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Beginning search engine optimisation – keywordsOctober 10, 2013

Whether you want to be at the top of the search engine results for your chosen subject or you just want to attract a certain type of person to your website, it all begins with some keyword research.

Keyword Discovery

To get a good idea of what works well, make a list of the keywords that your top ranking competitors use in the keyword meta tags in the source of their webpages (if they even have any!), i.e:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”funny cat pictures, kittens, cat pictures, cat photos, cat wallpapers, cats”>

Search Google for the keywords and count the results

This is your keyword competition:

cat photos 742,000,000
cat pictures 621,000,000
cats 275,000,000
funny cat pictures 102,000,000
kittens 40,500,000
cat wallpapers 13,400,000

Use the Google adwords keyword tool to further analyse the main competition

Search Term Competition Global Monthly Searches Local Monthly Searches
cat photos Low 450,000 18,100

It will even suggest further ideas for you. And if you like maths, you can even do a keyword effectiveness index calculation for each keyword phrase it suggests. This is the ratio between the popularity of the keyword/phrase and its competitiveness. It is calculated by dividing the results for the keyword search on Google by the number of monthly searches it garners. The higher the ratio, the easier it supposedly is to get to the top search engine ranking for that particular search term.

Keyword Competition Global Monthly Searches Results Effectiveness
kitty cat photos Low 201,000 30,500,000 0.006
funny cat photos Low 90,500 108,000,000 8.379
cute cat photos Low 27,100 154,000,000 1.759
silly cat photos Low 1,300 19,100,000 6.806

Now, at this point, most SEO gurus will advise you not to try to top the results lists of the more common, simpler phrases like Computer, or Shoes, or funny cat photos – the top search results for these phrases will have been taken up by companies that have a lot more money to throw at SEO than you do. Instead, you will be advised to take on more niche, localised terms that you have more of a chance at. Which brings us to…

Use more specific keywords to target the right users

Often it is better to use more specific keyword phrases such as ‘siamese cats’ or even the more specialsed ‘three-legged siamese cats,’ rather than just general, one word phrases such as ‘cats’. This way you will attract a larger portion of a smaller niche market rather than a smaller portion of a larger, more generalised market.

If you are selling something, it is better to use keywords that are likely to be used by people who are motivated to act right now, such as ‘buy computer SomeTownName’ rather than ‘best quality computers’ or ‘fastest computers’, which are likely to be used by people who are thinking about buying a computer in the future.

Robots, Crawlers or Spiders, or whatever you like to call them, search for different kinds of text on a website. This includes:

The domain name (www.ilovecats.com) and then also the webpage URL (/catsarecute.html) or (/catsarecute/index.htm)
The Page Title and META description and Keywords
The Links/Navigation (a hrefs) and Headings on the page
Of course, the Main Content itself
The Image names and their ALT tags
And any pages that you link to from your site or that link back to your site (backlinks)

Ye olde search engine keyword rules

These rules have been around since the beginning of the internet, before Google even appeared on the scene.

With that in mind, please be aware that overall these rules may not drastically improve your search engine ranking. The reason is because it is way too easy to ‘cheat’ with these rules, and therefore search engines may not place as much importance on them now as they once might have.

For example, you may still come across old webpages that have a large group of keywords hidden at the very bottom of them in text that blends in with the background colour (think geocities). This is to trick Google robots into thinking the webpage is more relevant to certain keywords than it actually is.

It is also possible for one person or business to buy out several domain names and have the resulting websites all link back to each other (think horoscope websites). This is an attempt to trick Google into thinking the sites are more popular or relevant than they really are.

The rule of prominence

Words at the beginning of things are more important than words at the end of them.
For example, if you really want to target people looking for funny cat photos, then

<title>I Love Cats – Funny Cat Photos</title>

may not be quite as good as

<title>Funny Cat Photos by I Love Cats</title>

The rule of proximity

This rule simply refers to the proximity of keyword phrases to one another. For example, if on the homepage you place the text “This website contains photos of cats that are rather funny,” then it will not register as being the same as your keyword phrase “Funny cat photos.”

The rule of density

If you are working on scoring high for ‘funny cat photos,’ and your description is something like

<meta name=”description” content=”The absolute best place on the whole of the internet for you to find the most hilariously delightful funny cat photos”>

then your keyword density is 14%. This also seems to apply to more general content on your website. Apparently a good guide is to aim for 3-7% density for your most important three keywords.

Again, how important this rule really is, is anyone’s guess.

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