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Learn SEO Basics Part 5: All About SEO Keywords

by | May 14, 2012

[no_toc] A well-written web page focuses around a specific topic. Search engines identify the topic by the repetition of related words and phrases — commonly known as “keywords”. Which is why it’s essential to select the right SEO keywords.

SEO Keywords and a half empty box of chocolate candy

Why SEO Keywords Matter

Keywords are the words and phrases within your content that helps search engines identify the topic of your pages. And ranking well in search engine listings is critical to online business success. It drives visitors to your site and, more importantly, pre-qualified people who are looking for the products you sell.

So, how do you make sure your site is ranking well on Google? This video shows you.

SEO Keyword Selection Tips

Identify Primary Keywords

Before you start writing, make a quick, bullet point outline of what you’re article is about. In addition to helping you focus on what to write, it will also help identify the primary topic (keyword phrase) and additional support keywords.

Use Variations of Main Keyword Phrase

With your main keywords in place, make a list of variations on the main keyword phrase. For example, if your webpage is about “brochure design”, variations might include; “brochure designer”, “color brochures”, “brochure styles”, etc.

Use Phases with Two or More Words

Try selecting keyword phrases (combination of two or more words) instead of singular words which are generally more competitive and less descriptive.

Use Plurals

Generally speaking, plurals tend to pull better than their singular counterpart. For instance, people are more inclined to search for “iPod speakers” than they are to search for “iPod Speaker”.

Be Specific

Refrain from using generic keywords like “cheese”, “cat”, and “food”. Instead, use more specific keyword phrases like, “American Cedar”, “Yellow Tabby”, and “Italian cooking”.

Select Low Hanging Fruit

“Low hanging fruit” (also known as “long-tail” keywords) refers to very specific keyword phrases that have very little competition. These are phrases that include 2,3, and maybe even 5 keywords that don’t bring a lot of traffic, but when it does, it helps convert more visitors into buyers.

Review the Competition

For quick keyword research, use Google to search for keywords you want your website to be listed for. Then review each of the top listed entries; page titles, descriptions, and URLs. Next, visit each site and closely look at the page structure and how wording usage. For one more tip, reveal the page coding and look directly at the meta tags they’re using. And please, do not steal your competitors keywords. Most especially, do not steal, swipe, copy, or “borrow” the text on their pages. In addition to being copyright theft, it’s just wrong.

Keyword Research Tools

Here are some tools to help you choose website keywords. And although there are many keyword research tools available, not one is a magic bullet. I recommend trying different tools and testing results to find the combination of tools that work best for you.

What are Meta Keywords?

Meta keywords are the words or phrases placed within the <meta> section of your website page.

The page code looks like this — with keywords separated with a comma.

<meta name="keywords" content="place, keywords, here" />

The Purpose of Meta Keywords

The purpose of meta tags is to tell search engines the primary topic (or topics) your webpage content is about. Search engines would use this information to help determine how your webpage would rank within their results.

This worked pretty good for a while.

And then it didn’t.

People started stuffing a lot of keywords into the meta tag — even keywords that weren’t on the page or had nothing to do with the page at all.

So, in 2009, Google announced, “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking”. This was also repeated by Maile Ohye, a developers program tech lead at Google.

Shortly thereafter, Yahoo! announced the same thing.

And Bing? Well, their stance is that you should, “Take advantage of all legitimate opportunities to score keyword credit, even when the payoff is relatively low.”

Some SEO’s say to ignore them.

My viewpoint on using meta keywords is this. Even if Google ignores meta keywords, they don’t penalize pages that have them. So, if it can’t hurt, then take 30 seconds and add a couple keywords or phrases to your page. The ultimate decision is yours.

If you do decide to use meta keywords, here’s my suggestion.

How To Use Meta Keywords

At the very least, one of your meta tag keywords/phrases should match the primary keyword used in your page title — plus a secondary keyword phrase used in the body of your content.

I recommend not using more than 1 primary keyword phrase for shorter length content (pages with less than 250 words) and no more than 2-3 keywords for longer length articles (300 words plus). This helps keep your content focused on a specific topic.

As with the page title, this should be more than enough to cover the specific topic your page covers. If you find yourself adding more than 3 keywords, then you’re either being greedy or your content isn’t focused enough.

If you’re unsure about how many keywords to use, lean to the side of caution. When it comes to meta keywords, less is better than more.

And with all content you place on your website, remember to stay focused on your subject, be specific, keep it short, and only add relevant content.

What We’ve Learned

  • Search engines use keywords to help identify the topic of your web pages.
  • Outlining your article first will help you identify keywords
  • Use focused keywords with at least two or more words.
  • Reviewing competitive sites can help give insight into keywords you may have missed.
  • Long-tail keywords attract less visitors but the visitors you do get will be highly qualified.
  • There are many keyword research tools available – use what works best for you.
  • Meta keywords. If you use them, do so sparingly.

In part six of this series of Learn SEO articles, I’ll show you How To Use The H1 Tag.

Hi – thanks for stopping by! I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about the article – just drop them into the comments below.

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