Because keywords help determine the ranking of your website, and therefore how
visible your pages are to Internet traffic, it is important to use keywords properly
in the creation of your site.
In today’s world of Internet lingo, you may frequently hear the terms “keywords,”
“search engine rankings,” and “keyword search results” bandied about.
However, not everyone knows what keywords are, and how important they are to the success
of a website.
Keywords are essentially words or phrases that summarize the topic of a site.
When a Web surfer types a word or phrase into the blank field of a search engine such as
MSN or Google, the search engine returns a list of related sites. Each site on this list
is determined by the presence of the search terms, or keywords, in the site’s meta tags,
image tags, and content.
Keywords and Meta Tags
Meta tags are like a site’s “dog tags.” They identify the site’s title, description,
and keywords. Meta tags are invisible to Web surfers, but they are instrumental in a
search engine’s recognition of the site’s content.
A title tag gives the title of the Web page. A title should only be around six words long,
and the primary keyword – the word or phrase that the site is primarily identified with –
should be in this title tag. The closer to the beginning of the title the primary keyword is,
the stronger the association with that keyword will be.
A Web page’s description tag provides the search engines with a summary of the content contained
on the page. Once again, the primary keywords for this page should be contained in the description,
as close to the beginning as possible. Description tags only allow 200 characters of text.
The keyword tag lists all of the keywords that can be associated with the Web page.
The primary keyword used in the title and description tags should be first, followed by
other keywords in order of importance and relevance. Although keywords can be separated by commas,
they don’t have to be; however, keywords should not be repeated more than three times,
lest the Web page be rejected by the search engines as spam. Between 800 and 1,000 characters
are allowed for keyword text.
Keywords and Image Tags
Image tags are the text that shows up in place of an image, if the image fails to
load for any reason. However, image tags serve a more important function:
they allow the search engines to “read” your images. Without image tags, search engines
have no way of interpreting your images. Therefore, image tags can also help boost the
visibility and relevancy of your site to search engines.
Keywords and Web Page Content
The tags that you use on a Web page are important identifiers for search engines.
However, in order to maintain a respectable search engine ranking, your Web page must
establish relevancy. In other words, the keywords in your tags must pertain to the
actual content on the page. Therefore, the same keywords you list in your tags must
be used within the text your page displays.
The most important part of the content is the opening paragraph. The primary keyword –
the keyword that was used in the title and description, and listed first in the keyword text –
should be used several times in the first paragraph, and then occasionally throughout the rest
of the page. Other, less important keywords can be used occasionally throughout the content,
as well. This will indicate to the search engines that your page really is relevant to the
keywords listed in your tags.
Another way to judge keywords is via a concept called “keyword density.” Keyword density
shows the frequency at which a keyword is used. The density is calculated by taking the
total number of words and dividing it into the number of times keywords appear in the text.
The resulting number is multiplied by 100 to create a percentage. Keyword density can be a
tricky business, however. Too low a density will fail to be noticed by the search engines,
whereas too high a density can cause a Web page to be rejected as spam. Typically,
a keyword density of around 5% is sufficient.
The Importance of Keywords
Keywords are a vital part of the creation of Web pages because they directly affect
how visible the page will be to search engine traffic. The presence of keywords needs to be a
consideration in every aspect of designing a Web page: designing the tags as well as
writing the content. Because of the impact keywords can have on the success of your site,
it’s important to know how to use them properly.