A website is the face that your business presents to the Internet, just like a storefront is the face presented by a brick-and-mortar establishment. One way to make sure the right customers or clients see your website is to utilize keywords. Keyword abuse has given keywords and search engine optimization (SEO), a bad name in some circles. But used the right way, keywords are valuable and viable tools for helping your website stand out from the crowd.
How Keywords Work
Search engines crawl the web to seek out content, which they sort, rank and categorize. Keywords and metatags included within your website send a signal to search engine crawlers to include your website in one or more particular categories of similar websites. Keywords also match phrases or terms that people use to search websites containing certain types of content.
If your website contains the keywords or keyword phrases people are searching for, it will appear among the list of results generated by the search engine. On the other hand, if your website contains no keywords, or if the keywords you include in your website don’t match those that people are looking for, your website won’t come up in search engine results, which means that it is much less likely that potential customers or clients will find your website.
Think Like Your Intended Audience
Your website is probably geared toward a particular audience. Likewise, your keywords should relate to what your ideal customer or client is seeking online. In some industries, that means using specific terminology or jargon that practitioners in the business use. However, if you’re a practitioner who works with laypeople, you should also include keywords that describe what you do and the services you offer in everyday language.
For instance, a hairdresser may use the term “product” to refer to styling creams, gels or sprays applied to the hair, so “product” would be a good keyword for a website geared toward practitioners within the trade. However, the term “product” is too broad to use as a keyword for a website designed to attract consumers interested in purchasing products to style their hair. Instead, a better keyword phrase for a consumer oriented website might be “hair styling products.”
If your website caters to consumers as well as practitioners in the trade, you will need to include different keywords to appeal to each audience. You will also want to include both broad and specific keywords within your website to draw in consumers who have different levels of familiarity with your products or services. But be careful – websites are often punished for a perceived attempt to game the system with too many keywords.
Use Keyword Research Tools
Fortunately, you don’t have to guess about what keywords are effective and which ones do not work. Several keyword research tools allow you to investigate keywords you are considering to determine whether they will be effective for your website. Perhaps the best known keyword research tool is the Google Keyword Tool, which is free and tied directly into Google AdWords. Other keyword search tools include KeywordEye, KeywordSpy and SEMRush. Each of these keyword research tools has a free version with limited research functions and a fully-functional paid version.
Keyword research tools allow you to determine which how well keywords perform under a number of circumstances. You can customize many research tools to analyze terms within a small geographical area or across the entire planet. You can also gain an idea of how much competition you have through the number of results shown for each keyword. Translation and localization features for keyword research tools allow you to account for language and regional differences. For instance, a cell phone in Germany is called a “handy.”
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Lazy website owners attempt to game the SEO system by jamming their websites full of keywords included almost in random fashion. Reading the copy on one of these websites is an exercise either in amusement or frustration, depending on the reader’s mood, because the content is so absurd. The strategy is known as keyword stuffing, and nowadays it is one of the most deadly sins of SEO and keyword abuse.
However, websites used to be able to achieve high search engine rankings through keyword stuffing, which was the point behind the practice. After the Google Panda search engine algorithm adjustment and similar measures taken by other search engines, this is no longer the case. In fact, in extreme cases, websites whose owners engage in rampant keyword stuffing are de-listed – removed from search engine results altogether. De-listing is close to a kiss of death for websites that depend on traffic to generate customers or revenue from ads.