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Keyword and Search Engine Optimization


A search engine generally utilizes a robot to index your site and determine it's relevance. To determine relevancy, the search engine will use multiple methods including keyword density, keyword positioning, link popularity and more. At last count, approximately 10,000 sites referred to themselves as search engines, though only about a dozen (or less) sites need your attention since they drive 97% of the Internet's search traffic.

How they work.
When a visitor logs onto a search engine looking for information, they enter "keywords" about the subject in hopes of obtaining a list of relevant websites. Each search engine operates with its own rules about judging a site's relevancy to a keyword search. They look at text on the web page (body text) as well as words that are not visible to the visitor that reside in the actual code of the web pages. This code includes such things as alt tags, title tags, meta description tags, keyword tags, and others. Depending on the search engine, what you cannot see may represent a far more important part of better ranking than the outward appearance of the page.

Search engines look at how many times a keyword shows up in the various parts of your website as well as the actual location on the page. Make your title as focused as possible. If you sell "help desk software, then title your page "help desk software." If "help desk software" was your desired keyword phrase, then the title section would have a keyword density of 100% and a 33% density for "help", "desk" and "software." As we will discuss later, your title and URL (domain name) need to match as well as your registration.

Some search engines such as AltaVista return a different set of results regarding titles that are capitalized versus those that are not. For instance,a search for "world trade" would return a different set of results than a search for "World Trade." So you really need to determine whether or not you think people are typing in your product or service with or without capitals.

Meta Description
Your description is really your sales pitch. Once the web searcher has conducted a search and started to review the listings, he or she will then look at descriptions. Making it as readable as possible, you should fill your description with your keyword phrases, trying to leave out as many non-keyword phrase words as possible. Your description should be about 20 words long with your most important keyword phrase first, followed by the next most important and so forth. Once you have listed your keyword phrases, try to make the description sensible. The reason for adding all of those additional keyword phrases is that you are adding additional possibilities to be found under various keyword combinations. The more words, the more variations resulting in more traffic.

The body of the webpage, on average, should have a keyword density of 3%. It should start off with your Meta tag description to reinforce the body. It should also be in a H1 (header 1), if possible. Additionally, you should position your keyword phrases strategically throughout your page. The first line of the first paragraph should have as many of your desired keyword phrases as possible. It should also be in a H2 (header 2). Continue to place your keywords throughout your web page with a higher level of keyword density closer to the top.

Image ALT (alternative) tags
You should always use your image ALT tag to display your keywords, with one exception. Your first image ALT tag should contain your page's description. Google and a few other search engines ignore the Meta description and grab what they determine to be the description from the first group of words they find. If you were to use just your keywords, then Google would consider that you are spamming them and if they accept your page, it would be ranked pretty low.

Site Map
You should place a link to a "site map" page within your main menu on the index page, as well as any pointer pages. Search engines seem to weigh pages found on the main page of the domain more heavily than those that are two and three levels down on the site tree. They also like to follow links to other pages. Using a site map is a way to feed the search engine your pointer pages as well as other pages on your site.

NOTE: Having the keywords appear over and over in your page may get you penalized as a "spammer."

Keyword Density
This is the number of times your searched keyword or phrase occurs within your Title, Description and URL in relation to the number of non-keywords. For example, let us suppose your HTML Title is "Cosmetic Surgery Information'' and your Description is "provides skin care products and cosmetic facial plastic surgery procedures." If the search phrase was cosmetic surgery, your Title's keyword density would score 66% (two out of three words match) and your Description would score 20% (two out of ten words match). Additionally, if you were fortunate enough to have www.cosmetic-surgery.com as your URL, you would most certainly gain additional relevancy points by scoring 100% keyword density in the URL. Based on our research. it is clear that reducing the number of non-keywords and adding to the number of relevant keywords is highly beneficial. A description such as "provides skin care products and cosmetic facial plastic surgery procedures" is not as good as "provides cosmetic surgery information about cosmetic facial plastic surgery procedures" because the first example contains more non-relevant words than the second example. The first example has a keyword density score of 20%, the second, 40%.

Keyword Location
This is the relative location of your keywords in your Title, Description, URL, Meta tags and body. In the past, the optimum strategy involved saturating your Title, Description and URL with many different keywords to enhance relevancy in several different searches. Generally speaking, the best strategy was to use a source like Overture's search term suggestion tool to identify the most sought after (i.e., popular) keywords, and insert them into your Title, Description, URL and source code.

Our research is showing that keywords located within your URL are vitally important. Apparently, they score best when they are separated by a hyphen -- especially when you are looking to score well with a second and/or third keyword in the keyword phrase. Here’s an example. In a search for the key phrase --facial plastic surgery-- the URL http://www.facial-plastic-surgery.org gets relevancy credit for all three words -- facial, plastic and surgery. On the other hand, the URL http://www.facialplasticsurgery.org gets credit only for the keyword facial. Also worth noting is our finding that the URL http://www.facialplasticsurgery.org gets no credit whatsoever for any of the three keywords in the search phrase facial plastic surgery. Apparently, search engines place more weight on the first word used in a searched keyword phrase. For instance, when searching for "cosmetic surgery," "Cosmetic" carries much more weight than "surgery." Finally, keywords grouped together comprising the keyword phrase carry more weight than if they are separated by non-keywords. For instance, the phrase, "the latest in cosmetic laser surgery technology" is not as good as, "the latest in cosmetic surgery laser technology."

Keyword Weight
Keywords also, in and of themselves, carry weight. The more popular a keyword is the more weight it carries. For instance, in Overture last month there were 105,680 searches for the keyword "space" and 12,326 searches for the keyword "shuttle", and 31,134 searches for the keyword phrase "space shuttle". Obviously, "space" is the weightier word but somewhat vague for there are other uses for the word "space". "Space shuttle" is much more targeted and still more sought after than "shuttle" alone. So "space" is the heaviest word but "space shuttle" is the more targeted keyword phrase. (More on this when selecting keyword phrases.)

A directory utilizes a human being who will visit your site, go page to page and review your site in its entirety (for the most part). The human reviewer of your site will, in turn, place it in a category. The categories are usually designed somewhat like a phone book in which sites are listed alphanumerically (With the exception being DMOZ, which ignores the numeric aspect).

Yahoo's new default search is no longer sorted by the old alphanumeric standard. Instead, they are sorting data more akin to the way a conventional search engine determines relevancy based on multiple algorithmic factors. Much of what works for the Search Engines now works for Yahoo except that they still concentrate primarily on the Title, Description, URL and category placement. It also seems that Yahoo includes "link popularity" when determining relevancy. Directories are becoming more like search engines and vice versa. Design your site to work well in the directories and then supplement it with pointer or location pages to work well in the search engines. This will help you gain good traffic from both the directories and search engines.

Category Weight
The category closest to the main category carries more weight. This advantage reduces in value the deeper you drill into the categories. Assuming all other factors are equal, a site listed in Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Health would normally score better than an otherwise equal scoring site listed in Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Health > Cosmetic Surgery with one basic twist. If the keyword phrase appears in the category list (as cosmetic surgery does), then that category carries more weight for it is more relevant to the searched term. Therefore, we will be focusing on building your site for the directories and then supplementing with additional pages to help with the search engines.


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