Archive | April, 2009

What to do with your SEO keywords

Recently, I wrote about finding the right SEO (search engine optimization) keywords to use on your website. Step 2 may be just as big a mystery: Using them appropriately.

First, let’s clear up a couple of things. Here’s what you DON’T do with them — nor should you let any sort of vendor do these things for you:

  • Re-write all the copy on your website so that it’s got a terrifically high “keyword density” but doesn’t actually make a lot of sense when you read it.
  • Add “invisible text” full of keywords to your site.
  • Write a bunch of “SEO articles” that don’t offer any value to you or your customers.
  • Spend a lot of time creating extra pages and sites that link back and forth to yours.

Some of those things are just annoying, and some will actually drop your rankings when Google and other search engines notice you doing them, but all of them are bad.

I’m going to list several things you can do with your keywords, but keep in mind that your overriding goal should be: Create a really helpful website for customers. If you do that, you will most likely be using keywords well in the process.

Use keywords in your URLs. If you’ll check the address bar in your browser, you’ll see I’m doing this, with the keywords “SEO” and “keywords” in this URL. If SEO were my primary business, I’d do a bit of research to determine exactly what are the best words to use on a post like this. But, I concentrate on other things, so that’s not worth my time on this post. To get keywords in your URLs, you can do one of two things:

  • Use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, that I’m using here, that lets you edit your URLs
  • Bug your IT people until they figure out how to let you edit your URLs

I find the first option is a better choice for almost everyone, though for many people, it will also involve the IT staff to get an SEO-friendly CMS. It’s worth your effort.

Write keyword-rich headlines. Some CMS let you have separate wording in the title bar of your browser and as the headline on the page, and some don’t. Either can work, because both your page headlines and your title bars should be using keywords. More flexibility is often nice, but sometimes, more is just more complexity, instead of more better. This may be one of those places.

Speak your customers’ language when you write your site copy. This one is hardest for many organizations, in my experience. We all like to have our insider language and acronyms (like, SEO or CMS, for instance!) and we convince ourselves that our customers are searching for the XTVC 337 Widget because in our catalog, that’s what we call it. Your customers want their problems solved. They couldn’t care less what you call the solution. So be sure you’re using the right keywords in your descriptive copy.

Forget about keyword density, but don’t write too long, either. If you’ve been working on the web as long as I have, you’ve undoubtedly run across a few companies that are still obsessed with a term called “keyword density,” meaning, how often does a given keyword appear in your copy. It’s unclear how much this ever really mattered to Google et al, but it’s certainly not a valid measurement now. Make your copy informative and useful to your customers, and use the right keywords when called for. And remember, on the web, shorter is usually better.

Link to other people you find useful. You may have a great website, but if you’re not linking back and forth with other great websites, chances are, no one knows you’re there. The best thing to do is to use links in context, so, don’t just create a page on your site listing a bunch of links. Instead, use links throughout your site, whenever they make sense. This post on Search Engine Journal talks more about using links effectively.

Next time: What should you pay for, SEO-wise?

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