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How to Use Keywords?

When a search engine indexes a web page, one of the factors that is considered are the keywords. These keywords are used by the search engine to help determine the content of the site, and to rank the relevancy of the site to the search terms entered by a user. For example, let’s say that you own a store that sells model airplanes in Savannah, Georgia. When designing a web site, your keywords might be some combination of “model airplanes” and “Savannah” or “Savannah, Georgia”. If the site is designed using these keywords, both in the HTML tags and in the actual page content, then a user looking for model airplanes stores in Georgia would see your site near the top of the rankings. So, how and where should these keywords be used?

The first place that the keywords need to be used is in the title of the web page. The title bar is the text that is displayed at the top of the browser window. It is also used as a page title in the rankings produced by many search engines, and as the wording used if a user bookmarks a page. The title used should be no longer than about 70 characters, be readable and contain your keywords. Using the example above, the title may simply read “ABC Model Airplane Store, Savannah”, (ABC referring to the name of the store here). Alternatively, if you consider the location to be less important – maybe you’re targeting Internet customers – it may be something like “Buy Model Airplanes Here”. Keep it simple – don’t try to jazz up the title, anything like that will either be ignored, or the page may be downgraded if it is checked by a human.

Next, the keywords should be used in the meta tags. There are two meta tags that need to be considered, the “description” tag and the “keywords” tag. The first of these should contain a brief description of the web page and its content. There is a maximum size here of 250 characters. Make sure that it is readable, that it contains your keywords, and that your keywords appear near the start of the description. Using our example above, the description for the home page may start by saying “ABC Model Airplane Shop of Savannah stocks a full range of model airplane kits from….” and then continue by listing some of the major brands carried in the store. Don’t just produce a list of keywords - the search engines will reject the page if it is though to be using keyword spamming.

There is a lot of ongoing debate about the importance of the other meta tag, the “keywords” tag. Most search engines no longer use this tag when indexing web pages, and so many argue that it is no longer worth the effort to produce a list of keywords. There is also an argument that the only effect of reproducing a list of keywords in this tag is to hand that list to your competition. I would suggest that if you do go ahead and use the “keywords” tag it should be used, for example, as a list of brands stocked. By doing this you won’t be handing your keywords over to your competitors, and you will get search engine ranking points, in those search engines that still look at the tag, for people looking for the merchandise that you carry.

The last places in the HTML code to which keywords need to be added are the “alt” tags used in anchor and image tags. These were originally designed to help users navigate the web site more easily, but the judicious use here of keywords will help the web page rise in the search engine rankings. As before, don’t go crazy, one ore two keywords are all that is needed for each tag – any more will not only annoy visitors, it could also get your site banned for keyword spamming.

Although putting keywords within the HTML code is important, you must also make sure that the keywords appear in the actual web page content. This is especially important on the home page, as this tends to be the page that the search engines will list most often for simple keyword searches. You should be aiming for a keyword percentage of about 15 % - much more than this may be considered to be keyword spamming. Make sure that the content is understandable and interesting to the visitor – you do want to keep them there, and also encourage return visits. You should try to place the more important keywords nearer to the top of the page – search engines put an additional weighting on this. It will also help your search engine rankings to use keywords in headings, or in bold or emphasized type, as this also ranks more highly with some search engines.

The careful and discriminating use of keywords can help your web site rank more highly in search engine rankings. Please note the choice of words here – indiscriminate use will not only not help your web site – it could actually result in its removal from search engine rankings.

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