So What Do I Do With a Keyword?

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So you’ve put some effort into choosing keywords as part of your internet marketing strategy — now what do you do with them?

Don’t Forget: Content Matters Most!

Before diving into the question of what to do with particular keywords as part of your internet marketing strategy, be sure to check our page on why Content is King — providing your visitors with useful content, offering them something they are genuinely looking for, is vastly more important than any other aspect of strategic internet marketing!

The rest of this article will describe some useful things you can do with the keywords you’ve chosen, as well as outlining some other related considerations concerning the underlying structure of your pages.

What to Do With Your Chosen Keywords

So you’ve chosen some keywords! Maybe you checked our article on using keyword metadata, and learned how to do your own keyword Research (see “Choosing Keywords: Search Engine Positioning and Keyword Metadata”. You’ve given some thought to exactly what your service is providing, what your customers or clients need or want, and how they might reach you, and you’ve got those keywords at the ready.

Now what do you do with them?

What Not to Do With Keywords

First, a word about what not to do with keywords: do not over-stuff your page copy with keywords, and do not hide keywords in invisible text that cannot be seen by users. At best, tactics like these will simply be ignored; at worst, they will earn outright penalties from the leading search engines, which will detect them as attempts to manipulate search results and categorize your pages as spam.

It’s very easy to figure out what to avoid if you keep in mind the basic point from the ‘Thinking Like a Search Engine’ section of our “Strategic Internet Marketing: Why Content is King” article: search engines have become very adept at finding what is useful to visitors. Turn your pages into useless spam by (for example) writing copy stuffed with keywords, and it will be treated as such!

Placing Keywords Effectively

With these caveats in mind, there are several places where keywords can and should be used effectively on your pages:

  • Page titles (<title> tags)
  • Header contents (<h1>, <h2>, etc. tags)
  • Alt image text (<alt> tags)
  • Anchor text (<a> tags)
  • Bold/italic text (<b>, <i>, <em> etc. tags)
  • Body text (especially near top of copy)
  • URLs and individual file names
  • META tags (description, keywords, etc.)

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched

The aim is to incorporate your chosen keywords into your copy smoothly and seamlessly, in such a way that they become visible to the search engines such as Google, while also enhancing (or least not detracting from) your content. If your keyword density is too high — keyword stuffing — plan to suffer a penalty from the search engines. Google reportedly sets the threshold at a keyword density of 2% before classifying a page as keyword spam, while MSN and Yahoo reportedly are somewhat more generous at 5%.

In addition, it is beneficial if other pages which link to your site utilize your keywords in or near the link to your site. (The power of including keywords in links to your site is illustrated by the practice of ‘Googlebombing’, in which a large number of site owners all link to a given page using particular keywords in the link text. If you search Google for the phrase ‘talentless hack‘, you should find — probably still at the top of the listings — a page by Adam Mathes, who planted the first funny little Googlebomb back in 2001. Ironically, Mathes had originally targeted the site of his friend Andy Pressman with the Googlebomb, but so many people have since written about the exploit that in early 2005, it is actually Mathes’s site which comes up first on Google’s results page.)

Additional Considerations: Page Structure

While not strictly a matter related to choosing keywords and utilizing them effectively, it is still worth mentioning something about effective page structure.

The crawlers which build the indexes used by search engines do not see pages as you see them. Rather, they go right through the source code of the page, from top to bottom, and there are some indications that content which occurs nearer to the top of the page is weighted more heavily when the index is built. Yet many pages on the web — especially those which use old-fashioned HTML tables for layout purposes — fill the first parts of the page code with meaningless drivel that does nothing for the search engine crawlers, not to mention obfuscating the content of the page for visitors who may be using various accessibility tools to overcome vision problems or other perceptual limitations. It’s only a little bit of an over-simplification to say that the more coding junk you have in your pages, especially at the top, the less the search engine crawlers will pay attention; and the more actual content you have in your pages, especially at the top, the more the crawlers will favour your site.

This consideration extends not just to ordering of material within your pages, but also to detritus such as extensive Javascript or Flash animations: both are completely useless from a web crawler’s perspective and will do nothing positive for your search engine positioning. Perhaps the single easiest way to shoot your site in the foot is to create a site menu built entirely of Flash animations, preventing search engine crawlers from ever moving from one page of your site to another (unless alternative text navigation is provided somewhere else).

So, code cleanly and you can help both your visitors and your search engine positioning!

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