Q.What is a Keyword Exactly?
A. A KEYWORD is a WORD or PHRASE used in a search to find a website.
In its simplest form, a keyword is usually a very brief description of what your website is about, or what it offers – and if you are in a specific location – where it is or what areas it serves. For many of my clients this means the most obvious and popular keyword for them is something like, “Dog Training San Francisco” or “Dog walker NYC”.
Q. What about using Plurals? Abbreviations?
A. The choices of keywords are confusingly abundant. Just the simplest keyword phrase can be stated many ways.
- dog trainer San Francisco
- dog trainers San Francisco
- dog trainer SF
- dog trainers SF
- SF dog trainers
- SF Dog Trainer
I could of course go on, but you get the idea. They all can be considered separate “keywords” and in some cases may draw different results. The good news is Google mostly ignores plurals and words like “the” and “and” as unimportant so toss those out of your considerations. The other good news is a popular, well optimized site might have only one of these phrases exactly, and still have good, if variable, results for all of these searches.
Q. Does it matter what order the words are in?
While having the words in ANY order is important, exact matches between the words on your site and the words searched for will generally net you a higher position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than just matching separate words.
Q. What if I want to show up high for multiple cities or other geographic locations, like neighborhoods?
A. You can and will often show up for more than one area if you carefully keyword your site for it.
The reality is that it is difficult to show up for more than one or two – especially if your site is not already established. You should carefully choose and prioritize your geographic location choices, and understand that your site will likely not have high position for more than one or two while your site is fairly new. That can change over time. Just remember that you and literally thousands of other people are all competing for the same 10 spots on page one of any search results. (A recent Google search for “San Francisco dog trainers” netted me 395,000 search results!)
Keep in mind, you are doing really well to hold a first page position for ANY keywords. It means you have a good start and you can keep building on that.
Q. But one of my competitors shows up high for several phrases and multiple areas, why can’t I?
A. You CAN. But it takes time, and effort.
Placing keywords are only the foundation of optimizing your website. Your search position is influenced by a huge number of factors. These factors, are part of a formula (called an algorithm) that Google and other search engines use to decide how useful your website is to a person searching for those specific keywords.
Some of those factors are:
- Age of domain
- Number and credibility of links pointing to the site from other domains
- Quality and originality of content
- Quality of your site based on speed, security and other factors
- Popularity and reputation of the site
- Usability and accessibility
…And much more
You might have the same keywords as another site, but there may be other factors, small or large, that makes a search engine rank your site as less or more likely to be of value to a searcher. Most of these factors involve time and reputation. As your site ages and increases in popularity, it will gain more “authority” for its keywords.
Q. If I eventually will do well for more keywords, should I place ALL of the keywords I want to do well for on my site?
A. Yes, with two important caveats.
1. It is essential that you prioritize. There has to be some measure of repetition in key spots of a targeted word to be seen as a keyword (or part of one) by a search engine. You can put variations of similar phrases on your site. This allows keywords in phrases to share single words giving you both repetition, and variation e.g.
- Dog trainer
- Training your dog
- train a puppy to…
Less repetition means the words are are less likely to be seen as keywords. But it is impossible to optimize a site for every possible search. So pick your targets.
2. Your keywords must fit naturally into your text, adhere to your marketing message and make sense to your reader. Adding every possible keyword someone might search for might seem like a good idea, but in reality it makes your text muddled and unreadable, and visitors less likely to want to stay on your site.
Overall, your text should have a clear and focused sales message. Your keywords should naturally come along for the ride. Any unnatural or repetitive use of keywords is a bad idea. Use balance and common sense.
Q. So if I just choose a few words and focus intensely on them, will that work better?
A. The simple answer would seem to be just focus strongly on the ones you really want and repeat them a lot.
But in reality, Search Engines see the exact same words in the same order, over and over, as an artificial attempt to control results. So in fact, you can OVER optimize by repeating words too many times!
Q. That seems confusing. How much is too much?
A. The best answer is, choose your keywords and then use them as a guide in writing natural, human friendly text.
Work them naturally into the amount of text you have – cut back to your top priority words in areas where text is limited. You will have more keywording opportunities in large areas of text, like articles and blog posts.
Never try to make a keyword “fit” in somewhere but do keep an eye out for places where your keywords will flow naturally when you write text. If your text is people friendly, then you are unlikely to have penalty inducing repetition present.
Q. How do I know what keywords to optimize for then?
A. That is the ten thousand dollar question!
The information above should help you understand the basics of keywording, but picking the exact ones to use when there are so many choices might still seem like a big question mark.