Editing / Et Al / SEO / Technical Writing

Place Keywords Strategically | SEO for True Beginners

Screen capture of Google search results page with a label that says 'SEO for True Beginners'

You’ve caught me in the middle of a series of blog posts entitled “SEO for True Beginners.” Yesterday, I discussed how to identify and research your keywords, and the day before that, I advocated that you should write all of your content for human beings. In today’s post, I’m going to cover where you should place your keywords on your web pages.

Search engine spiders read more than the content on your web pages; they also read the code — the XHTML — that your pages are written in. You can add keywords to your code and provide more information for the spiders to index. The spiders are only as “smart” as the information you give them, so it bodes well for you to give them the correct information rather than hoping that they “guess” what your website and its pages are about.

Note: The four places I list below require you to know a little bit of XHTML or have administrative editing rights on your web site because we’ll be putting keywords into the code of your web pages. If you don’t know XHTML or have the ability to edit your files, you should talk to your web developer. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and like to cut out the middle man, I recommend using WordPress.org to administrate your website and adding the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin, which will allow you to edit this information for both your entire website and each of its pages. (There are other SEO benefits to using WordPress that I’ll get to before this blog series ends.)

File Name

Once again, search engine spiders can read this bit of information and will file it away, so you might as well use the file name to tell the spider what your page is about. And I lied. You don’t need to know XHTML to incorporate keywords into your file names; however, you do need to have permission to edit file names on your web server. But if you’re using WordPress.org, click on Settings > Permalinks to edit how your page and post names are displayed. Choose “Custom Structure” and type “/%postname%/” in the text box. This setting will use your page and post titles as the file name.

Title Tag

In addition to incorporating keywords into your file name, you should also put them in your title tags. They look like this in XHTML: <title>Title Goes Here</title>. While you are providing keywords to the spiders in your title tags, you are also trying to lure readers to your site. The title tag is also the headline that appears for your site on a search engine results page; therefore, your title or headline should be compelling enough that searchers will want to click on it. Loading the headline with keywords for spiders and compelling human beings to click is a thin line to walk, so if you need some inspiration, check out CopyBlogger.com, which is loaded with ideas for writing great headlines and page titles.

Meta Description Tag

While we’re on search engine results pages, check out the text below the headline. This text comes straight from the meta description tag, which looks like this: <meta name=”description” content=”description goes here” />. Because it appears on search engine results pages, you have to write the description for both spiders and human beings. When in doubt, err on the side of human beings. Oh, and you only have about 160 characters to get your point across before the search engine results page will cut you off, so be brief.

Meta Keywords Tag

Finally, we’re at the meta keywords tag, which allows you to add the keywords your page is about. The tag looks like this: <meta name=”keywords” content=”keywords go here, comma separated” />. Whatever keywords you’re using in your file name, title tag, and meta description tag, you can list these here. Again, you’re simply telling the spider what the page is about rather than hoping it “guesses” correctly based on your content.

You should also incorporate your keywords into your headings and other formatted text, your images and other media files, and your links. I’ll be talking exclusively about formatting your text, optimizing your images, and using links in upcoming posts, so I’ll save that information for next week.

Read the entire “SEO for True Beginners” series:

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6 thoughts on “Place Keywords Strategically | SEO for True Beginners

  1. I’m a fellow-advocate for using WordPress.org as a content management system. It makes it easy for anyone to administer their site. I’ll tell anyone that will listen that they need to stop trusting others to manage their web destiny. WordPress simply makes it too simple to rely on an outside web-master. Just one man’s opinion (but it’s shared by many).

    They suggestions are simple, clear, and powerful. This is a terrific resource for WP bloggers. Of all of these suggestions, I’d say making sure you have a title tag strategy is key. Meta descriptors are nice, but titles are critical. Many advocate for spending 50% of your blogging time on content, and 50% on crafting eye-catching titles. I agree. By extension, if you are going to take that kind of time to craft a title, it makes sense to take time to craft a proper title tag.

    • That’s all right. I’m just glad you know what meta tags are. Most of the time when I start speaking XHTML, people start spacing out! I have a special place in my heart for fellow code-talkers.

    • I’m a web developer so I’d hope I know about meta tags. But, you’re right, there are a lot of people that don’t…even web developers. Also, other people claim that meta tags are of no importance anymore and that search engines ignore them…Google. But from websites I’ve built, Google still pays attention to these types of tags.

      Do you use Google webmaster?

    • I’m a bit late to replying to this comment. Oops!

      Yes, James, I do use Google Webmaster. Actually, to be 100% honest, I use it in bits and spurts. I’ll go hog wild on it for a while, and then let my use fizzle out until I need or remember to use it again. (Currently, I’m in the fizzle stage.)

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