology. a word used to classify or organize digital content, or to facilitate an online search for information: Search the database for the keyword “Ireland.”.
By the power of WordPress, (Yes, I watched He-Man as a child…. No, if you are too young to have heard of it I would not suggest looking it up on Netflix…. Yes, he is the dude with the short blond hair that you have seen in the very flamboyant YouTube video. Here is the link to said YouTube video that currently has over 100 MILLION views.) I have highlighted the 4th definition listed. It is the closest, of the definitions listed in the dictionary, to what we will be discussing. However, I think Technopedia.com has a better definition:
“A keyword, in the context of search engine optimization, is a particular word or phrase that describes the contents of a Web page. Keywords are intended to act as shortcuts that sum up an entire page. Keywords form part of a Web page’s metadata and help search engines match a page to with an appropriate search query.”
So, as we continue our journey into understanding how to use keywords, we will be using Technopedia’s definition.
One Scoop or Two… or Five-thousand?
When deciding what keywords to use you first need to decide if want narrow keywords or broad keywords. There are many different schools of thought on this and, in my experience, the direction you take will probably flipflop every other month.
The thought process behind using broad keywords is that you are throwing a bigger net to catch as many fish as you possible can. This isn’t a bad tactic and it works quiet well for many companies. If you are a car rental shop then you should probably have that some where in your keywords. It is a very broad search team and a ton of people search for it every single day. It does have some pretty big draw backs though…. The broader the keyword the more competition you will have. You will also find that it limits your ability to target a specific audience which tends to create a high bounce rate (Bounce rate is a term used to describe how often users navigate away from your website after only visiting one page.).
Using many narrow keywords helps you avoid competition while reaching your specifically targeted audience. Doing this is called the Long Tail. Amazon is a prime example of a company that is an expert at using the Long Tail. If you search for the words “Lawn Mower” in Google you are going to see a Google ad directing you to a Google shopping cart, pinned businesses on Google Maps, and links to Home Depot, Sears, Wal-Mart and Lowes….all before you reach an Amazon link. If you type in “GreenWorks 25022 12 Amp Corded 20-Inch Lawn Mower” you will see that Amazon is the very first link. However, just like using broad keywords has some setbacks, so does using many narrow keywords. First, a lot of keyword plugins for website builders will force you to purchase the premium version of their plugin. Second, using narrow keywords can be time consuming and, individually, they are returned less often in search results. Lastly, it costs quite a bit of money to run the amount of ad campaigns you will need to make this approach useful.
Where Can I Shove My Keywords?
Now that you have decide on either using the narrow or broad approach to keywords(or a mix of the two), I can tell you where you can shove those keywords! The amount of bullet points down below may look like a lot, but they are easy and not nearly as time consuming as they look. Once you start to understand when and where you need keywords it just becomes part of the process as you update your site with new content. This is not an exhaustive list of places you put keywords. This a list of places that most everyone, who handles SEO on a daily basis, feels that keywords are the most powerful.
Images on your site need keywords in their filenames, and in the image tag’s ALT text.
Example: <IMG SRC=“Mud-Run-Denver.png” ALT=“Mud Run – Steve and Jessica covered in mud after finishing Crazy Fool’s Mud Run in Denver.”>. ALT text is great for describing to Google what it can’t see while also creating a keyword rich internal link for Google to follow.
Your URL needs keywords.
Keeping in mind that your business name is most certainly a keyword, you should be trying to expand on that keyword with our other sub pages. If your business is named Wagga Bagga then your address should be waggabagga.com. If you sell DVDs on your site (Or, I guess you could be selling blu-rays… I refuse to completely redo my entire DVD collection just because blu-rays are prettier, hardier, etc… OKAY??!!! The way I feel towards DVDs is the way my dad felt towards his vinyl collection… and yes, I know vinyls are cooler than DVDs.) they should be found at a url that looks something like: www.waggabagga.com/dvds. If you are using the Long Tail method, is should look something like www.waggabagga.com/dvd-spaceballs.
The title at the top of your page should also include keywords.
It should look something like this: <TITLE>Exorcism – Exorcising demons and blessing water in downtown Austin. Licensed and Bonded. </TITLE>
Google ranks the importance of your keywords in your headers based on how they are tagged.
The top heading should always have an <H1> tag and it should contain keywords. As you go down your page you should start to use <H2> and <H3> tags. Those tags can have keywords, but they do not need them.
Internal links are a great place for keywords.
Internal linking is using a link on your site to take a user to another part of your site that you feel might be more relevant to what they are looking for. At the top of this blog post I have an internal link that, if clicked, will take you my SEO blog on crawlability.
Outside links from other websites should also include keywords.
Below is an example of how someone could link to this blog followed by how they should link to it if they are using keywords correctly.
Instead of linking to it like: <a href=”http://www.viralsidemedia.com”>Viral Side Media</a>.
The should link to it with something like: <a href=”http://www.viralsidemedia.com/seo-keywords-basics”> How To: SEO Keywords for Beginners</a>.
Lastly, you should include your keywords in the body of your content.
Remember, writing clever and original content that doesn’t have a single keyword in it is, better than copy-pasting other people’s content with your keywords wedged into it. A true constant, that we have been able to count on since Google changed the way they viewed websites, is that original content trumps asshats trying to game the system every time.
How to Pick Keywords Instead of Your Nose
This is it… you made it! You now know enough about keywords to start picking them out of the ether. People smarter than me have said that it is impossible to accurately count how many words there are in the English language. The website en.oxforddictionaries.com states that, “The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use.”. They go on to say that they believe, do to the different meanings of each word, there is closer to a quarter of a million words. Other sources place the amount in excess of a million! If we have that many freaking choices, how in the hell are we supposed to pick our ideal keywords????!!!!!!
Worry not my dear fretful reader, all is not lost! You should know by now that I have a flare for the dramatic. It is the only way I can make my topics readable… even to me.
Here is my process for deciding on what keywords I should use:
I just pick keywords in the moment as I create my original content.
Seriously, that is all I do. It use to be mandatory for any SEO expert to spend forever finding the right keywords, but as I mentioned earlier, SEO is no longer the top dog in SEO and it doesn’t require a fraction of the attention it use to get. I know some people are still going to want a process to follow. Here is set of steps you can follow if you are having trouble coming up with relevant keywords:
- Spend 5-10 minutes coming up with every single topic you can think of that relates to your business. I am sure you have done this in school at one point when writing an essay. This is commonly referred to as brain-dumping and is used in a multitude of settings. If you are like me, an overly confident procrastinator that is constantly “under achieving”, then you probably only did this when you were forced to show your work through a stupid spider web chart which showed all the topics you never had any intention of using in your essay.
Put your business in the middle, brain dump into the outer circles, add one more
expansion of circles attached to your brain dumps, and place your best keywords there.
- You then take each one of the topics you came up with and write a list of keyword phrases you think people would type into a search engine while trying to search for that topic.
- For the final step, input those search terms into Google and see if they are bringing up the search results you want. During this step, some people like to only put in half of the search term and then look to see what Google auto-fills it with it. Eventually you will end up with a solid list of keyword phrases you can chose from.
Another great way to find the best keywords for your site, is to use Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner. This is designed to give website owners the help they need when deciding which keywords they should focus on when using paid ads on Google.
I use to spend a lot of time researching keywords and refining them, but after Google overhauled the way their software interpreted webpages I had to change my strategy. I actually use to follow those steps on how to come up with keywords….and I even had a couple more steps thrown in the mix. It was tedious and it always made me feel dirty when I was trying to game the system like EVERYONE else. I believe Google has done the right thing in making search results reflect the quality of the content over the accuracy and multitude of your keywords. There are still ways to game the system, but they are much harder to perpetrate.
Now, go forth with your newly acquired knowledge and fix all the crap that is wrong with your keywords. Tarry not, fore SEO greatness awaits you upon your completion. Okay, okay, okay… maybe not SEO greatness, but at least you will no longer be shooting yourself in the foot and you will have taken a step, with your non-shot foot, in the right direction.