How to Use Keywords Effectively

What are Keywords or Keyword Phrases?

Since most web pages provide textual content for their users, the best way to determine what the web page is about is to examine the words or phrases in it. In a conversation, we are able to understand the context in which words are used. This context and the words used help us understand the meaning of each message in the conversation. While search engines and other organizations dealing with ontologies still attempt to place context around words, the web pages that compose the internet are still mostly just text without much context. Consequently, keywords and keyword phrases in web pages content are the best way to determine the focus of the web page. Keywords or phrases are strings that appear in a higher frequency in the page's text, HTML headings, description, and title. While these are just a few of the most important positions, keywords or phrases can also appear in "title" attributes, "alt" attributes, etc.

Why Focus on Creating Effective Keywords or Phrases?

Search engines use each keyword's frequency of use and order of placement to determine what the page is about. They index these keywords in a huge database that is later used to match web pages with users' search queries. If you want your page to be found in the search results for particular words or phrases, you must effectively use keywords or phrases.

Effectively Using Keywords or Phrases

Before you start creating a page full of keywords, you must understand how search engines treat keywords is a bit more complex than it seems. To prevent spam and provide quality pages to their users, search engines check each keyword or phrase for a certain level of consistency.

Frequency of Keywords

A long time ago, people tried to cheat search engines by creating pages full of just keywords or phrases. The text on the page didn't actually make any sense, but search engines could match the user's query with the page. It didn't take long for search engines to see this malicious behavior. A short time later, they implemented ranges or ratios of keywords to the text. For example, if you had a page that only repeated the word "chocolate" a hundred times; it would have a keyword ratio of 100%. However, if you had the same word only used once on a page that contained 100 words, it would have a keyword ratio of 1%.

While this keyword or keyword phrase ratio is still a secret by search engines, it is believed that a keyword ratio roughly over 4% starts to constitute spamming. It is unlikely that if you are talking about a keyword or phrase, you would use it in every 1 out of 25 words. Actually, a theory somewhere out there on the web says that the closer you get to talking about a particular keyword, the less often you actually use the word and the more you use descriptors of the word.

On the other end of the ratio range, if you rarely use the word or phrase, it is unlikely to be seen as a keyword of the page. How likely is it that a page is about chocolate if the word "chocolate" is only used once? While that theory mentioned earlier seems to indicate that a keyword or phrase would be used less the more the word was discussed, it should still be mentioned somewhat frequently. Again, the range of the ratio is a closely guarded secret by search engines, but it makes sense that a keyword or phrase should appear more than once in every 300 words or roughly 0.3%. Ultimately, keywords should occur naturally from your content, but it never hurts to check and see if you are actually using them enough in your text.

Keyword Placement

A page's title, description, headings, etc. are all ways to summarize the content. Search engines give extra weight to keywords or phrases that are in these elements because they concisely describe the content of the page. As with headings, the level of importance (the number in the tag) can affect how much weight the keyword is given. Additionally, the content ratio applies here as well. If all of your headings use the same keyword or phrase, it probably seems rather spammy. If the keyword is not used in any headings, then the content probably not about that keyword. Always remember keywords are best if they occur naturally in the document because the searcher wants to read about them. If they are looking at the search results, they will likely click on a web page if their search term is in page's title. Also, users have become smarter. They don't just read the page's title, but they also read the page's description to see if their search term is discussed there as well. Search engines want relevant keywords to match their users' search queries. They will user their secret algorithms to rank the value of each keyword or phrase, but it seems fairly obvious that keywords in the page's title, description, and headings are given extra weight.