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Understanding keywords in 9 steps

Once you set up your website and start reading about getting visitors (traffic) to your site, you are bound to hear about keywords (and key phrases but keywords is often used to mean both).

Here are a few points to help you understand keywords, their importance and how you can use them in your website content (and other online communications).

  1. keywords are simply words that summarise your message – don’t get caught up that they are magical or fancier than that. If you are a plumber, your keywords could be plumber, pipes, gas fitting and domestic, but would exclude business, builder and accounts.
  2. when you enter words into a search engine to find something, you are effectively using keywords. The web pages ranking highest for those keywords are what you will see in the search engine results
  3. behind each web page is some information known as meta data. This is part of how websites and search engines work, so is another aspect of using keywords as you can add a string of keywords in your meta data.
  4. make sure you use keywords that your potential customers will use
  5. don’t use too many keywords as it gets hard to read and search engines may assess it as an attempt to trick them. Always write for humans so it is interesting and relevant, rather than writing nonsense just to get keywords on a page
  6. each page on your site has a different purpose and will have different content so don’t expect each one to have exactly the same combination of keywords. In fact, search engines apparently give better ranks to sites with varied keywords across the site.
  7. specific words (e.g. dresses compared to clothes) are easier to rank well for but they are likely to have fewer searches so you need to balance which keywords are most useful to you. Of course, less effective words can still be used but just less often than your main keywords.
  8. use keywords in your online ads and directory listings, social media profiles, etc – not just in your own web pages. When you have the control, get keywords in the text of links to your site, too.
  9. within the boundaries of writing for humans, remember that keywords earlier in a piece of writing and highlighted in some way will have more impact than keywords late in the piece. (By highlighted I mean placed in a title or heading, in bold font or in italics)

Keywords help people find your messageIf you used a good web designer in creating your site, they have probably added some keywords into your meta data, headers, image descriptions and so on. Likewise, if your content was professionally written, edited or reviewed, there are likely to be some well placed keywords on your site already.

However, it is an ongoing task to keep your keywords working effectively so worth understanding even if someone else manages it for you.

This post is part of Word Constructions’ Setting up a website series
1. having a website helps more than you
2. what’s involved in setting up a website?
3. Learn about web hosting
4. Preparing your initial website content
5. Managing website design 101
6. Choosing a web designer
7. Basic web pages
8. Navigating your site
9. Making web content attractive

Getting blog content ideas

Beyond my usual tips of how to find content in your blog, I thought I’d share some ideas on how to find content that may attract more readers from external sources.

  1. use a keyword tool to find the popular terms people use for your product/service – how can you use those specific words in a blog post? Maybe you could explain the subtle differences between the terms (eg haircut and hair style or shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding) or list the varied parts of that term (eg lawyer could be broken into criminal lawyer, family law lawyer and estate planning lawyer)
  2. join a bookmark site (eg delicious, stumble upon, digg, reddit) and look for popular bookmarks for relevant terms. Once you have set up a search, you can add it as a RSS feed for easy future reference as well.
  3. still on a bookmark site, look at the most popular articles people have saved in your topic area – you are bound to get inspiration from reading a few related articles. Note I mean find ideas, not copy the articles or even write the same idea in your own words, as you want original content in your blog. Sometimes one small comment in an article is enough to give you a great idea to write about.
  4. keep an eye on trending topics in Twitter. I use Tweetdeck which automatically gives me a list of each days’ trending topics – many are not relevant to me but sometimes one of them can indirectly give me a blog post idea. Given I’m there checking tweets anyway, it takes practically no time to look at this list.

Use real keywords

Keywords are used to help search engines relate your web pages to terms people use in the search engines.

So if you sell books, you want search engines to find you when people look for a book shop they can access so you could use keywords like books, reading, store, fiction and non-fiction. Keywords like bike, engineer, beautician and plumber would be less useful (unless you specialised in books about those things!)

I think it’s really important to use real keywords, too. By that I mean words that real people will use to find your goods or services, not jargon or unusual alternatives of words.

Terms like motor insurance, pertusiss and downhaul are actually accurate but used by professionals – most people refer to car insurance, whooping cough and (sail) rope so they are the real keywords.

Worse are words used in a different context, such as benefit. Most of us think of benefit as an advantage whereas the insurance and super industries use benefit as the money you may be entitled to; would you ever type ‘super benefit’ in a search engine to find out about superannuation?

So when preparing your website copy and metadata (meaning the text you can add to a webpage for search engines to use), make sure you focus on words your customers will use rather than words people in your industry use. Sometimes, your customers do know the jargon, but don’t just assume it.

Over using keywords in articles

Yesterday, I wrote about using keywords in articles to help search engines find your articles. I also explained that using to many keywords makes the article unreadable for humans and may get search engines penalising you/your site.

The following are examples of the over use of keywords to remind us that the focus of promotional articles should be on giving information rather than making a sale or increasing website traffic (as much as we love those results!)

example 1 – a title for an article: 

Tractor Parts,Hydraulic Coupling,Hydraulic Pumps,Lubricating Oil Pump,Tractor Spare Parts,Tractorul UTB Spares 

Not a very interesting title is it?

example 2 – content of an article:

Just search on your computer with Keywords like Packers and Movers in Ahmedabad Packers Movers Ahmedabad, Relocation service provider in Ahmedabad, etc. Many service provider of that particular state will appear on your computer screen. Collect information from all the relocation Ahmedabad companies and hire the best one. You can also do the same work to find out service provider of other state and city.

There is nothing informative or interesting in that snippet, and its a lttle insulting as someone has probably already searched those keywords to have found the article in the first place!

example 3 – a bio box:

crib bedding, crib bedding sets

Apart from not doing much to promote their business, this bio box is boring and doesn’t develop trust or credibility.


Of course, the use of keywords (and avoiding over use of them) applies to blog posts, newsletters, website content and so on just as much as to promotional articles.

Keywords in promotional articles

On Sunday, I presented a workshop on using promotional articles as a business tool and discussed the use of keywords in such articles.

Keywords are words that a search engine will use to provide search results (e.g. if you type in “promotional articles”, they are the keywords and a search engine will find the sites most relevant for those words.) They are very useful in building up the popularity of your site with search engines.

So it is a good idea to include your keywords in your promotional articles so search engines will find your articles online and increase your exposure. In terms of attracting search engines, putting keywords into the title is also effective.

In reality, you probably use keywords in your articles without really trying – it isn’t easy to write an article about business books without writing business or books for example.

However, it is important to not use your keywords too many times in one article as search engines can actually penalise you for doing so. The easiest way to judge how many times is right is to read it out loud – if it sounds ok and appeals to a human, you probably haven’t over used the keywords.

I will share some examples tomorrow on overuse of keywords, but thanks to Suzie of Suz’s Space asking a question in my  workshop, let me explain that it is repetition of one or two words that is the potential problem – using a lot of different keywords in a suitable context is not a search engine risk.

For example, writing an article about a style of writing which includes a list of authors does have a lot of keywords (each name for instance) but is not over using the keywords (such as books and authors) for Suzie’s site.

Website marketing

I went to a Business Mums Network morning tea this morning – in fact I hosted it!

The speaker, Lucie Battaini of MultiMediART, spoke to us about using simple and mostly free techniques to get more people to your website. Although I knew a lot of what Lucie spoke about, it was great to hear it all put together and I learnt some new things, too.

For instance, Lucie spoke about keywords – apparently, keyword metadata isn’t used by most search engines now but the use of keywords in your content is crucial. That means you should include a couple of important words as many times as possible in your web content for search engines to find and correctly categorise you.

However, it is really important to not overuse your keywords – imagine if I used ‘business writing’ at least once in every sentence – boring and confusing to read. I find it better to write the information normally so it flows properly, and then go back and see if there’s a way to add a few more keywords without loosing the flow.

And of course, Lucie pointed out that content is King, so I’d better get writing!

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