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Keyword optimization

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Keyword optimization, the art of choosing the correct keywords, is one of the most important things related to search engine optimization. Sadly, it's also one of the things people tend to spend too little time on. They think up a few keywords quickly, optimize their pages a bit and then submit them to the engines. This usually results in not-so-good rankings under keywords that are poorly related to the site in question.

Before you start optimizing your site for the search engines, you should spend some time in figuring out exactly what keywords, or what keyphrases, you are going to target. Search engines are an excellent source of traffic, but in order to utilize them to their full potential, some effort is required.

What you should do is not to rush things. Sit down, open up your favorite text editor in one window and your site in another. Read through the first page of your site. When you have read it, stop to think. What is this page about? Which of the words that appear in the document describe the contents of the page accurately? What kind of words or phrases would someone use if he was using a search engine and trying to find documents like this?

When you have found the answers to these questions, write down the words and the phrases you have come up with. It doesn't matter if the list becomes too long, as you can always remove some of the excess words later.

When I do keyword optimization, I usually select one or two medium-popular keywords or phrases per page. These are my main targets, and I optimize heavily for them. Then I squeeze a few less common phrases and words into the body text, hoping that they will help the page to come up on some obscure multi-word searches.

Repeat this process for every page on your site. You should be able to create an individual, distinct list of keywords for each page. The different lists should not "compete" with each other, instead each should cover different areas. This does not however mean that there shouldn't be any similarities between your lists - it's perfectly OK to have some, but the lists shouldn't be 100% identical. It is better to have 20 good listings on different search terms than 20 good listings on the same one.

So, now you have your lists ready. The next thing would be to go to Overture's (GoTo) keyword suggestion tool and type in the different keywords and phrases you've come up with. The tool will tell you how many times each keyword and each phrase was searched at Overture during the last month. It won't tell you exactly how popular different words are, since the statistics contain only the searches executed at Overture, but it will give you a general idea.

Because Overture's data is not always 100% accurate, you may also want to visit WordTracker. The service is not free, but the trial option offers a chance to search for good keywords without having to pay a dime. By using both Overture and WordTracker and comparing what they think about the popularity of different keywords, you should be able to separate the words people search for from those that are rarely used.

If some of the words you were planning to select aren't commonly used in searches, you might want to consider dropping them from your list. If other words look like they are used quite a lot, then it might be a good idea to consider adding them. But remember to...

Keep the search engine optimization process in mind!

By now, your list is probably pretty full of very competitive, single-word terms such as "MP3" or "books" or "computers" or whatever. Scratch them. This might sound harsh, but if you're a novice, you have no chance of achieving a top listing under such terms. Even many (dare I say most) professionals tend to avoid them, as they are extremely competitive. There are hundreds of thousands of sites targeting them and even with excellent search engine optimization skills, they are very tough to conquer. What you should do is to narrow it down a little.

Think about different variations of these popular keywords. If you were originally thinking about the keyword "books", how about "buy used books online" or "antique bookstore"? These terms would be, not easy, but easier to rank well under. It is far better to be in the top 10 for a search term with medium usage than to rank 500th for a heavily used term. Select keyphrases that do get searched, but that aren't too competitive.

You might also want to target common misspellings, if some of the keywords related to your site are often spelled wrong . Unfortunately, it is hard to efficiently target misspellings without damaging the authority of your site. Would you buy anything from a person that can't even spell the name of his merchandise? Didn't think so.. So, be careful with those misspellings.

At this point, you should have completed your keyword optimization process and now possess a pretty good list of medium-popularity keyword phrases for each of your pages. I would recommend that you read the search engine optimization article on this site next. It will show you where you should place the keywords you have selected in order to achieve results with the search engines.


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