Most of us have heard a lot of talk about keywords throughout the evolution of the internet. Supposedly, good key words, we may have been told, are the “key” to successful marketing for our websites. We’re supposed to make sure that our keywords are loaded on our pages and in our meta tags. But what exactly does this mean? And does having good keywords mean that our sites will rank more highly in search engine results? Let’s take a look.
What are keywords?
First, let’s get a working definition of keywords. Simply put, any word on your website can be a keyword. But what makes a word truly a key word is the importance that word has in your site. For example, “the” is not a keyword. It contains no major meaning on your website. If you sell flowers, however, “flowers” is certainly a keyword, and so would “arrangements,” “delivery,” perhaps “roses” and “balloons” too. These words contain the heart of meaning on your website, and that’s what makes them key. An easy way to recognize if a word is a keyword is if you would expect someone on the internet to find your business or organization by using that word in a search, for example on Google or Yahoo.
As you might expect, there are a lot of websites out there, too numerous to count. This can mean heavy competition for potential customers. This is where thinking creatively about your keywords can make or break traffic to your website. One first step you can take to help set your site apart from the crowd is to think of keyphrases. These are two or more keywords strung together that web surfers can search for as well. Going back to our flower seller, keyphrases could be “free flower delivery” or “birthday balloons.” While these are simplified phrases, they help illustrate the point.
The real question, however, is what to do with these keywords and phrases. Where and how you place these words and phrases in your website can boost your site’s rankings in search engine results…or it can cause your rankings to tumble.
Keywords and phrases…what not to do
First, we should take a serious look at what NOT to do with your keywords and phrases. Some folks get “brilliant” ideas for how to skyrocket their website’s placement in search engine results. Yes, there are always “hot” keywords, such as “poker,” “Viagra,” or “adult,” but if they are not valid keywords for the content of YOUR site, forget them. Yes, they may get you some results temporarily since they are popular search terms, but there are many sites out there already catering to these terms that your website might still be buried. Plus, there is something called “keyword relevance,” which simply measures how relevant a particular keyword or phrase is to your site. Some search engines have the ability to check this, and using keywords that do not fit well with what your site is about could drop your rankings fast.
Another suspicious tactic is to hide keywords and phrases on your site. For example, our well meaning florist, trying to find business, might offer free delivery and mention that on her website, but she may also have keyphrases like “free flower delivery” and “free floral delivery” invisible on her site. How? She can set the text color the same as the background color so it’s invisible to the eye but not to spiders that crawl sites, indexing their information for search engines. And search engines do eventually catch on and may end up blacklisting you from their results for using suspicious practices.