Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Words and Keyword Density

By now, you probably understand that the most important thing you can do on the SEO front involves the words on your pages.

There are three issues you need to consider when placing keywords on a page:

• How many words should be on a page?

• Which words belong on what page?

• Where should these be placed on the page?

Page Size

Ideally, pages should be between 100 and 250 words. Shorter than 100 words, and Google and other search engines will tend to discount the page as a lightweight. In addition, you want to include as many keywords as you can without throwing the content off-kilter. With less than 100 words, any significant inclusion of keywords is going to look like keyword stuffingand get "points" taken off your pages.

Pages that are longer than 250 words are not terrible, but do tend to diminish trafficboth actual, and measured as a per page statistic. From the viewpoint of advertising, lengthy pages waste content; 250 words is about as many as will fit on a single monitor screen, so your visitors will have to scroll down to finish reading the rest of the page if you publish longer pages. You might as well provide navigation to additional pages for the content beyond the 250 wordsand gain the benefit of having extra pages to host advertising.

Choosing Keywords

Beyond the mechanics of crafting sites and pages that are search engine friendly lies another issue: what search queries does your site answer? You need to understand this to find the keywords to emphasize in your site constructiona very important part of search engine optimization.

There's no magic bullet for coming up with the right keywords to place in a page. A good starting place is the "elevator pitch" story, and related keywords, that you'll need to develop as part of an SEO campaign.

It's likely that you'll want to vary keywords used in a page depending on the page content, rather than trying to stuff a one-size-fits-all approach across all the pages on your site.

If the answer is X, for example, what is the question? This is the right way to consider keyword choice. X is your web site or web page. What did someone type into Google to get there?

As you come up with keywords and phrases, try them out. Search Google based on the keywords and phrases. Ask yourself if the results returned by Google are where you would like to see your site. If not, tweak, modify, wait for Google to re-index your site (this won't take too long once you've been initially indexed), and try your search again.

Ultimately, the best way to measure success is relative. It's easy to see how changes impact your search result ranking: just keep searching (as often as once a day) for a standard set of half a dozen keywords or phrases that you've decided to target. If you are moving up in the search rankings, then you are doing the right thing. If you ranking doesn't improve, then reverse the changes. If you get search results to where you want them (usually within the top thirty or even top ten results returned), then start optimizing for additional keywords.

You should also realize that the success that is possible for a given keyword search depends upon the keyword. It's highly unlikely that you will be able to position a site into the top ten results for, say, "Google" or "Microsoft"but trivial to get to the top for keywords phrases with no results (such as "nigritude ultramarine" or "loquine glupe" two phrases that became the fodder for SEO contests).

The trade-off here is that it is a great deal harder to do well with keywords that are valuableso you need to find a sweet spot: keywords where you stand a chance, but that also will drive significant site-related traffic.

Keyword Placement

The text on your web page should include the most important keywords you have developed in as unforced a way as possible. Try to string keywords together to make coherent sentences.

Not all text on a page is equal in importance. First of all, order does count: keywords higher up in a given page get more recognition from search engines than the same keywords further down a page.

Roughly speaking, besides the body of the page itself and in meta information, you should try to place your keywords in the following elementspresented roughly in order of descending importance:

• Title: putting relevant keywords in the HTML title tag for your page is probably the most important single thing you can do in terms of SEO

• Headers: keyword placement within HTML header styles, particularly headers towards the top of a page, is extremely important

• Links: use your keywords as much as possible in the text that is enclosed by ... hyperlink tags on your site in outbound and cross bound link. Ask webmasters who provide inbound linking to your site to use your keywords whenever possible

• Images: include your keywords in the alt attribute of your HTML image tags

• Text in bold: if there is any reasonable excuse for doing so, include your keywords within HTML bold ... tags


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