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Choosing and Using Keywords

Do you feel a twinge of dread when someone says how important keywords are?

The term keyword is thrown around so much these days that many believe it is the key word in the web world. It's only one of many things, but think how you'll smile when you know how to choose better keywords and craftily deploy them.

A keyword is simply one that captures something essential about your website. If you’re a rocket scientist, you would certainly have the words rocket and scientist appear in several places on your site, preferably in the title, and possibly tucked away into a few other places we’ll touch on later.

Meanwhile, someone is looking for a rocket scientist. They put the words into a search engine and voila, up comes your site! Ideally. In a perfect world. In a million years.

In fact, there are lots of rocket scientists and you have to try a little harder to get those people to find your site. Brainstorming, you come up with a bunch of words or phrases, like vancouver, famous and love bomb, or whatever best describes what makes you unique. Luckily, defining this will help you with all your marketing, and maybe even your self-image.

So we just write all these words into our text?

Maybe. But if you have the time to do some research you’ll have better luck. Get a free account at Wordtracker.com or another keyword selection site. There you can put in your keywords and find out two things:

  • how many people actually used those keywords in searches in the past month or so
  • how many web sites are using those keywords to attract traffic

You’ll quickly figure out that no two words or phrases are alike. Some are used by lots of sites, but few potential visitors are using those words in their searches. And some words are being used by surfers over and over, but only a few web sites are taking advantage.

Vetting keywords in this way will help you place them confidently on your web pages. And I say pages because you can target different words on different pages. Typically while you may have many potential keywords on a page, you’ll focus on three or so per page. You don’t have to harp on the same ones on every page, in fact it may help to vary your focus keywords from page to page to fill a wider spectrum.

Potential keywords include your profession, specialty, geographical area, the subject of the page such as photos or contest, awards, prestigious clients, and specific things a person could be looking for like products and skills.

Try to find sites similar to yours by using a search engine. You can see what keywords they’re using by choosing View Source in your browser and looking at the tag that reads:
<meta name="keywords" content="rocket, scientist, vancouver” />

By now you’ve guessed the keyword for this article: keyword. And I wasn’t even trying!

How can keywords be both visible and invisible?

You can put lots of words on your page, but the ones that count as keywords are those that are repeated meaningfully, and those that appear in the keyword, description and keyphrase meta tags hidden in the code of your page. The repetition comes by using the terms in the title, text and captions on the page where reasonable. In this case, have someone read the page to you, because repetition can sound quite doltish if you go too wild with it.

Keywords can appear in the text of the site:

  • body text
  • titles and subtitles: count more than body text
  • captions and pullquotes

They are also hidden in the code for the site:

  • metatags: keyword, keyphrase, description: these should appear as close to the top of the code as possible
  • image alt tags: the text that is read in place of images for the blind
  • image title tags: the text that comes up when you roll over the image in some browsers
  • link alt tags

If you maintain your site on your own, you need access to the code itself, as the keywords are put in tags that aren’t displayed in a browser. Programs often have a field for keywords so that you may enter them without looking at the code. They also may have a field for alternative text for images. This text allows sightless folks to read the page with an audio device. If you can weave in your keywords it’s a plus, but it’s rude to simply dump a list here.

If you have a designer creating or maintaining your site, you can simply ask to have the words put in. Discuss your strategy with them first. Ask if they understand using the alt tag in images to reiterate keywords, and what other ideas they have for establishing them.

Surprisingly, many sites have no meta tags at all, so this can really help you. Peppering your site with keywords takes a little longer to do than simply pasting an identical keyword meta tag into every page, but it’s an excellent step to take. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do it.