Expert Search Engine Optimization - Key Words and Phrases
How search engines rank your site
Search engines use a concept known as key words and phrases (as found in your page titles, headers, meta tags and your body text) to determine if a particular URL is relevant to what a user is searching for. This is logical since that is what the user sees but webmasters in their zeal to rank higher have often overemphasized keywords and so today search engines are placing a higher importance on keywords included in Anchor Text links ( links in the form <ahref="http://www.yoururl.com> Anchor text </a> where the bolded portion is where your keywords go). Either way the proper use of keywords on your site has much to do with your search engine rankings and the resultant traffic.
A key word can be one or a combination of several words which best describe what your web page is about or has to offer. This page is, for instance, targeting the term SEO and keywords.
Given that there are over 25 million active websites as of this writing there is no likelihood that any of your web pages can be accurately described by a unique key word or phrase. So when a search engine needs to decide which of the billions of pages in their index may be relevant to your particular search, they use a variety of algorithms which are primarily based on their analysis of the word content of the sites they have indexed.
What keywords should you use?
Your very first priority should be to determine what words and phrases your potential customers are likely to use when searching for your products and services. Don't rely on your judgment alone, since it is common for your customers to see things differently than you do. Ask your customers, friends and colleagues for suggestions on key search words and phrases. If yours is an international market you should also remember that the language usage in different countries (or even regions) may differ markedly and your keywords and phrases need to take these variations into account.
Finding good keywords and phrases
Now that you have an initial list of keywords and phrases that you feel are right for your site, you need to know what words and phrases real live searchers are actually looking for so that you can begin to tune you keyword list according to actual market searches. You may also want to do some searches on these keywords to see which sites are ranking highly on your keywords and analyze what they have done to achieve these results. Web Position Gold software can almost totally automate these searches and comparisons. Remember that there are some 25 million web sites out there, many of which are competing with you, and so you need to find a niche that has a good number of hits relative to the competition for that keyword or phrase.
At present I feel that the most effective tool for finding your keyword niches is the Word Tracker service. This service will give you access to an ever growing database of over 320 million actual searches performed in the past sixty days, and will suggest alternative keywords, and give you information on the number of searches for this term. If you are at all serious about obtaining high search engine rankings for your site, I suggest that you consider purchasing a subscription to Word Tracker . You can subscribe for periods ranging from one day to a year, at a cost ranging between $5 to $200. This is a very powerful tool, and your first hours use may well change your outlook on what keywords to use. You can also get information from alternative sites such as Overture and Google Adwords, which are more directly related to those search engines.
You may also consider using a free tool for doing this research. Good Keywords is freeware which can be downloaded by clicking on the link. This program will give you a good deal of information but not so much as the Word Tracker. There are also many new free tools such as DigitalPoints Keyword Suggestion Tool but these do not provide the full power of Wordtracker.
In order to differentiate your site you need to research phrases which are directly applicable to your website and which are also used by many searchers. In general the more popular a search term is the more difficult it will be to get rankings for, but this is not always the case. In any event I like to target rankings on the first page of the search engine results pages, and so feel that I only have those ten pages to compete with.
How your keywords will be used by the Search Engines
The way you use your keywords and phrases have to appeal to the preferences of the search engines. Some general guidelines are that they only display roughly 60 characters in your page title and200 characters in your description meta tag. Most major search engines will read the entire content of the average page, but Google for instance will not index more that 100 kbytes of content.
At this time Google does not use the contents of your meta description or keywords tag in their evaluation of your site, but both MSN and Yahoo (and all the sites they distribute results to) do. We will offer specific details for some of the major engines later, but you can see that you will have to use short concise phrases in your title, meta tags and text, and keep your pages between 250 to 800 words long long to please them. Keeping your pages to this length will also help reduce the time needed to load them.
Location may be important to your customers
Now that you have a basic list lets fine tune it; to do so we need to branch out a bit. If your site offers goods or services only to a local area the first thing you need to do is to use that area as a part of your primary keywords. For instance if your site promotes a restaurant located in San Francisco, the keyword San Francisco (or perhaps "San Francisco bay area") is most important, as the hungry customers in London or Karachi may not be interested in your offerings. After that the customer needs to know what you are offering and what is special about you.
On the other hand if you are selling software by download the inclusion of your location in your keywords is most likely irrelevant and distracting.
Lets next look at using your keywords in more detail.
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