To effectively optimize your website to help it get found by search engines, it helps to understand how search engines work. Search engines send automated programs, called robots, that “crawl” the web, reading each page on your website. As the robot reads your site, it “indexes” each one with a ranking score.
Have you ever read a website where you couldn’t figure out what business the company was in? Just imagine: if people have a hard time understanding what you or your site is about, it will be even more difficult for search engine robots, which interpret text in a very literal way. Keywords help these robots understand what your site is all about.
Keyword choice is crucial in the development and maintenance of your website. When selecting keywords, think like your prospects and customers. What words do they use when describing you company or your products?
To define your keywords, start by understanding the goal of your site. Once you decide your goal, you will need to choose the handful of keywords that best describe it. Google offers a free keyword tool to help you find out which terms are most popular in your category.
Keywords in Titles and URLs
Page titles and URLs also affect search engine rankings. Use your chosen keywords in page titles and URLs for individual pages whenever possible.
But beware: If you use keywords too often, the search engine robot may suspect you of “keyword stuffing” to manipulate rankings. You can’t just use the same word over and over to trick the robot and rise to the first page of Google overnight. Search engines eventually catch on to such “black hat” tactics and punish sites by removing them from search results. Your website content should be written for people, not robots.
A good rule of thumb: Keywords should be used throughout a content page at a density of between 3 and 5 percent.
Short vs. Long-Tail Keywords
You’ll need to balance choosing keywords that are popular versus those with less competition. The more general the keyword, the more it will be used in searches. However, that also means greater competition among other websites for the same keyword. More specific keywords or phrases (long-tail keywords) will be less popular in searches, so there will also be less competition for them, which means it will be easier to rank higher for more specific terms. For example: “candles” is a short keyword, “vanilla-scented dripless candles” is a long-tail keyword.
At the end of the day, the more effective your keyword strategy, the higher your rankings will be with the search engines.
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