Unlocking the power of keywords
Like the advent of TV starlets on the small screen, search engine optimisation (SEO) has risen in prominence as the internet advances onto every desktop, tablet and smart phone across the globe. All in the cause of appeasing the search engines, gods of the online world.
Google, the über god, dominates internet search – whatever users want to find, Google will call it up for them. Thus websites have to dance ever faster and perform ever smarter to satisfy Google’s standards. SEO is all about giving Google what it wants. And let’s not forget that other search engines like Yahoo and Bing are also picky casting agents.
Most business owners now know that they need SEO on their websites, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what this is. In this series of blog posts we break down the topic of SEO into plain English. We focus on keywords, quality content, links, website traffic and conveying authority in the market.
Here we look at the importance of using keywords on a website.
What is your audience looking for?
Understanding keywords starts with knowing what your audience is looking for. If they are going to be searching for the products, services or information you have on offer, what search terms will they use when they conduct a search online? These search terms are the keywords that you need to use.
For instance, if someone goes online to find a pizza delivery outlet, they might type ‘pizza delivery’ into the search bar. Or they could refine the search to ‘fast pizza delivery Edenvale’ or ‘gluten-free pizzas’. If the pizza restaurant has incorporated these search terms into its website content, Google will be able to find it. In turn, if the keywords are missing from the website, it will go undiscovered.
You probably have a good understanding of what keywords you should use on your website, but some keyword research will help you to identify them more accurately. The more complex the topic, the more intricate the research.
Let’s say you are a surgeon who specialises in a procedure called Nissen Fundoplication (repair of hiatus hernias which can cause severe heartburn). You’d like to appear on page 1 of Google search results but there are 50 other surgeons in the city who do the same thing, and there are only 10 positions available on page 1. So you drill down and find all the variations of search terms relating to the topic and you check out which ones are used the most and which ones give the most precise description of your service.
The research could show that there are 10 primary search terms you should be using. Since Google likes to keep things simple – one primary search term per page – this determines that you should create 10 different pages to accommodate the 10 search terms (which is where the architecture of your website starts to get interesting).
What is Google looking for?
The next step is how to use the keywords.
When the Google crawlers go hunting, they search through the headings and body text on each page. A good SEO writer will know where to place the keywords for maximum effect. The trick is to keep the content natural and ensure a good read. Use the keywords too often and not only will your text sound stilted and boring, but Google will reject your offering because of keyword stuffing.
Google also looks behind the scenes at the text that is loaded at the back end of the website, the part that readers don’t see. Like the tags for images and the page descriptions. Did you know that every page on your website needs a unique URL (e.g. www.drfredsmith/medical-procedures/hiatus-hernia-repair)? If you use duplicate page URLs, you won’t get a call back.
Then there’s the page title – that’s the bit that shows up as a heading on a search engine results page (SERP). It needs a keyword as well if you want it selected for display. The same applies to the meta description (sometimes called the meta tag) which is the snippet of text that appears under the page title.
The page titles and meta descriptions also have character limits (around 70 and 150 characters respectively, including spaces). And they should be catchy and concise – because you want users to pick you and not one of the other sites on the page.
It takes skill to write great content for a website and also incorporate keywords correctly. Many business owners and web developers still don’t understand that SEO writing is a specialised copywriting technique. Which explains why so many companies still write their own web content, and why their web developers don’t advise them against this. And why their websites don’t rank well on Google.