Keywords are the most essential SEO feature for any search engine since they are what search strings are compared against. Thus, selecting the proper keywords to optimize for is the first and most important stage in launching a successful SEO strategy.
If you fail at the very first step, the path ahead will be quite rough, and you will most likely squander your time and money. There are numerous methods for determining which keywords to optimize for, and the final list is usually made after a careful analysis of what the online population is searching for, which keywords your competitors have chosen, and, most importantly, which keywords you believe best describe your site.
Selecting the Best Keywords to Optimize For
It appears that the days of effortlessly topping the results for a one-word search query are long gone. Now that the Web is so heavily filled with sites, achieving consistent top rankings for a one-word search query is nearly difficult. Achieving consistent top rankings for two- and three-word search strings is a more attainable objective.
For example, if you have a dog-related website, DO NOT try to optimize for the keywords “dog” or “dogs.” Instead, try focusing on phrases such as “dog obedience training,” “small dog breeds,” “homemade dog food,” “dog food recipes,” and so on. Success with very popular one-two word keywords is tough and frequently not worth the effort; instead, concentrate on less competitive highly specialized keywords.
The first step is to generate keywords that describe the content of your website. Ideally, you know your users well and can properly predict what search terms they will use to find you. You may also use the Website Keyword Suggestions Tool to get a preliminary list of keywords. Run your first keyword list via the Google Keyword Suggestion tool to generate a related list of keywords. Shortlist a few keywords that appear relevant and have significant worldwide search traffic.
When selecting keywords to optimize for, keep in mind not just the projected monthly amount of searches, but also the relevance of these terms to your website. Although specialized keywords receive fewer searches, they are far more useful than general keywords since people are more likely to be interested in your services. Assume you have a section on your website where you provide tips on what to look for when adopting a dog.
You might find that the term “adopt german shepherd” yields better results than “german shepherd dogs.” This article is sole of interest to potential german shepherd owners, not present german shepherd owners. Consider the unique hits that fit within the topic of your site when looking at the number of search hits each month.
Density of keywords
Following the selection of keywords that define your site and are ostensible of interest to your readers, the following step is to make your site keyword-rich and have excellent keyword density for your target keywords. Although keyword density is no longer a significant element in SEO, it is still a frequent indicator of how relevant a page is. In general, the higher the term density, the more relevant a page is to the search query. The suggested density for the primary two or three keywords is 3-7 percent and 1-2 percent for lesser keywords.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, an attempt to optimize for a fair amount of keywords – 5 or 10 is sufficient. If you try to optimize for a list of 300 keywords, you will quickly realize that it is just not feasible to have a decent keyword density for more than a few keywords without making the content sound unnatural and keyword-stuffed. Worse, keyword stuffing is punishable by harsh penalties (including a ban from the search engine) since it is considered an unethical activity that attempts to manipulate search results.
Keywords in Unique Locations
Keywords are highly essential not only in terms of number but also of quality – for example if you have more keywords in the page title, headers, and opening paragraphs, this counts more than having numerous keywords towards the bottom of the page. The reason for this is that the URL (and especially the domain name), file names and directory names, the page title, and headings for the different sections are more important than ordinary text on the page, and thus, all else being equal, if you have the same keyword density as your competitors but have keywords in the URL, this will boost your ranking incredibly, particularly with Yahoo!
Keywords in File Names and URLs
A site’s domain name and whole URL reveal a lot about it. The assumption is that if your site is about dogs, you will have the words “dog,” “dogs,” or “puppy” in your domain name. For example, if your site is mostly about dog adoption, it is far preferable to call your dog site “dog-adopt.net” rather than “animal-care.org,” because the first case has two significant keywords in the URL, whereas the second contains no more than one potential minor keyword.
Don’t be greedy while looking for keyword-rich domain names. While it is better for SEO to have 5 keywords in the URL, think how lengthy and difficult the URL will be to remember. As a result, you must create a balance between the keywords in the URL and site usability, which states that more than three words in the URL is much too many.
You are unlikely to come up with a slew of fantastic ideas on your own. Furthermore, even if you come up with a handful of good domain names, they may already be taken.
The names of files and directories are also significant. Pages with a keyword in the file name are frequently given precedence by search engines. For example, http://mydomain.com/dog-adopt.html is not as excellent as http://dog-adopt.net/dog-adopt.html, but it is far superior to http://mydomain.com/animal-care.html. The advantage of keywords in file names over keywords in URLs is that they are easy to modify, for example, if you decide to shift to a different specialty.
Page Title Keywords
The page title is another unique location since the contents of the title> element are typically shown in most search engines (including Google). While it is not required by the HTML standard to write something in the title> element (i.e. you may leave it empty and the browser’s title bar would read “Untitled Document” or something similar), for SEO purposes, you should not leave the title> tag empty; instead, write the page title in it.
Page names, unlike URLs, can be lengthy. Continuing with the dog example, the title> tag of the home page for http://dog-adopt.net may look like this: title>Adopt a Dog – Save a Life and Bring Joy to Your Home<title>, <title>Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Dog<title>, and so on.
Normally, headings divide paragraphs into related subtopics. While it may be meaningless to have a heading after every other paragraph from a literary standpoint, it is highly beneficial from an SEO standpoint to have as many headings on a page as possible, especially if they include the keywords.
Although there are no technical length restrictions for the contents of the <h1>, <h2>, <h3>,… hn> tags, common sense dictates that excessively long headers are detrimental to page readability. As with URLs, the length of headers must be considered. Another thing to think about is how the heading will be displayed. If it is Heading 1 (<h1>), it typically indicates a bigger font size, and in this case, it is recommended to have less than 7-8 words in the heading, otherwise, it may stretch over 2 or 3 lines, which is not acceptable and should be avoided if possible.