It seems that the time when you could easily top the results for a one-word search string is centuries ago. Now, when the Web is so densely populated with sites, it is next to impossible to achieve constant top ratings for a one-word search string. Achieving constant top ratings for two-word or three-word search strings is a more realistic goal. If you examine closely the dynamics of search results for popular one-word keywords, you might notice that it is so easy one week to be in the first ten results and the next one– to have fallen out of the first 30 results because the competition for popular one-word keywords is so fierce and other sites have replaced you.
Of course, you can include one-word strings in your keywords list but if they are not backed up by more expressions, do not dream of high ratings. For instance, if you have a site about dogs, “dog” is a mandatory keyword but if you do not optimize for more words, like “dog owners”, “dog breeds”, “dog food”, or even “canine”, success is unlikely, especially for such a popular keyword. The examples given here are by no means the ultimate truth about how to optimize a dog site but they are good enough to show that you need to think broad when choosing the keywords.
Generally, when you start optimization, the first thing you need to consider is the keywords that describe the content of your site best and that are most likely to be used by users to find you. Ideally, you know your users well and can guess correctly what search strings they are likely to use to search for you. One issue to consider is synonyms. Very often users will use a different word for the same thing. For instance, in the example with the dog site, “canine” is a synonym and it is for sure that there will be users who will use it, so it does not hurt to include it now and then on your pages. But do not rush to optimize for every synonym you can think of – search engines themselves have algorithms that include synonyms in the keyword match, especially for languages like English.
Instead, think of more keywords that are likely to be used to describe your site. Thinking thematically is especially good because search engines tend to rate a page higher if it belongs to a site the theme of which fits into the keyword string. In this aspect it is important that your site is concentrated around a particular theme – i.e. dogs. It might be difficult to think of all the relevant keywords on your own but that is why tools are for. For instance, the Website Keyword Suggestions Tool below can help you to see how search engines determine the theme of your web site and what keywords fit into this theme. You can also try Google's Keyword Tool to get more suggestions about which keywords are hot and which are not.
2. Keyword Density
After you have chosen the keywords that describe your site and are supposedly of interest to your users, the next step is to make your site keyword-rich and to have good keyword density for your target keywords. Keyword density is a common measure of how relevant a page is. Generally, the idea is that the higher the keyword density, the more relevant to the search string a page is. The recommended density is 3-7% for the major 2 or 3 keywords and 1-2% for minor keywords. Try the Keyword Density Checker below to determine the keyword density of your website.
Keyword Density Checker
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Although there are no strict rules, try optimizing for a reasonable number of keywords – 5 or 10 is OK. If you attempt to optimize for a list of 300, you will soon see that it is just not possible to have a good keyword density for more than a few keywords, without making the text sound artificial and stuffed with keywords. And what is worse, there are severe penalties (including ban from the search engine) for keyword stuffing because this is considered an unethical practice that tries to manipulate search results.
3. Keywords in Special Places
Keywords are very important not only as quantity but as quality as well – i.e. if you have more keywords in the page title, the headings, the first paragraphs – this counts more that if you have many keywords at the bottom of the page. The reason is that the URL (and especially the domain name), file names and directory names, the page title, the headings for the separate sections are more important than ordinary text on the page and therefore, all equal, if you have the same keyword density as your competitors but you have keywords in the URL, this will boost your ranking incredibly, especially with Yahoo!.
a. Keywords in URLs and File Names
The domain name and the whole URL of a site tell a lot about it. The presumption is that if your site is about dogs, you will have “dog”, “dogs”, or “puppy” as part of your domain name. For instance, if your site is mainly about adopting dogs, it is much better to name your dog site “dog-adopt.net” than “animal-care.org”, for example, because in the first case you have two major keywords in the URL, while in the second one you have no more than one potential minor keyword.
When hunting for keyword rich domain names, don't get greedy. While from a SEO point of view it is better to have 5 keywords in the URL, just imagine how long and difficult to memorize the URL will be. So you need to strike a balance between the keywords in the URL and site usability, which says that more than 3 words in the URL is a way too much.
Probably you will not be able to come on your own with tons of good suggestions. Additionally, even if you manage to think of a couple of good domain names, they might be already taken. In such cases tools like the Tool below can come very handy.
File names and directory names are also important. Often search engines will give preference to pages that have a keyword in the file name. For instance http://mydomain.com/dog-adopt.html is not as good as http://dog-adopt.net/dog-adopt.html but is certainly better than http://mydomain.com/animal-care.html. The advantage of keywords in file names over keywords in URLs is that they are easier to change, if you decide to move to another niche, for example.
b. Keywords in Page Titles
The page title is another special place because the contents of the
Unlike URLs, with page titles you can get wordy. If we go on with the dog example, the
c. Keywords in Headings
Normally headings separate paragraphs into related subtopics and from a literary point of view, it may be pointless to have a heading after every other paragraph but from SEO point of view it is extremely good to have as many headings on a page as possible, especially if they have the keywords in them.
There are no technical length limits for the contents of the