We've covered a lot of ground so far in this SEO Guide. From a definition of Search Engine Marketing, to deciding whether SEO is worth it for you, and if it is identifying the 3 elements involved in SEO:
- your keyword list — the list of phrases you'd like to be found under
- your site's keyword density — how often your keywords appear in your Web site
- link building — getting other Web sites to link to your site
Last time we covered how to create your keyword list - the foundation of all of your other SEO and SEM efforts.
Now let's talk about what to do once those keywords are selected — step #2 is building keyword density.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of keyword density is: "the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page. In the context of search engine optimization keyword density can be used as a factor in determining whether a web page is relevant to a specified keyword or keyword phrase."
Basically - on a given page, what percentage of all the text is used by a specific keyword phrase? So for example, if a page has 100 words, and your keyword phrase is used 5 times, that keyword's density is 5% for that page.
The part that small business owners sometimes don't know is when we say "text" that doesn't only mean the readable text on the page. It also includes text that is found in your HTML code.
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In a shout out to readers Sherri and James R. who appreciates the practical and tactical, (thanks for your comments! How am I doing?), here is a very specific rundown of what elements of your HTML code are recognized by search engines. You'll want to put your keyword phrases in these places to ensure the SEO power of each of your pages. Note that depending on how your site is built, some of these places you will have access to and some you may need your developer's help with:
- Title Tag — not to be confused with your "Page Title," the Title tag text shows up in several places including as the bolded blue text on Google Search Engine Results pages.
- Meta Description Tag — like the title tag, this tag is important because it appears on the Search Engine Results page right underneath the page title. Sometimes a snippet of your text will appear instead but you always want to have a meta description on every page and it's usually a good idea to customize it for each page.
- Page Title — this is the actual page title your visitors will see when they visit the different pages of your site. Avoid using images, try to make your page titles text, include your keywords in them, and try to put them inside an H1 tag. This will give them greater SEO power.
- Your Site's Text — include your keywords repeatedly in the text of your site, but the text still needs to be readable. A good rule of thumb is no more than 3-6% density. Any higher than that and you risk labeling as search engine spam.
- Keywords in Repeated Links — using your keywords in the links on your site is a great way to show their importance to search engines. In addition to doing this in your text another great place is in your sidebar or footer. Also consider using the "name" attribute of your link tags.
- Alt Tags — each image on your site has the ability to define "alternate" text. This is originally intended for Web site "reading" machines that read out Web pages to those who might have difficulty seeing the page. Instead of leaving the alt tags blank, fill them with descriptive text of the image that includes your keywords.
- Filenames — your filenames for both your individual pages and your image files can be fantastic places to include your keywords. Your page filenames will actually show up in the URL for that page for example last week's post has the file name "10_tips_to_avoid_the_biggest_s.html" and the URL for that post is http://www.inc.com/maisha-walker/2009/04/10_tips_to_avoid_the_biggest_s.html. Using your keywords in these filenames can really help your rankings.
- Your Domain Name — if you can get a domain name that uses a primary keyword this will give a big boost to your rankings. The implication is that this the entire content of your site is centered around this keyword.
A big note - this list does NOT include the Meta Keywords tag. While that used to hold weight with search engines, it's pretty much ignored now. It's too easy to put whatever you want in them, so companies used to stuff them with totally unrelated but super popular terms like Janet Jackson or Britney Spears. Search Engines got wise to that scheme and stopped paying attention to them.
Keyword density is where large, content focused sites have an absolute advantage. The more text or pages you have the more you can repeat your keywords in all of the places outlined above. If you have a 5 page site there's only so much you can do against a 500 page, optimized competitor.
Incidentally, this is one reason why businesses blog. Frequent blogging is an opportunity to create many pages of content that can use your keywords. But you have to believe that SEO (and blogging) is going to be a valuable way to generate new business for you in order to use this tactic. Read my post on that here.
Now here's an offer - do you have questions about keywords and keyword density? Post them over the next 7 days by Thursday, May 7th and I will try to answer as many as possible and encourage everyone to join in the discussion!
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