Why keywords matter in SEO

People who don’t understand web design and keywords usually have the impression that you have a couple of keywords that sum up a website and you just throw these all over your site and you will do well... this could not be more wrong. Keywords are a complex system of variations, relationships, positioning, and relevance both on page, across a site, and across multiple websites. Just like building a house, when you build a site you need clear well thought out planning and as keywords will be the primary means of driving traffic to your site you really need to think about the range of keywords and their variations and how to integrate them across you site.

Targeting keywords for traffic

Keywords are a matter of finding the core keyword or keywords that represent your site for your home page and breaking them down into sub category after sub category to define your website layers and pages. Every page should be unique, yes you should usually have a defining theme that draws all your content together in a related way, but you don’t need to target the same keyword across pages. When you do these pages clash, you present search engines with the question - which page do I return? You want to structure your site in a way that says - I want this particular page to show for this keyword or keywords. Heavily targeting the same keywords across multiple pages in a negative way can be looked upon as serious as having duplicate content problems. There is really two aspects to keywords you should consider when you structure your site, how to categories all your pages and in turn develop the central keyword or keywords for each page, and finally how to break down this keyword or keywords even further on the page generating relevant content. Think about the central keyword(s) for each page, how else is the keyword(s) expressed, in the English language you will find there are many variations on even the simplest of words. When you look at combining 2 or more keywords and their variations you will find you can have hundreds of possible combinations. The bulk of these keywords will usually form part of the list of long tail keywords you see in organic and CPC keyword reports.

Targeting keywords across your site

Keyword targeting can be a simple and straightforward process if you adhere to basic principles. Always consider - if I target this keyword on this page will it create a clash with another page, if so is there a way I can integrate this new content into an already existing page or is there a way I can break the page theme down to a more general version that doesn’t clash with another page. Remember at the top level of your site, your home page, you want the most general keyword(s) you can find preferably single words and as few and all-encompassing as possible. These very general keyword(s) will usually generate the most organic traffic. As you go down levels of your site and your site splits out into different sections get more specific with your keywords and define a clear structure that is as balanced as possible between page levels. Figuring out the right number of keywords to target on one page can be a tricky process and it can vary greatly across sites. Generally the higher rank of a page the more keywords you can target but the amount of text content on the page can also play a big role. Balance the amount of keywords within a page and also the amount of keywords targeted across pages. Try not to target too many. It’s crazy to think you can target hundreds of high value, high traffic keywords within one page.

Use keywords within your links

Keywords on your page can be highlighted to search engines in a number of ways. If your site is content heavy, a clever linking structure between your pages using your keywords as anchors will benefit you immensely. The anchor text on backlinks pointing to your site is extremely important and this is true for links within your site also. Don’t go too crazy on your linking though, you don’t want a relatively small paragraph of text crammed full of dozens of links, but rather pick out a small number of keywords within your page to act as doors to a varied selection of other pages of your site. The central keyword(s) of your page should always be contained within your page Meta title and h1 tag. Generally you will want to include it within your Meta description too but you will find with clever writing you can write a Meta description without your main keyword(s) as long it is relevant to your main keyword(s).

Long tail keywords

Creating a variation of a keyword can be as simple as adding another word to it. As you get longer and more specific keywords you will find they drive less traffic but can be targeted much easier. Consider all possible combinations with groups of keywords related to your site. Form lists of long tail keywords ranging from 2 or more words that could drive a lot of relevant traffic to your site and integrate these keyword phrases within your site content. You can tailor your long tail keywords to keywords that are shown within reports like that of the search queries in Google Webmaster Tools.

Breaking keyword associations

One of the most difficult things about optimising a site with very poor keyword targeting that has been online for a long time is breaking keyword associations. Over time keywords associate themselves with pages and search engines build a clear defined link between those keywords and the page they are targeted to. If you are working to optimise a site and you realise that the wrong keywords are being targeted across pages you may want to change the keyword targeting so different keywords are targeted. This can turn into a very long drawn out process whereby you have to wait for search engines to break the link between established pages and their established keywords. Web pages with very high page rank can be difficult to target new keywords on and break the links to old keywords and you can be talking months to get the sort of result you want whereby old keywords which the page was targeted toward no longer bring the page up in search results. You may wish to build a new page that targets the keywords and remove all references from the old page so there is no clash and the new page is perfectly targeted toward the keywords in question. Backlinks to the old page with keywords in the anchor text are actually the source of a lot of the problem, the more backlinks, the longer it’s going to take for search engines to properly figure out you wish to now target the keywords on the new page and not on the old one.

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