I had a person in my office the other day looking to improve their website and their search engine visibility.
He said, “I had this idea, see, where we would put all the keywords we wanted to use over and over again in white text on a white background. Then, the search engines would rank us near the top but it wouldn’t clutter up our page.”
I explained that this was a great idea, presuming he had a time machine and could return to early 1997—the last time this technique actually worked.
Search engines are getting smarter all the time. If you’re looking for a long-term success strategy that will allow you to concentrate on building your business rather than chasing the next search engine bait-and-switch, you need to know where to place your keywords for maximum results.
Before You Begin
Placing the wrong keywords in the right places won’t help your search engine visibility. Start with a keyword analysis to determine which keyword phrases will be most effective on your site.
Tools like Keyword Discovery and WordTracker will help you determine how much competition you have for specific keywords, and how often people are searching for phrases. It will also prepare alternatives and variations of your keywords so that you can cast a wider net. Once you have your list of effective keywords it’s time to put them in their place.
Titles are one of the few things search engine experts agree on. They’re probably the most important variable for search engine optimization (SEO). And yet, you may never have noticed them before.
That’s because titles appear not on the Web page itself, but rather in the aptly named title bar. If you’re on a Windows machine, this is where you see the minimize, maximize and close buttons. If you’re on a Mac, it’s where the red, yellow and green buttons reside.
You should front load your titles with your best keywords. In other words, “Recycled Paper Goods from XYZ Corp” beats “XYZ Corp: Recycled Paper Goods” for a search on “recycled paper goods,” all other things being equal.
Additionally, you should make sure that each page of your website has a unique title. Not only is a duplicate title a missed opportunity, it can be a red flag to the search engines that want to avoid indexing duplicate content.
Finally, make sure your titles read well. Titles appear as the big, blue link on most search engine results pages, and if they’re an unintelligible glom of keywords, people are less likely to click on them.
Headers and sub-headers are the “titles” that appear in the Web page. They are usually bigger and bolder than the rest of the text, and summarize the themes of the paragraphs that follow. Most experts agree that they carry more weight than the rest of the body copy.
Headers should reflect the title of the page, but shouldn’t be identical. This is because a variation of the title can help you cast a wider net, and also because duplication of title and header can appear “spammy” or “over-optimized” to the search engines.
Your page-specific, keyword-rich body copy is also important. You should be using your keyword-rich phrases and variations, too. Your copy also needs to read well. Bold and italics can help the reader scan the material for the most important ideas, and some experts believe this can also affect the search engine ranking of the page.
Search engines give extra-weight to the words used in an intra-site link (from one page to another within your site) and–to a lesser degree–the words around the link. So, instead of “learn more” or “click here”, use keyword-rich links such as, “Southern Maine Landscaping,” or “Pesticide-Free Gardening.”
Meta-descriptions don’t appear on the page, but rather in the source code. The only time people will see them is on the search engine results page under the big, blue title tag link.
There’s some debate on whether meta-descriptions help with your rankings, (I think they have little to no value,) but a well-crafted meta-description on a search results page may get a person to click on your link rather than a competitor’s. Think of this as a short ad; what will compel a Google-user to click on your link?
Like title tags, meta-descriptions should be unique and reflect the content on the page.
Got that time machine ready? Search engines give no weight to meta-keywords anymore. We generally recommend creating a list of keywords and using the same list throughout the site because they’re a giant waste of time!
Of course, there's a lot more nitty-gritty work that needs to be done in a competitive niche, but by placing your best keywords in the right places you can greatly increase your search engine visibility.
If you’d like help in running a keyword analysis on your own site, or would like to improve your site’s search engine visibility, contact flyte today.
President, flyte new media