I usually wait until this point to start worrying about keyword density.  When you’re writing for search engine optimization (SEO), it’s important to think about what words people will use to find the site you’re working on.  Take a step back, and think about the services or goods you’re writing about.  If you were a customer, what words would you use to search for these goods?  If you were a clueless customer?  If you were a very specific customer?  Location might be important to you; for example, a restaurant would need to show up for the area it actually serves.

The best way to use SEO is to integrate it into the site architecture.  From the bottom up, the urls, page structure, and all those little details are fashioned to be efficient at providing search engines such as Google and Yahoo! with all the right stimuli to find your site.  In these cases, I like to work closely with whoever is behind the actual site building, and they can provide me the keywords to use.  Sometimes, however, I generate them myself.  There are a couple of important things to consider.

First, as I mentioned earlier, location.  Where are you, what area do you service?  Second, generic words that people might use to find you; commonly used words that are still specific enough to your industry.  Okay, so you have the most smashing brand name in the country, and you want your ‘Widgettios’ to have name recognition.  But you can’t count on people searching for Widgettios.  What in the world is a Widgettio, anyway?  So you need to think about it more simply — Widgettios count unshelled peanuts and package them in groups of three.  Think about how a stranger might understand your product.  Incorporate words like ‘peanuts,’ ‘counting,’ ‘packaging’ and ‘legumes’ into your text.  Don’t try for too many keywords at once; stick to something between two and six on each page, depending on where it is and how much text you have to work with.

Google AdWords is extremely helpful with keyword generation — they can give you metrics on how often a string or term is searched.  If you use words that are too general and too widely searched, you will be lost in the crowd.  If you use words that are too obscure, no one will ever find you.  So there’s a delicate balance to reach.  Practice makes perfect, as they say, and Google Analytics can help you determine what searches actually find your pages, so you can work on improving any low-performance issues.

Most people recommend a 3% to 5% keyword density. Some experts do recommend higher or lower densities, and search engines continue to evolve in an effort to continue to deliver effective results. For the current environment, if you are much lower than 3%, search engines will not rank you high enough; but at above 5%, you risk the text sounding very repetitive and wooden.  To find your simple keyword density, take the number of keywords and divide them by the total number of words in your text.  Word processors are handy for this, because you can use the search functions to find words.  I like to put a * by each keyword, then have it count how many *s I have in the document.  Easy-peasy.

It can be challenging at first to insert keywords into your text; personally, I tend to dislike using the same word in a composition more than a couple of times.  It makes reading more interesting when you use synonyms instead.  But drop those barriers for now, and think about which places you can use the same word, without sounding stilted.  Read your piece out loud, and if you start laughing at how silly it sounds, reconsider.

photo by Elektra Noelani Fisher

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 4:48 pm and is filed under Blog, Technicalities. You can leave a comment and follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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