Implementing Your Keyword Phrases and Optimizing Your Pages
In my last post, I explained why keywords are important. Check it out, if you missed it. Now that you know why they are important, you hopefully have identified your primary and secondary keyword phrases for each page of your website. You need to do the keyword research, before you take the next step, or Google will think your page sucks, and it will never appear on the first page. So, where do those pesky keyword phrases go?
Here comes the Meta
Oh no. She is going to go all technical. I am not. You have enough knowledge to “mess with that technical stuff”, or just tell your webmaster. In case you are curious about what it means, meta data, by definition, is data about data. Meta is something about something. A meta-joke would be a joke about jokes. Get it?
Back to business. To make this easy for web site builders, Google put together a comprehensive guide to explain, in detail, the best practices in their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) starter guide to help you. I am a firm believer in if you want to know what Google wants, ask Google.
There really are only a few pieces of “technical stuff” that you need to concentrate on to get the most out of your keyword phrases.
Page URL. This is an opportunity to seriously tell Google what this page is about. If possible, you want to include the keyword phrase for the page in the title of the URL. Do not use generic names like page1, or home. Remember key words aid in navigation, and some of these are category pages. You should use the category name in the URL of category pages instead of catergory/123456/, and even product pages, should have a real name and not an item number. Product page URL’s need to be very specific to create unique url’s. This is how Google wants your site set up, with a hierarchical order, starting broad and drilling down to the more specific. Also, I recently heard that page urls should be in all lower case and not to use the underline in url’s for the spaces. I will implement that going forward. I am not changing my url’s because things already link to the pages.
Page Title Tag. Title tags are extremely important and should contain the keyword phrase for the page. Each page needs a uniqe title in the site or search engines will get confused. Keep in mind the goal:
To let search engines and people know what this page is about, so search engines know where to index the page (pages are indexed by keyword phrases), and people entering search terms (keyword phrases) can find it.
If that was not important enough, the title also displays in a few key places. The title displays at the top of the page in a browser window, and it displays on the first line for the listing on the search engine results page (SERP). I separate mine with pipes because I like the way they look. Also, someone told me Google considers commas, as separators in the title, as “keyword stuffing” and I try not to do anything that might offend Google.
Try to keep it under 69 characters, because that is all that Google will display. Google wants the title to be descriptive of the page, and concise. I think, at a minimum, the primary keyword phrase, that you are targeting for that page, should go near the front, preferably first, then a pipe, maybe other keywords, another pipe and then your brand name. It should go first because think how you read a SERP, do you only see the beginning or do you actually read the whole thing? (Here is a good reference on title tag SEO, if you wanted to know more about SEO in the title — 40 different ways.)
What our site looks like
For our cast iron pots and pans site, this is what it looks like today. I did a search on open fire cookware. Notice how the word cookware is bold in the first line (title) and in the description (lines 3 & 4). I’m still fixing my keyword phrases since my epiphany. Looking at this, I really should add open fire somewhere in line 3 or 4. Then it, too, would be in bold. Also, I am not using all of my real estate. Adding more would probably rank better.
Keep it Interesting
Meta Description. The description meta tag should be a summary of what that page is about. It should contain, at a minimum your primary keyword phrase for the page. If present, it might be what displays on the SERP, otherwise Google will display what it wants, usually the first lines of the page. Since this is the first thing people see about your business, if they are using a search engine, I recommend putting a call to action verb at the beginning and then your primary keyword phrase as close to the front as possible. Treat it like an ad, and write it for your audience. Keep in mind the goal:
You want people to click on your link and go visit the page.
The more interesting you make it, the more likely they will click on it. It MUST be relevant to the content on the page or Google will penalize it. (I am not sure with Panda, if they would even bother to index it.) You should include your primary and secondary keyword phrases, but do not “stuff” them in. Humans need to be able to read it. Although there is no declaration by Google for the length, I have been told to keep it under 160 characters, including spaces.
Keyword Meta Tags. Use them. Right now, Google does not use them, but other search engines do. Also, do not put single keywords in this field. You need to put keyword phrases. Why? Because you will be wasting your time, and prime real estate, to try to rank for single words. It is all about moving up in SERP, for the words that you can realistically rank for. I have heard various things on quantity. Do not put more than 10, and put at least 3. (I do 5 because that is what I was told to do when I started this and I really have not seen a hard number.) I think it depends on your keyword phrases.
Content IS King!
Page Content. Get those words on the pages. Content is king and with Panda you need content. Do not cut and paste content between pages. Each page needs unique, original content. Change it up or you will be penalized. Your primary and secondary keyword phrases need to actually appear in the text of the page. Keep in mind that any text you have in a flash element is not seen by search engines, so it does not count. Google sees pages only as text, so when you right click and view source, this is what search engines see.
Each page should contain at least 400 words of text. (With Panda, some people are recommending 500 – 800. I am sticking with at least 400.) Keep in mind, it is ALL of the text on the page including the words in the navigation, the header and the footer. There is much debate about how many times they should be present. Some say they should make up 4 -6% of the text. I try to keep it at 4%. I use a text analyzer to check on my distribution. Others believe you should put it once in the first paragraph, once somewhere in the middle, and then once somewhere at the end. I do that and use the extra credit options to help.
Extra Credit from Google
Because Google believes that information “above the fold” is more important, I put the keyword phrase for the page near the top. I also use keyword phrases for navigation, so the secondary keyword phrases show up on every page as well. Google gives extra credit if you emphasize the keyword somewhere on the page, either with bolding or underlining. (I have not seen anything about italics carrying extra weight, but that does not mean that they do not.)
Header tags and Image tags. Another bonus opportunity. Google wants to see the primary keyword phrase used in header tags (H1, H2, etc) on the page. Also, because search engines can not see images, they want the image ALT tag used. Put your primary or secondary keyword phrases in the tag. I usually make the title and the alt tag the same for an image.
Link text. You should put your primary keyword phrase, in the text, that links to the appropriate page, for both internal and external links. You should also use it in the link title. With penguin, you need to vary it. Do not use the exact same phrase to link back over and over to the same page. I do not know how many times the same phrase can link back to a specific page. Anyone? (Add an s, some modifiers like “the” or “a”, rearrange the phrase, whatever to make it slightly different.)
If you are fixing your site, do you need to do it all at once? No. And actually, some people think it is better if you do not. Why? Because Google likes to see your site progress “naturally”. Keep in mind that Google likes fresh content, so by adding/changing a page a day, you will keep it fresh and make them happy. If you change your content regularly, Google will index your pages more often which means you will move up quicker in the SERP.
For fun: This is another photo from our trip out to Ocean Shores, WA. I am not sure what kind of hawk it is, but it looked pretty hanging out at the beach, with the wind ruffling its feathers.
If you have any other places or tips about implementing primary and secondary keyword phrases, please share. What tools do you use to check optimization, any recommendations? How do you think your page looks to Google?
Let’s make the Google Gorilla happy, and get those pages moving up in SERP!