Using Keywords – How to Search Engine Optimize

In the last chapter, you organized a set of keyword phrases that will become the structure for a new Content page. Now it is time to put these keywords to use. Go ahead and create the Content page you outlined with only the page name filled in. This is a simple task using your CMS. Do not publish it for others to see. Only create it without any content so that you have something to work with.

By following the guidelines in this chapter you can begin to optimize the Content page. These optimizations will help the page rank highly for your keyword phrases later on, once your content has been added and the page is published. Before you go ahead with these guidelines it is recommended that you install the following SEO plug-in if you use a WP site.

All in one SEO pack – This WP plug-in automatically optimizes your site for search engines and allows you to set titles and meta descriptions manually.

Title Tag

Keywords in the <title> element have the highest ranking value with most search engines. The title should therefore contain your most important keywords for each page – the primary keyword phrase. To avoid having the title cut off by some search engines its length should be at most 66 characters, although its importance may warrant additional characters.

The text in your title element shows up in the browser’s title bar, on the browser’s tab and on bookmarks. It is therefore an important navigation aid for the visitor. The element also shows up in the search result pages as a link back to your page. Thus, it is your most important tool for grabbing the readers’ attention, and convincing them to click through on the search engine results page. The title element should therefore be a human-readable summary that accurately describes the overall content of each page, while at the same time targeting your primary keyword phrase for that page.

One of the metrics Google uses to determine search ranking is known as click popularity. What this means is that if your site is clicked more often than expected on Google’s search result pages, this will increase your search ranking for the searched keyword phrase. This is another reason why picking a good title is so important.

Title Guidelines

Below are some guidelines that you should abide by when writing a title.

  • Uniqueness – The title should be different on every page of your website.
  • Positioning – Your most important keywords should appear at the beginning of the title.
  • Separators – Use separators, such as “-“, to break the title into sections. Do not repeat keywords back to back.
  • Casing – Capitalize the first letter of keywords to make them stand out more.

Title Structure

Your front page title should have your site or company name followed by a keyword rich description of your site. Individual pages should include their primary keyword search phrase. Additional keywords you may want to include are:

  • Category – The category can serve as both a navigational aid and an additional related keyword.
  • Location – If you are serving only a regional market then including the location in the title is very important.
  • Site name – Your site name, which preferably includes keywords.
  • Site description – If there is space left over in your title, you may want to include a keyword rich description of your site.
  • Company name – If you want to build brand awareness you can include your company name at the end of the titles. Alternatively, use your site name if that is your brand.

Here is an example of how a title for this chapter could look:

  • <title>How to Use Keywords – A Quick Guide to Building an Online Business – Pro-WebMarketing.com</title>

This title will bring in search traffic for the page’s primary keyword phrase, the site description and the site name. The first two title sections are 66 characters long, so the last section will be trimmed off on Google.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are HTML elements located in the head section of a document. These tags are not directly visible to visitors. Instead, they are read only by search engine web crawlers and give them information about the document. In addition to the mandatory charset meta tag, your pages can also include the description and keywords meta tags.

Meta Description

The meta description tag can contain a brief keyword rich description of what can be found on the page. Many search engines – such as Google – will show the meta description in the search results below your title if the user’s search term exists in the description. This tag therefore gives you some control over what visitors see in the search result pages, though not as much as with the title element.

The description should give a short marketing message relating to the page, enticing the searcher to click your link rather than the one above or below. To avoid having the description truncated by some search engines, you should use a maximum of 150 characters for this description. The tag is not given any weight in the ranking algorithms of Google so no keyword optimization is necessary. To avoid spending too much time on these tags, you can build the meta description using content from the first one or two paragraphs on the page later when you have created the content.

  • <meta name="description" content="Page description" />

Meta Keywords

The meta keywords tag can contain a comma-separated list of the keywords and keyword phrases relevant to the content on the page. This tag is ignored by the major search engines – including Google, Yahoo and MSN. Therefore, I recommend leaving this tag out.

  • <meta name="keywords" content="keyword one, keyword two" />

Heading Tags

Keywords in heading elements carry a lot of weight in search engines, with <H1> being the most important and <H6> the least. From the visitors perspective they are also important for visually grouping sections, making the page easier to read and scan. Therefore, be sure to include at least <H1> and <H2> elements on your text Content pages.

Each page is expected to have only one <H1> element. The <H1> element should consist of the page’s primary keyword phrase, which is also included in the page title. This will tell the search engine visitor that they have found what they were looking for. It will also tell web crawlers that there is a relation between the title of your page and its headline.

Subheadings (<H2> and <H3>) can hold secondary keyword phrases for the page. Additionally, these headings can contain in-page links to their specific sections of the page. This will add link value to the headings and allow visitors to make direct links to those sections of the page.

  • <h2 id="heading"><a href="#heading">Heading</a></h2>

Internal linking improves your search engine reputation, just as links from outside your site does. An important difference is that you have full control over your internal links – including what the link text is and where they point to.

When providing an internal link using the anchor element, make sure that the anchor text includes concise keywords relating to the target page. This makes the hyperlink more descriptive to your users and to the search engines, which will give the page a greater relevance for the specified keywords.

You can insert the title attribute within the HTML of a text link to add other relevant keywords, and thereby give the target page relevance for them as well. The text within the title attribute will appear when visitors hover over the link with their cursor, so you should make the description useful for your visitors as well as for the search engines.

  • <a title="More Keywords" href="url">Keywords</a>

URL

Having keywords in the URLs will give your web pages a small ranking boost. For starters, the page name that appears at the end of the URL should include descriptive keywords without being too long. This way, visitors will also get an additional hint of what to expect on the landing page. Often, the page name can be a shorter version of the <H1> heading that uses dashes (-) as word separators and is lowercase only. You want to include only the keywords and remove the common words – such as “a”, “the” and “you”. This will keep the page name short and search engine friendly. There is a WP plug-in available that will perform this task automatically.

SEO Slugs – This WP plug-in removes generic words from the page name in order to improve SEO.

In addition to the page name, categories can be used in the URL to show where a page belongs in your site’s structure. Make sure the category names include keywords, just as the page names do. Well-structured URLs have the additional benefit of serving as their own anchor text when people copy and paste them as links. This gives reputation to the page for the keywords used in the URL. An example of a keyword rich URL is shown below.

  • http://www.programmingvideotutorials.com/php/php-introduction

A URL should include as few dynamic parameters as possible. Dynamic parameters are used to pass variables to dynamically generated pages. For example, “post.php?post=103&action=edit” is a dynamic URL that sends two variables to a PHP script called “post.php”. Static URLs, which do not include any parameters, are better than dynamic URLs for several reasons:

  • Static URLs are typically ranked better in search engine results pages, because they generally contain more keywords.
  • Static URLs are indexed faster than dynamic URLs, which may not be indexed at all. Since search engines only want to list pages that are unique they may cut off a dynamic URL after the first two parameters.
  • Static URLs make it easier for the user to understand what the page is about, which in turn makes them more likely to click through on the link.
  • Static URLs are cleaner and easier to remember for the visitor.

With a WordPress site you can change the URL structure fairly easily. From the Admin Area (located at “your-wordpress-url/wp-admin”) select Settings→Permalinks and choose to specify a custom structure such as, for example, “/%category%/%postname%”. If you then group your WordPress posts under appropriate categories, the URL will reflect that structure. Furthermore, once you have configured a custom permalink structure, you will be able to change the permalink page name for a WP post from that post’s edit page.

You can find more information about changing permalinks from the WordPress Codex. To avoid losing any page rank you should generate 301 (permanent) redirects from your old dynamic URLs to your new static ones, unless your site is brand new.

Change Permalink Helper – This WP plug-in allows you to change your permalink structure without breaking the old links to your website.

Images

Images and graphical text can make a site more visually appealing, but it is important to remember that web crawlers cannot look at images or read graphical text. To help crawlers make sense of images, and rate them highly for image search results, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • File Name – Use a descriptive keyword rich name for the image.
  • Alt – The alt attribute is designed to provide alternative text when the image cannot be displayed. It should be descriptive of the image.
  • Title – The title attribute’s value shows up in a popup box when the visitor’s cursor hovers over the image. It should also describe the image and can therefore often be the same as the alt attribute’s value.
  • Proximity – Keywords close to the image in the same block element should be relevant to the image.
  • Relevancy – The image should be connected to the page subject to contribute to higher image search rankings.

Note that, even with all of these techniques applied, graphical text is still not as good as ordinary HTML text in terms of SEO.

Keyword Rich Content

Another place where your page’s keyword phrases should appear is within the content itself. Do not let too many keywords destroy your content though. You want the keyword phrases to seamlessly flow into the text. They should be virtually undetectable when read by someone with no knowledge of SEO.

Keywords in the first paragraphs of a page weigh more than keywords in the rest of the text. Likewise, words that are bold, italic and/or underlined are considered more important by search engines. Be sure to only use these styles occasionally, so as not to dilute their value.

Recommended additional reading:
O'Reilly - SEO Warrior