The Importance of Keywords
As implied in the name, words are a key aspect of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). These are what search engines match against when they are being used and can improve your website’s rankings in natural or organic search results. It is therefore vital that you stay on top of this element of SEO as it is a highly effective way to attract people to your website. Cornscore report that in April 2010, Americans searched using keywords 15.5 billion times. This figure alone reiterates how important keyword selection is to success. But it is not just the words visible on the page that need to be worried about. Meta descriptions, keywords and tags should also be considered as these are seen by the search engines and tell the search engine robots exactly what is on the page. It is the Meta aspects that will direct users when they type in search terms.
The established term is ‘keyword’ but it could be argued that ‘keyphrase’ is more accurate. One-word sequences as keywords should be supported by additional expressions to gain high placements in natural search engine rankings. As the internet today has more websites than ever, it is impossible to constantly gain top placements for a one-word search sequence. It is better to aim for two or even three-word sequences as they have a better ‘top of the search rankings’ success rate. Demonstrating that English lessons are still relevant in the 21st century, synonyms are a good thing to consider when beginning the SEO process, especially as users of search engines will often use an alternative word for the same thing. However, it is unwise to use every single word listed in the thesaurus, as most search engine algorithms include the majority of synonyms in a keyword match, especially in a widely spoken language like English.
Another consideration for the beginning of the SEO process is to generate a keyword or keyphrase by answering “what products/services do you offer?” This will help you to understand and target what search engine users are typing in when they begin their search. Multiple-word sequences are useful here, as root words, e.g. food, jewellery, chocolate, do not provide a specific answer to that question. They are also unlikely to be successful in gaining high search engine rankings due to competition from the millions of other websites out there. Aim for more descriptive keywords as there will be less competition for these terms and a higher conversion rate to purchases on your website. Alongside your product, you should consider including variations of the keywords to include misspelt versions, capitalised and plural. Yahoo is a search engine that still lists in alphabetical order and so the old school method of putting ‘A1’ to the front of a business name in order to get to the front of the phone book still applies. Nowadays it is called ‘considering the effect of alphabetical hierarchy as you choose keywords’. Think about using market research to find out what phrases and words your customers are most likely to use and different aspects of your service, e.g. items for sale, information provided and secure online transactions. And do not forget to check out the meta tags of your competitors – these are the decision makers when it comes to how search engines choose the rankings. It is a good idea to customise the meta tag for each page of your website as this appears on the search engine results page.
Errors are still made with SEO, which is why it is so important to use an expert, like Online Media Marketing, when it comes to the process. A common mistake is to fill a website to the brim with keywords in order to improve its ranking. This is known as ‘spamming’ and can result in a website being blacklisted by a search engine. The title must be simple, user-friendly and also search engine-friendly. Keywords are essential, but only if they are used in the right way. e.g. instead of spamming with ‘gold jewellery, silver jewellery”, keep it simple with ‘gold & silver jewellery’ instead. Another error is assuming that a website will automatically get a better ranking the longer it is on the internet and that no SEO is needed. Within the first year of its life, a website is placed in Google’s Sandbox, while Google determines whether it is legitimate or spam. Open Site Explorer (OSE) works in a similar way, as it reviews a website and its links to check if it is being used to spam search engines or to produce remarkable content. During this period, you should definitely not wait for SEO to come to you – start building links and enjoy the dividends it will return at the end of your time in the Sandbox.
Google is also joining the social networking revolution, having brought Google Plus out in competition to Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, and countless others in 2011. This shows that the world’s most famous search engine company is prioritising social media over paid and natural listings, enabling the service to recognise a Google account holder when they are signed into their Google Account and to personalise their search results on recommendations by their friends, family and co-workers. However, this will not see an end to keywords as we know them, as when a user is not signed into their account, keywords and Meta details will still be relied on to rank a website. As many searches are performed on non-home computers, i.e. at work, internet cafes and other areas where a user is unlikely to access their personal websites, this mode of SEO is still very much alive.
SEO, along with many other elements of the internet, has evolved since its introduction with search engines in the 1990s. At first its robots recognised and matched words, then phrases and today they appear to know the difference between ‘talk’ (using different words to discuss one) and ‘words’ (the same thing repeated). A search engine can differentiate between a spamming website and a legitimate one, and are also beginning to be able to personalise searches for users registered with them. Keywords are as important as they ever have been, but are evolving to be part of the 21st century Internet.