Keywords: use them the wrong way and Google will slap you

In my last post I mentioned that Google’s algorithms use over 200 different indicators that determine how your webpages are indexed and shown. Today we’ll have a look at keywords and how important they are relative to other elements. In general, Google values the factors that are difficult to manipulate by website owners (or search engine optimizers) more than what can easily be manipulated. All the stuff that you can do on your end. On your website. The difficult part is getting other sites to link to you and validate you. So in short: The ranking factors that are outside your realm of influence are the most valuable to Google. But that does not mean that what you can do isn’t important. It is very important, but Google looks at it very carefully. They don’t want you to game the system. Keywords are of relativly modest importance. Keywords are the words or combinations of words that people enter in google when they are looking for something. So a keyword is a search term. As with everything that we will discuss, with keywords you have to take the approach that makes sense from Google’s perspective: use them only where and when it is appropriate to help Google find RELEVANT content for it’s users. No more, no less. You see, it is very easy for anyone to stuff a webpage with a bunch of keywords. And Google knows that. And in the past, that has been abused by internet marketeers a lot. So, Google has evolved it’s algorithms to the point where they can very accurately measure and weigh if someone is trying to stuff a lot of keywords in a page in an unnatural way or if someone is creating valuable and relevant content. Over-doing the keyword thing is dangerous and can harm the position of your page in the rankings.
More becomes less very quickly when it comes to keyword stuffing
More becomes less very quickly when it comes to keyword stuffing
It’s like the law of diminishing returns displayed in this graph. At a certain point, more of the same becomes less effective or even harmful. Having said that, you should definitely use keywords in the title tag because that is by far the most important place for you to put one or two good keywords. But also use them in headlines, image names and body text of the pages or blog posts you write. But only if they are really relevant. And don’t worry too much about synonyms and variations. Google is smart. They know. Having a keyword in your domain name isn’t as valuable as it used to be. In the old days, Google reasoned that if the keyword was in the domain name, the whole site would be centered around that topic. And though that might be true, that does not necessarily mean that it’s the most relevant website for Google’s users. So lately they don’t place as much value on it as they used to, but it won’t hurt you of you do. It’s a good idea to use the right keyword(s) in your url’s, but again, only if it makes sense and only to help Google find and serve relevant content for its customers. And don’t overdo it. Basically, Google looks at a URL like this: So this is good: This would not be good: The most important place to have your keywords is… … in the links on other websites that point to your page. And that is also the hardest to influence. And therefore the most valuable in the eyes of Google. If only the Huffington post would have this text with a link to our page, that would be worth way more than what we could do ourselves: Check out this awesome WordPress plugin that makes it easy for you to manage the pages of your WordPress site. Some quick and important points on keywords to recap:
  • Keywords are not as important as they used to be. Still use them, but do it in a natural way and not in an artificial way
  • Google does not use the keyword meta tag. At all.
  • Google does not like keyword stuffing or a high keyword density (law of diminishing returns)
  • Having a keyword in your domain name can help and it won’t hurt.
  • Put keywords in your URLs in the right place and each keyword only once
  • Use keywords in the title tag, headline, body text and image names on your page, but only when it makes sense.
I hope this has helped you to put the value and use of keywords in to perspective. Let me know your thoughts.
August 10, 2014
Chris Vermeulen
Stuff Google Likes, Website Improvement, keywords, SEO

This is how you can know exactly what keywords people use when they look for your product or service

A few weeks ago I wrote on my blog about the relative importance of keywords. And though more is not necessarily better (actually, stuffing a webpage with keywords is going to hurt you) it is a good thing if you know the keywords your customer use, so you can work them in to your webpages and blog posts in a natural way. So here’s how you can find out what search terms your customers use: First do a little brainstorm with your team (or on your own) to come up with possible search terms. Think product names, service descriptions, but also how a customer would frame a problem they have that you can solve. Or the solution to that problem. ‘Plumber’ and ‘plumbing’ are good keywords if you are a plumber, but so would be ‘plumber + your city’ and ‘water leak’ (problem) and ‘water tap replacement’ (solution). Think like your customers. Just write down all the keywords you can come up with. You’ll sort them out later. Second, look in your website stats and see if you can find the words people used to find you. These are the words you are currently found with. Add these to your list. Then check out the keywords your competition uses. You can do that by typing in some of the keywords from your list in Google and check out the first 3-5 websites that are shown. On their pages, do a right click and ‘view source’. You get an html-overview of that page. Look at the titletag and description tag. They shoud be in the top of the document. Also look for keywords in the headline of the text and in the text itself. By now you have compiled an impressive list of possible keywords, but you still have no idea which of these your customers use the most.  We’ll fix that now. Just go Google’s KeywordPlanner here: You might need to sign up or at least sign in with your Google account. Now here you will have to play around a bit with all the options you have. But the end result after 10 minutes or so should be a list that is sorted on most volume search terms. You can download that list as a csv-file. So, now you have a huge list of keywords you know your customers are using. Cool! Now you should do one more thing: Create a Keyword Effectiveness spreadsheet. It should have the keywords in the first column, the monthly search volume in your country or area in the second column, the allintitle numbers in the third column, the total number of results found in the fourth column and the KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) in the fifth column.keyword effictiveness indexNow you should paste each keyword in Google and search for it like this: allintitle: keyword. That way you get to see all the webpages that have that search term in the title. Put the number of search results in the allintitle-column behind the keyword. Then in Google delete ‘allintitle: ‘ and hit enter again. Now you get all the search results (way more). Put that number in the ‘total results’ column. Finally, click in the empty box in the KEI column and devide the local montly volume by the allintitle amount. You now get the Keyword Effectiveness Index. This shows you if you at least have a shot at getting a good position in Google for that keyword. Please bear in mind that you’ve devided the number of monthly searches for your area or country by the world wide number of websites that have that keyword in the title of a webpage. So this KEI only serves as a means to sort all your keywords in a ‘most likely to succeed’ list. Now  I know this is not the most fun chore on your way to online success, but if you put in a few hours work, the rewards will be awesome and I guarantee you will a) earn it back many times and b) laugh and smile all the way when you see the results coming in. So eat the frog and do it. It’ll pay off. And you only have to do this once. Okay, so if you have gone through your list of keywords and have created this Keyword Effectiveness Index that is tailored to your business, you can now sort it according to the KEI column. What you will see is that some search terms are a combination of words that you would not have thought of in the beginning (sectional sofas). And it is very unlikely that the general, main keywords that consist of one or two words (interior design) are high on the list. That’s because every website in your industry is trying to get on the first page in Google for that keyword. Chances are low you can achieve that. But the good news is you now have a bunch of keywords of which the search volume might be relatively low, but the chances of getting on the first page for them are high. These are the keywords you should use in your website, in the title tags of your pages, in the headlines, body text, image descriptions and such. If you are doing Adwords (paid advertising) these are the keywords to focus on. It’s a rookie mistake to spend money on those generic, high search volume keywords. But more on that later. For now, spend some time and create this list of keywords to use them now and in the future. Yes, it’s quite some work, but it is not difficult and you can do this! – Chris –
August 3, 2014
Chris Vermeulen
Stuff Google Likes, Website Improvement, keyword research, keywords, SEO
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