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September 13, 2007

Key Wording Your Web

Ever since the beginning of search engines there has been the discussion of key wording. Obviously your web page has to be about something and you want the search engine to reflect that in its results. In the early days of search engines you could put words or phrases anywhere on a page and show up in the results. People who just wanted traffic would get list of the most popular used keywords and just put them on a page. The page could have been about toilets but show up in search results about Hollywood celebrities. In those days finding what you wanted was a daunting task. So the search engines started looking at natural language. Each year they have become more sophisticated about how they look at natural language.

The first thing they did was to stop looking at keyword meta tags. Too often people were putting keywords in that did not match their page. Next they started punishing people for putting strings of key words together, such as baseball baseball baseball. Next they paid attention to whether or not they were used in a sentence. Then they started evaluating the content of the page to see what it was about. Buy this time they were getting really accurate in their search results. But as long as there are search engines people with try to fool them. For the last couple of years search engine optimization people have promoted keyword stuffing. This is where you put the keyword in the text as often as you could fit it in.

A new generation of natural language algorithms has been developed by the major search engines to combat this. Now for the first time we are hearing the use of the term natural language. Now search engines look at the way that a term is used. They compare the use of the term in the context of how it is used. This example is a little extreme but we have all seen pages written like this.

“I bought baseball cards for my friend the baseball card lover. He was so happy to get the baseball cards and he looked at baseball cards. Then he showed these baseball cards to all his friends that had baseball cards.”

This is an example of how the term baseball card was used outside of natural language. In natural language you would not refer to your friend as the baseball card lover. In later uses you would have used the term “them” to describe the baseball cards. The sentence would look like “He was so happy to get them that he took the time to look at each one”.

It is still important to get your keywords or keyword phrases on the page regularly. Care needs to be given on how they are used. It is important to have them in compete sentences and not in an abnormal place in the context of a paragraph. Here are some guidelines you might consider. No one knows the exact algorithms that the search engines use and they all have different ones. But one is to presume that they are based on the natural use of language so the following recommendations are based on basic grammar and the normal use of language.
Here are some examples of natural use of key words.

  1. It is natural to have your keywords in your title and description meta tags. These tell what your page is about and your page should be about the same thing as your keywords are.
  2. It is natural to have your keywords in your heading tags. Heading tags should be used as chapter headings to different sections of a page.
  3. In is natural to have your keywords in the first sentence.
  4. It can be natural to have your keywords appear one in most paragraphs.
  5. It can be natural to have your keywords appear more than once in a paragraph but not every paragraph. You need to make sure that it fits well and does not sound like it was just stuck in there.

Here are some examples of non-natural uses of keywords.

  1. It is not natural to have your key words more than once in your title or description.
  2. It is not natural to have your key words to show up more than once in a sentence. There are times that this could be natural but it would probably be better to make it into two sentences.
  3. It is not natural for the same sentence to appear in several different paragraphs.
  4. In a short paragraph it is not natural for your keywords to show up more than twice. In a paragraph over 6 sentences long this may not hold true. (I publish health related web pages and read hundreds of health articles a month. There are times that I will see a term used 3 times in a long paragraph and almost never in a short one.
  5. It is not natural to have keywords used back to back in a sentence. It is not typical to have one sentence end in a word and the next sentence to begin with it.
  6. It is not natural to have every sentence begin with the same word or phrase.

Following these guidelines may help you with the search engine positioning but it will definitely make your page more enjoyable for your visitors.

Author:  Rusty Ford Editor