Front Door © by Ken Doerr

When you walk into a room – whether it’s a comfy family room or a bustling kitchen – you look around.  You sense the atmosphere.  You expect to see certain things, and you begin to understand where you are.

Using keywords is a lot like decorating a room.  There’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.

Keywords are the foundation for every search engine strategy.  Search engines (like Google) use keywords to understand your site.

Imagine your web page is a room and Google is entering your room for the first time.  What will Google notice first?  What stands out the most?  What can you do to draw attraction to something?

Use keywords and phrases to help Google understand your web pages. 

A little strategy in using your keywords can go a long way, because how and where you place them makes a big difference. Here’s a ranking of keyword tactics, in order of importance to Google:

1.  URL:  If you can, select a URL for your website that contains your strongest keyword — something like www.GreenTea.com, www.PlasticScrews.com, or www.NapervilleWebDesign.com.   Think of this as the doorway to your web page; it’s the first thing Google sees, so it’s very important.

2.  Title Tag:  The title tag is the second thing Google sees – sort of like the threshold Google must cross to enter.  It’s also very important, and yet many people overlook this when creating their websites.  Each Page Title meta tag should use a strong keyword for each page.  Order is important, too, so while it’s okay to put your company name in the page title, put your keyword first.

3.  Header:  Now that Google’s “in” your room, it’s looking for things that stand out – like a big sofa or a beautiful fire place.  The header (using the H1 tag) is that sofa.  It’s up front, and it’s also usually in a bolder font or a bigger size.  Google knows that if you’re making something big and bold, it must be important.  Put your best keywords or phrases as close to the front of your header as you can for the biggest impact.

4.  Subheads:  If the header is a big sofa, the subheads (H2 and H3 tags) are brightly colored accent pillows.  Like the header, subheads are also usually bolder or bigger – and therefore attract Google’s attention.  Break up long paragraphs into shorter sections, and start each section with a subhead that uses strong keywords.

5.  Link text:  If Google were standing outside of your room looking in, the link text would be the window.  When possible, use your keywords when you write links to a page.  For example, rather than writing “click here”, try “Click here to read about green tea health benefits”  to tell Google what the page is about.

6.  Alt tags:  The Alt tag is the text that appears when you hover over an image on a web page.  Google can’t read images, but it can read Alt tags.  Not using Alt tags is like having a bookshelf in your room with all the spines facing in; you know they’re books, but you have no idea what they are.  Always use Alt tags, and always use keywords in your Alt tags – so Google knows that both the image and the page are consistently about the same thing.

7.  Throughout the Content:  Think of your content as the pattern made by the wallpaper and carpeting in your room.  Use your keywords consistently throughout your page, but make sure they look nice too.  If you overstuff your page with the same keyword repetitively, Google will penalize you.  If you use too many different keywords, Google will get confused and not understand what your page is about.  And if you use your keywords in all the right places but they don’t make sense to your readers, you’ll never sell your product or service.

Keywords aren’t the only part of an effective SEO strategy, but they’re the easiest to implement.  Follow these recommendations when you choose where to place your keywords, and you’ll be well on your way to solid results in the search engines!