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A Primer on Keywords for SEO

Here is a very basic overview of keywords for the average web browser. There are very much more in-depth approaches and strategies I could refer to, but for now, I will just assume that no one has any idea what keywords are and take it from first base. That’s where we all started anyways!

Have you noticed that web searches seem to only respond to certain words you type in the search engine? This is because all webpages are designed with the concept of built-in keywords to help browsers find what they are looking for. A keyword may be a word, a short phrase, or numerals that describe the content of the website and its particular webpage. The more relevant a keyword is or the more descriptive the concept of a keyword is will directly impact the search ranking of the website connected to it. However, a keyword is also only as good as the population the website is directed towards (“bathykolpian support” is probably not the best keyword for a website selling large-sized bras) and will only attract the attention of individuals aware of the meanings of the keywords and titles attributed to a particular concept or product.

Keyword searching is a method used to make search engines faster. Rather than crawling over entire pages or checking your search words against a brief description of each website, a search engine compares the key words in your search to the keywords they connect to websites in an index, designed for easy retrieval. Keywords can be attached to a webpage by its designer or can be automatically catalogued with other methods that extract keywords (often largely inaccurate) based on the number of times a certain word or phrase is used in a webpage. The more relevant the keyword, the higher the search engine ranking. A website that is improperly labeled will quickly fall based on search engine tampering protocols – we call this a black-hat technique in SEO (think, white keywords stuck on a white background – that’ll get you in trouble every time).

Keywords should be both simple and complex, aimed at the casual audience and the technical browser. Keywords should be accurate to the content, even if another keyword might attract more visitors.  If it doesn’t correctly depict the material it could be flagged by a search engine and ignored. More visitors doesn’t always translate to more sales, so focus on quality rather than quantity.  Keywords should include locations where applicable (location, location, location!) and consider the region’s vocabulary in its tagging. Keywords should not be misspelled; if you need help, use spell check or a dictionary.

Often times a web designer or someone intimately knowledgeable of a product will need to think outside the box or ask for the help of an experienced professional to create their keyword lists. Too much familiarity with a product usually comes with keywords that are too complicated for the casual web searcher using natural language. This is why many people outsource their SEO for the knowledge of appropriate keywords that can come from someone detached from the product. Ultimately, a product is only as good as the keyword that describes it.

What are some of your biggest hurdles in coming up with keyword lists? What helps you understand what keywords your customers are using?