Written by Hirsch Fishman on September 23rd, 2009
Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to the success of most websites, and how you use your keywords is a big contributing factor to that success. It becomes even more important if you’re relying purely on organic search results to drive traffic to your website, rather than paid advertising.
Although there are lots of places that I’ll talk about where you can use your keywords, as you’re designing the website and writing the content, you don’t want to do is overload them in every available spot.
Yes, the goal is to take advantage of all the opportunities you have to incorporate keywords on your website. You shouldn’t be doing so in a way that’s going to make your website less usable though. Use your keywords in these places in ways that are relevant to your content and that improve your website’s usability.
In terms of the keywords themselves, I can’t tell you what keywords to use – that’s dependent on your business and on your keyword research. Once you have your keywords though, here are 9 places where you can put them to improve your website’s SEO.
Title tags are the first places that the search engines will scan, and they are what appear as the actual link on the search engine results page. This is one of the most important places to emphasize your keywords, so make sure that the title tag on each page uses your most important keywords.
The title tag is also what your visitors will see in their web browsers, both in the title area and on tabs (if they’re using tabbed browsing). This is one of the areas where it’s tough to remember that SEO isn’t just about pleasing the search engines – it’s also about pleasing your human visitors. They will use the title tag as a primary means of identification and navigation, which is why it needs to be written well-enough to please both parties – definitely not an easy feat.
Within your header, there are a number of hidden META tags that only the search engines will see, and the META description tag is one of these hidden tags. On the search engine results page, you can generally see the META description tag by looking at the chunk of text underneath the link.
When writing your META description tag, it’s extremely important to be as concise as possible. The search engines generally only look at the first 150 characters of the description tag, so you only have a limited window in which to get your keywords in. Some search engines only use a part of it before taking some content from elsewhere on the page, so it’s even more important that you incorporate your keywords right up front in your description.
It’s still being debated how much weight the search engines give to the META keywords tag. In the early days of search, websites used to cram this tag full of any and all keywords or keyword combinations, in the hopes that the search engines would grasp onto something.
Most search engines learned from that and have changed how they weigh this tag in the search algorithm. Now it’s all about how the META keywords relate to the content on your page, which is why you need to use keywords that are relevant to the website in general and to the page in question specifically.
One of my 10 tips for improving your titles and sub-headers is to put any keywords you’re using in them up front. Doing so not only emphasizes what comes in the content below, but is useful for people scanning through your website quickly. Just try to keep it clear, concise, and relevant when doing so.
Your page content is reason your website’s exists in the first place, and it’s the backbone of everything else on your website. It’s also what people link to (and links are another contributing factor to SEO) and what will draw people to your website in the first place.
One big consideration when writing your content is keyword density. While your best bet is to incorporate your targeted keyword phrase into your content as often as possible, you want to be careful not to overdo it. You’re not trying to sell your product to search engines; you’re trying to sell it to people, and if your content reads horribly, it can make a bad impression and most likely decrease the chance of making a conversion.
We’ve all seen websites where the keyword density is so high that the content reads horribly. As long as you’re simply aware of the phrase you’re targeting when you’re writing the content, you should end up with an adequate keyword density, probably within the 3-5% range. It’s alright if the targeted keywords stand out when you read through your content; after all, that’s what the person was searching for, and seeing it emphasized will reinforce that they have the information they need to make their decision.
Also remember the 1-to-1 rule: 1 page of content should be optimized for 1 keyword.
One of my reasons for avoiding using “click here” in link text is that it’s not SEO-friendly. Search engines use the strength of your links in their algorithm, and one of the things that determines link strength is whether the link text using specific keywords in it.
Use specific keywords in your link text helps them estimate how relevant that link is. It also helps build the relevancy of a particular page to a particular keyword phrase.
With all of the places on your website where links are, this doesn’t apply solely to links within your page content. It applies to your main navigation links, to your breadcrumbs (as I mentioned already), to your footer links, etc. It’s all about association, and you want the search engines to associate certain keywords with your website in general and with specific pages on your website in particular.
Another common navigation tool on websites, breadcrumbs can help people pinpoint where they are on your website, as well as how to get back to where they were previously. As with any place you have words on your website, your breadcrumbs are another opportunity for you to incorporate your keywords. Just make sure that the breadcrumb links provide enough detail about what the pages are, without being overly length – 1 to 3 words at most.
While these attributes were created for usability purposes, they don’t have to be used solely in those ways. They can also be used for SEO purposes in the sense that they’re another opportunity for you to incorporate additional text onto your page – text that contain the keywords you’re optimizing for.
I’ve written previously about using the ALT and TITLE attributes properly, but the important point is that you shouldn’t write them with only the search engines in mind.
Keep them relevant to the element in question, and don’t use them to either duplicate content elsewhere on the page or to stuff them full of keywords to the point that they become completely unhelpful. Above all when it comes to them, think usability first, SEO second.
What I’m referring to as embedded file names are things like web pages, images, etc. These aren’t necessarily things that people will see within your actual content – they’re just ways that you can get more keywords onto your page.
How you write file names should be a no-brainer, but it’s important that you not give them a generic or vague label. People will see the file name of a web page when they hover over a link, so using a file name that contains the keywords that the page is about is useful from usability purposes. (This is one of the main reasons why you should enable your permalinks in WordPress; with HTML websites, you have an easier time controlling the file names.
When it comes to images, why name your image files something vague such as “image01.jpg” when you can name it something that includes a keyword instead? It’s not something that someone will see or that will really make a difference, but it’s just another spot where you can get the keyword onto the page for the search engines to see it.
There are a lot of competing schools of thought when it comes to organic SEO. What are some of your practical tips for incorporating keywords onto your website? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
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