Friday, June 09, 2006


Keyword Selection - The First Step In Website Optimization

Everything in website optimization and website marketing is based around keywords. The first and most important step in this process is keyword selection. Normally you focus on 2-3 for each page of your website. Of course, your home page is the most important, but a good webmaster knows that each page could be a possible entry point and most should be optimized.

This article will discuss some of the tools and techniques of the trade!

You start with what you think your customers would type in - if they were in the market for your product. Normally these are 2-3 word phrases. Most people who are ready to buy have refined their search by using at least 2 words in their search. One word phrases (in general) tend to be too vague and competitive. They seldom bring the results that the customer is interested in either. To that end, it may bring a lot of traffic, but it is very expensive and not very focused traffic.

Unfortunately, you may not choose the keywords that many others do. If your selection is keywords people seldom type in, then you are not likely to get many visitors - even if you are number one for that keyword. If your keywords are very competitive and you are not an SEO expert, then you are not likely to get the top position. You ideally want achievable goals. You want to optimize for keywords that you have a chance of getting a good ranking in. And you want these keywords to be the ones that bring paying customers to your website. It's all about the right balance.


1) The keyword selection tool from Digital Point. After typing in your idea of a good keyword, it shows various alternatives and how often it was requested in WordTracker and in Overture in one day. This is great information! It tells you what keywords are used more than others. If you chose a flop, you could easily pick a better one.
2) The Google Adwords keyword selection tool is another great freebee. When using this, I normally select the keyword popularity option. This will show the keyword you selected, various synonyms, and their relative popularity and competitiveness.


In a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper, write the following columns:

The Keyword Phrase is the phrase you are investigating. It may be the one you initially chose, or it may be one of the automated suggestions from one of these tools. If you think it would be a good one to use, write it down.

WordTracker Search: Write down the number of searches that WordTracker has in a given day. This is not Google or Yahoo searches, but the proportions should be pretty similar. Bigger numbers is better.

Now use the Google keyword selection tool for that keyword.

Google Search Volume: Write down a numeric representation of the graph shown (0-10) for your keyword. Bigger volume is better. This should complement the WordTracker numbers. Big numbers in both is a good sign. Normally when I start, I sort the list of suggested keywords by search volume. This keeps me from looking at keywords that are hardly being used by my customers.

Google Competition: This is AdWords competition, but this is also reflective of the competitiveness of the market for that keyword phrase. The smaller the competition the easier it will be for you to optimize for this keyword. If this number is high, then lots of people are trying to be positioned for this keyword - and spending money on it. Those that look like a 7-10 in this category will likely take more effort. People are spending money for these keywords - and likely on both SEO techniques and AdWords.

If you are wanting an "easy keyword" to be found on, sort them by the Google AdWords competition. Look for keyword phrases that have no competition, but have some significant searches.

Now open a new browser at and do a Google search for your keyword phrase.

# Google Results: Write down the number of pages Google has returned for that keyword phrase. This is in the top-right of the page. Lower numbers are better. If there are less pages available for a given keyword, you fare a better chance at having good position.

Avg # backlinks: This is the average number of backlinks for the top position. For each of the top three type in link: to see how many other webpages they have linked to them. Write down the average number of backlinks the top 3 have. If they have a lot of webpages linked to them, then you have a lot of work to do - in a link-building campaing. This can be time consuming and expensive.


Now you try for "achievable goals". You want to choose 3 keywords that you are going to optimize your page for. Each of these must be good bets of driving some traffic to you.

One of these should be an "easy goal". Look for a keyword phrase that is not very competitive, but has enough targeted customers to be worth attempting. Often this will be one that has a smaller number of searches - but that is OK. This is something that you may be able to achieve in a shorter amount of time, hopefully within 4-6 months. If you read up on the SEO halo effect, you may have a clue on why we start with at least one easy goal.

One of these should be a "reach goal". It should be one that will drive a lot more traffic to your site, but is not too competitive that it would break your pocketbook. There is always time and money involved with any website optimization efforts. Don't be surprised if it takes over a year to reach this goal.

For the third, I usually choose another "reach goal".

Now you need to design and optimize your website for these keywords... If you are choosing a domain name, you should consider having one of your keywords within it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Website Optimization - A SEO Specialist Reveals All

Search Engine Optimization is the process of tailoring your website to be found on the internet when someone types certain keyword phrases in a search engine like Google or Yahoo. Search engines can drive targeted customers to your website – those who are interested in your product. But this takes a lot of work.

Search Engine/Website optimization is the first step in promoting your website. Those with foresight will have a SEO-savvy webmaster (such as myself) build the website that is optimized from the start. Otherwise, a website may need a SEO-facelift later to help it be digestible to the search engines - and to make it obvious to the search engines that the keywords you are trying to be found under are truly relevant to your website. Like any specialty, performing website optimization involves skills, special tools, and a willingness to keep up with current changes in the market.

For those who want to do it themselves, here are the steps.


The first step in website optimization is to make sure you have well-formatted HTML. I would encourage you to use the following tool to check this: Do your best to get your website as close to conformance as possible.

If you use CSS, then use a CSS validator at There is rarely an excuse for not having it validate here.

If you follow most of the suggestions for having valid HTML code your web pages will be more digestible for the search engines, as well as being much more cross-browser compliant. You should also do this after any significant edit of the web page - to ensure that it is still compliant.

The second step in website optimization is to work on the Meta tags and the title tag for each page in your site. These are in the header of your web page document and need to be tailored to attract users who type in one of a select group of keywords. If you need a tool to help generate these, use this meta tag generator tool here ( that I built.

The title tag:

The title tag is, of the three, the most important for the major search engines. Don't make this too long - normally no more than 6 words. But have your most important keywords here. Some SEO specialists advise that even the order of the text here is significant. They suggest that if you place your company name in the title, that it should be placed last so the other keywords are being considered with greater weight.

The meta-keywords tag:

This is now of lesser importance than before, due to abuse by webmasters to achieve high rankings. However, it is still important and is required by many of the smaller search engines. Make sure that you don't repeat any keyword or keyword phrase more than three times. That would be considered Spam (bad SEO tactics) by the search engines. Remember, your visitors will see the title of the web page. Make it useful to them as well.

The meta-description tag:

This is of higher importance than the keywords tag. Several search engines use it when they show your listing. It needs to encourage your potential visitors to visit your website. Of course, having keywords in here is important. But keep the primary purpose in mind as you write it. Here too, you should make sure that you don't repeat any keyword or keyword phrase more than three times.

Each page in your website needs its own tailored title, meta-description, and meta-keywords tag. These need to be focused on the keywords you are trying for. (These are the words or phrases you want to be found at when people are doing searches.) These shouldn't normally be the same on every page. They should be customized to the content that is on that page. You should also keep your visitors in mind as you write them.

The third step is to work on your content - especially on your home page. Ideally you would have between 800 - 1200 words of text. It should have your most important keywords at the top, middle and the bottom of the text. If possible, use an "h1" tag at the top for your title - and have your most important keyword imbedded in it. Also, have some of your keywords in a sentence or phrase that is bolded. Keep it natural for your visitors to read. If it doesn't look natural, you will loose any visitors you have attracted.

The fourth step in website optimization is to edit your links and your images to make full use of the "title" and "alt" attributes.

Text links can have a "title" attribute. The content is to more fully describe your link. When you put your mouse over the link, the content of the "title" attribute is displayed. I would encourage you to tailor the description so that it contains at least one of your keywords - but keep it accurate - that it really does describe the link. It must make sense to the common user.

Images HTML tags can have an "alt" attribute. It is used to describe an image when you put a mouse over it. It is also used for different devices for seeing impaired. Also, it is used when the user decides not to show images with the web site. They will see this text instead. (It is the "Alternate Text" for the image.) Try to incorporate some keywords here too - but keep with the spirit of being the "alternate text" for the image.

If you are using tables, you may even include a table "summary" attribute. The purpose of this attribute is to assist for those with disabilities to understand the contents and structure of a table. Keep all summary comments within that purpose - and add keywords only where appropriate. Note that these summary attributes may cause your web page validator to spit up an error - but this is newer item that is encouraged.

The fifth step is to have a good menu system or a site map. Search engines follow links to find the different pages in your site. If your navigation is one of those JavaScript drop-down menus or Flash menus, the search engines may not find all of your pages unless you have an alternative non-JavaScript link path that they can follow. If you use the fancy JavaScript links, you should have a hard link to a site map on every page. The site map should have a real non-JavaScript list of links that the search engines can follow to map out your whole site. As a standard policy I tend to avoid the JavaScript links in the menus.

If you haven't chosen a domain name yet, you may strongly consider having your top keyword phrase in the domain name, with the words separated by dashes. This is an excellent idea, but not always feasible. Many companies already have a domain name selected, or prefer to use their company name as the domain name. This is a business decision left up to the customer.

Don't create and market mirror sites though to accomplish this trick either. Sites that are identical in content, but have a different domain name are considered SPAM (bad/taboo) by the search engines. They don't appreciate such tricks, and the ranking of both websites will suffer for it.

Also, don't get too crazy with stuffing keywords where they don't belong or by repeating keywords or by having keywords in hidden layers. Search engines don't like that and will ban your site.

I have used IBP and SEO Studio to do website analysis during my optimization. Both have been invaluable tools for analyzing how saturated my keywords are in a particular web page, and giving good guidance on how to improve my rankings. Both have free trial periods - it is worth checking them out. They are reasonably priced and I have been very satisfied with their performance. It is easy to see such things as keyword density relevance for the whole web page. It also is helpful in showing where the keywords are not (and can be). You will learn a lot about website optimization just by using these tool! If you are serious about website promotion, this is a must!

After all this "Search Engine Optimization" you need to do a human review your website - is it natural/useful/helpful for the human visitor? Remember, getting website traffic is only half the game. This site needs to quickly convert them into paying customers.

Once it is "Optimized", then you need to let the search engines know that you exist. Only after it is ready should you tell them about it. But this is a subject for another article. Do a search of different article warehouse or SEO news sources. You will find a lot of information on this.

Since there are new quirks in the website optimization and website promotion that come out all the time - some that apply to all search engines, and some that apply to a particular one, it is wise to keep up to date. I strongly encourage you to join a couple of relevant mailing lists!

I really like the news sources from If you submit a site through them, I would encourage you to accept their free newsletters. They have great content.

Another place to get really great articles on website optimization or promotion is They also allow you to subscribe to their articles. Do this!

If you are serious about keeping up with your website positioning, keep up with the news. You will find these resources invaluable!

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