Ultimate Guide to SEO: Keywords

Written by Mark Sanborn: Jul 4, 2008

We know a little bit about how google ranks keyword placement. And I will try to get you up to speed on the most relevent areas where you can improve your site’s visibility to Google and other search engines right away. This post is part of the series, Ultimate Guide to SEO. I recommend reading the entire serires to get the most of this article.

Domain Names

The absolute highest importance when it comes to keywords is the domain. Even if your page has a rank of zero, you have no SEO techniques applied, and your site is new. Chances are within a few days your site will be indexed in Google and will show up in the first page for the keywords in your domian. This is why you will often see domains like, Get-Free-Templates-For-Wordpress.com domains. Domain names are absolutely critical when it comes to keywords. I am not telling you this so you run out and buy a domain that is keyword stuffed I am just showing you the importance of it.

Title

The title is the second most influential factor when search engines try to determine what a page is about. This is where you will want to have relevent information with keywords.

Many people make mistakes when it comes to the tags. Often I will see a site title like, “My Blog - My article title”. or even worse, “My Blog”. Google and other search engines will weigh each keyword in the title with less importance the further right you go. For the optimimum result you will want your most relevent keyword in the begining.

Simply changing the title of your pages to be something like, “My article title - My blog” or even, “My article title” can make a world of difference for page ranking in Google and other search engines.

The other mistake I see often is people stuffing keywords in a title like, “My blog widget, activites, technology, blah, blah.” The problem with this is that Google takes each word and gives it a portion of the keyword importance to each. The more words you have in your title the less importance each keyword will be. Adding more keywords will NOT help. Remember the golden rule of SEO, SEO is about making your pages machine accessible. It’s not ment to trick search engines into indexing you for irrelevent keywords.

Bottom line: Try to keep your titles short and relevent to the individual page on your site. Each page of your site should have a unique title describing that particular page. Stay away from adding the same text to each page.

Optimizing Titles for Wordpress

In Wordpress you can have dynamic titles easily, here is an example:

<?php if (is_home()) {bloginfo('name') ;} else { wp_title(' ');} ?>

What this does is give the home page a title of, “My blog” and the articles will have the title, “the article title”. I have found this the most effective way to utilize the title tag in a blog type setting.

The H1 Tag

The H1 tag seems like it has almost as much weight as the title tags. It is so important that many developers have often used h1 text underneath their logos and hide the text with a CSS text indent. This allows the site to have a nice logo and still contain the page’s main heading in plain text for the search bot to see.

It has been discussed multiple times whether or not this technique is considered cheating since Google has stated before many times that site using hidden text or display something that differs from what the bot sees is deceptive. Matt Cutts from Google has repeaditly said that it is fine. What is not fine is using methods similar to this for purposes of keyword stuffing or tricking the bot. Remember the golden rule of SEO.

The H2, H3, H4 Tags

As you may have guessed these tags will be more important for keyword purposes than regular text but will diminish in value as you go down. The H2 will be weighted as more relevent than the H4. Keep this in mind. I don’t want you to make up h2, h3 tags for the purpose of keyword stuffing but I would advise you to think about what you are writing and make sure that you use h2, h3 tags whenever appropriate.

I see a lot of sites that will use a custom tag like, . If you find yourself doing this stop and ask yourself, “Can I replace this with an h2 or maybe an h3 tag?

Bottom line: Use h2, h3 tags for page layout hierarchy. Not only will it benefit your users, it will help with ranking. Keep their structure and don’t stuff them with keywords for the hell of it. For example you should NEVER have more than one H1 tag.

Strong and Bold

Strong and bold tags will have slightly higher relevence as far as keywords go. There has been some debate against which was better and I distinctly remember Matt Cutts once say that the strong tag had SLIGHTLY higher relevence than bold since strong is semantically correct in the new xhtml standards. However, the difference is almost meaningless as far as SEO goes. Just keep in mind that the bolded text will weigh more than regular text.

The Link Title Attribute

Links have an attribute that you can include called “title”. This attribute is what will show up if the link is hovered over and can also be spoken for people with accessibility needs.

This not only provides a good opportunity to add more relevent information and keywords to a link, but also serves as a utility for people with accessibility needs. It is recommeneded that you use the title attribute in links when necessary.

The Img Alt Attribute

The alt attribute is the primary focus of Google when determining a description for an image to be included in their image search. It is also required by the W3C to have validated code. I always try to include the alt attribute in every image of my site.

Keywords in URLs

We have discussed how important keywords are in domain names now its time to take a look at the rest of the URL. Google does look at the URL for purposes of determining the page’s content. You can tell this by the bolded text in a url when searching for a page.

I have had excelent luck with providing pages with logical descriptive urls. For example my pages will use Apache’s Mod_rewrite (build into Wordpress) to change urls from http://yourdomain.com?123987 to something like, http://www.marksanborn.net/SEO/name-of-the-article. I find this works much better than having the default permalink like this, http://www.marksanborn.net/year/month/day/article-title. Since including the category of your article adds one extra keyword in the url than you would otherwise have with the Wordpress default permalink.

Bottom line: Think about a clear descriptive URL scheme and stick with it. If you are already using something different don’t change it. Improper change of a URL (not including 301 redirect) will cause pages to loose pagerank.

Keywords in Incoming Links

Incoming links that don’t have the [nofollow tag] will increase the target page’s rank and push the entire site closer to the top of search results, but there is more to it. Even if a page uses the nofollow directive or the link is from your own site, Google will use those keywords in the links to determine what the target page is about.

This is why blogs do so well with trackbacks as they will include a short description about the blog right underneath and usually use the exact title of the article in the link description. It also explains why blogs do so well in search engines. Often times bloggers will link to their own content many times throughout multiple posts with the same relevent keywords as that particular article. This paints a good picture to Google about what that site is actually about.

Bottom line: When linking to a page be as descriptive as possible. Do not use something like:

Click here to read about embedded html images.

Here is an example of linking with descriptive keywords.

You can read more about embedded html images.

A great example of a site that does this extremely well is Wikipedia.

Keyword Density

Search engines will look at all the attributes on the page and weight how many times you mention different words in an article. This is why longer articles appear in more keywords and do better in search results. As far as SEO goes it usually isn’t worth going through articles and adding extra keywords so that the search words are more frequent; however, it is worth keeping this in mind when comming up with descriptive tiles and alt tags. I recommend taking a good look at your articles or pages and really think about what that article is about and come up with a descriptive title. This will benefit your users and the search results.

Bottom line: Titles should match the content.

Conclusion

You may have found a theme when reading about various keyword placement and SEO techniques. They all revolve around the golden SEO rule. You are trying to make your site more descriptive to your users and bots. We are not trying to trick anyone here. We just want to make sure that it is clear what each page is about. Google has said time and time again that making your site clear and concise to your users and provide great content will ultimately increase your page rank. This is what SEO is all about.

Read the rest of The Ultimate SEO Guide.

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