A web site, like any other property, requires maintenance.
Today I wish to discuss proactive keywords maintenance. (Disclaimer: I'm not a specialist in Search Engine Optimization, but rather a non-profit site owner managing the site by himself.)
Keywords (single-word, or blank-separated multi-word strings) should be maintained for one purpose: improve ranking of your site in search results. Keywords should match popular search patterns having high affinity to your site's business.
Web sites are automatically scanned for keywords and indexed by search engine bots (web crawlers).
There are several locations in the pages where keywords should be placed (I suggest Links and Traffic Tutorial as good introduction), notably:
- <meta name="keywords" content="<keyword>,<keyword>,..."> within <head> section
- <title> tag within <head> section
- page contents.
The following basic guidelines can be applied to keywords:
- Title should include most important keywords in addition to site / product name
- Meta tag should optimally include 10 keywords, since search engines may decrease keywords ranking if there are more of them
- Keywords in the title and in the meta tag should correlate with the page contents (should be repeated within the page one or several times)
- Pages should not be cluttered with keywords, otherwise many visitors will exit the site immediately after entering it (high bounce rate)
Why Keywords Require Maintenance?
For a number of reasons:
- Search habits evolve with time, and keywords frequently used 1 or 2 years ago may differ from those used now
- Pages are constantly updated, and correlation between keywords within meta tag and within page is weakened
- Your business evolves, and some keywords are not suitable anymore, while others are missing
You especially should do keyword maintenance if you notice low, or decreasing, rate of visitors landing from search engines.
Keyword Analysis and Site Adjustment
You can employ Google Search-Based Keyword Tool to analyze keywords usage in actual searches via Google. Similar tools are provided by some other search engines.
Check keywords used by competing sites, since you may wish to match them or to stand out with different but popular keywords.
Allocate enough time to keyword analysis, and choose the best 10 keywords for each 'direct landing' page.
Adjust <title> and <meta> tags, and modify pages text to naturally include new keywords.
Advertise Keywords (Optional)
If you have advertisement budget, you may allocate some of it to keyword-based advertisement programs (such as Google AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter, Yahoo YSM) that will put you on the first pages of the search results for the advertised keywords, according to contract conditions.
Follow-Up and Tuning
Use site usage statistics (free Google Analytics, statistics tool provided by your Internet service provider, or a commercial statistics tool) to analyze keywords that landed visitors on your pages from search engines.
It is important to check bounce rate for each keyword - high bounce rate means that visitors immediately leave the page.
Keywords with lower landing rate, or higher bounce rate than expected can be replaced by repeating the above process.
Google provides Google Web Site Optimizer tool that allows creating multiple versions of pages and accidentally routing search engine visitors to one of the versions. By analyzing landing and bounce rate for each version, optimal keywords (among other) can be chosen faster than by regular sequential tuning process.
Keyword Maintenance is Not Enough!
To increase your ranking in the search engines, you also have to:
- Increase number of inbound quality ('natural') links to your pages (see Links and Traffic Tutorial)
- Decrease bounce rate from your pages by adjusting page contents to visitors
- Make your pages easier to scan by search engine bots, etc.
These topics are out of scope of this article.
- Occam's Razor blog - excellent web analytics blog; includes nice introduction into the subject
- Link Popularity Check Software (free) - checks your page rank compared to competition
- Google Toolbar- shows Google page rank of each visited page.