Thursday, December 7, 2006

We Have the Terms, Now What Do We Do With Them?

Once you have selected the search terms you want to target, the next step is to integrate the terms into your site pages to make them relevant.

Selecting Pages for Optimization
Initially, the pages that you select for optimization should be those that offer the most focusedcontent relating to the terms you want to target – you may already have such pages on your site, or you may need to develop them from scratch. You can optimize as many pages as youlike, but each page should focus on no more than one or two of your target terms.

Inserting Target Terms Throughout Page Copy
The phrase “content is king” is often cited when it comes to web sites, and this holds true for search engines as well. While there are a number of variables search engines use to producethe results they deliver, the visible text content of your pages is a primary factor that search engines utilize to find, index and deliver your pages to prospective site visitors.

Once you have identified the terms you want to target, you’ll need to incorporate the terms intothe copy of your site pages so that when an engine arrives at your page it can identify the pageas being relevant for the search terms you are targeting and produce it among the results it displays. In other words, for a search engine to justify producing your page in search results fora given term, it needs to have evidence that your page is truly relevant for the term in question – having the term within the text content of your pages provides such evidence.

Make sure that your target search term appears at least once in your introductory paragraph and page header so that search engines—and visitors—can immediately recognize the term inthe content above all your other page copy and give context to the content of your page.

Most importantly, try to integrate search terms into your page copy in a natural fashion so that the terms make sense in context and complement the overall message of the page content. Donot indiscriminately load your page copy with terms that do not make sense in context, as doing so will leave a negative impression on visitors once they arrive at your page, and could be considered Spam.

An excellent resource for SEO copywriting is offered by Jill Whalen of See:

Make Use of Head Tags
Search engines tend to weigh words placed within page head tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) more heavily than they do general text. Whenever possible, include your target terms within the headtags, especially the h1 tag at the top of your page, to ensure that your pages get maximum search engine exposure. You can use a CSS stylesheet to format your head tags so they are consistent with your site design.

The Page Title Tag
The title tag in the HTML head of your site pages is a critical, yet often overlooked, location to insert your target terms. Search engines weigh the title of your pages quite heavily in determining relevance, so you’ll want to make sure that each page on your site that you want to show up in search engine results has a unique title incorporating the targeted term for that page.

About Meta Tags
Once thought to be the gateway to top search engine rankings, meta tags are no longer weighed very heavily by search engines, if at all. This is primarily due to the abuse of meta tags by unethical marketers. However, this does not mean that you should ignore meta tags altogether, just be aware that they are only a small part of the SEO puzzle.

The two tags you’ll want to pay attention to in optimizing your pages are the description meta tag and the keywords meta tag. Keep your description tag succinct and to the point (under 200characters) – some search engines, such as msn, will utilize this tag to display a description ofyour page along with a link in their results, so it should provide a general overview of the page topic. With keyword tags, limit your key words to 25 terms or less (separated by commas) and make sure that you don’t repeat the same term more than 3-4 times, as doing so could be misinterpreted as an attempt to deceive the search engines and get you banned altogether.

Keyword Density: How Much is Too Much?
Now that you have an overview of some of the ways to integrate your target search terms intosite copy, you may be wondering how many times you actually need to repeat your key termsto get results. Opinions on this matter vary, but in general, you want to have your key terms appear anywhere between 2-10 times per every 100 words of text – this ratio is known as “keyword density”. The following link provides a neat little tool you can use to measure your keyword density on a given page for a given term:

As a general rule, try to integrate your key terms as often as you can without breaking up the natural flow of your copy. Good copywriting is an essential component to SEO, and at the end of the day, your page content needs to appeal to people (as well as search engines).


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