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What Are Keywords?

What's the deal with keywords and meta-keywords?

When you build a website you might hear the term "keywords" thrown around as "something your website should have". So what does that mean and how can you achieve that goal?

Meta Keywords, A History

The term "meta-keywords" relates to a string of terms that are relevant to your business or website's purpose. This attribute is hidden from public view, visible only in the page's html code. Its use was popularised by search engines such as Infoseek and AltaVista in the mid 1990 as a means of working out what the site was all about in a quick and simple manner.

The use of keywords grew to become one of the most commonly used - and abused - meta elements. Keyword "spamming" or "stuffing" meant that web designers and page owners filled their page with hundreds of variants of the same word to try to gain a lead in search engines. Web search and SEO leaders concluded in April 2007 that they were no longer a valid or used attribute and, as such, are generally now ignored.

Wait, What? No Keywords Then??

Now slow down - this is a common misconception. Meta-keywords are a specific use of keywords in a single location in the code of your webpage. These are redundant. Whereas keywords are just any words that relate to your business, product or service offered on your website.

Key Phrases vs Words

The term keywords is now often used to describe a string of words that form a phrase. For example, this website is about "web design", so that would be a keyword (or phrase). Other keywords (phrases) would include:

  • web designer
  • website development
  • graphic design

...and so on!

How to Use Keywords

Keywords can appear anywhere on your website; they are in each heading, sentence and paragraph that you add to the page. Adding keywords relevant to your business make that page rich in content about that topic and hence relevant to Google for related searches.

Headings should summarise what the page or sub-section of that page is talking about. The content should use keywords, phrases and variants of those words. Links to other pages of your site using the keyword as a link can really be helpful too.

Keyword Weight & Page Relevance

Google is not using some really clever methods to read your pages and try to understand what your website is about, what you are selling and so-on. However at the most basic level, Google looks for what words are used and in what quantity. This then gives Google a feel for what the overall subject is.

The diagram below shows this website's homepage and the words that go to make up the page:

Keyword Cramming - Don't Do It!

So you might think that making every other word relevant to your business. E.g. "Website design business making websites for Wairarapa business websites." No! It just doesn't make grammatical sense, something that Google will pick up on. Overuse of the same words not only makes the content sounds stupid but also the over-cramming will make Google realise that the weight of words is too much. Exercise common sense, write logically and clearly and use good keywords and phrases where they are relevant.

Happy word-crafting!

Article published Friday 7th of October 2016

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