Keyword Optimization

Keyword Optimization

Another touchy subject... Especially for me! I have some distinct opinions about the use of keywords. They may go contrary to what you hear elsewhere, and as always, you'll have to weigh the opinions and make your own choice.

First of all, I am focusing on simple. This means that if I overcomplicate the whole thing, I'll lose you in a fit of discouragement. This also means that if I simplify things, that this is NOT the end of all there is to know about it, but that it is a safe place to start, it is enough for now, and you can learn more later when you feel less overwhelmed.

So, you need to know that I am aiming this information at beginners. There is a DEFINITE cost breakpoint for startups that is different than for established businesses. This means the line between "this strategy is reasonable and you should do it", and "this one works, but is very hard, and you won't get enough out of it to justify the time, frustration, or money it takes", is different for you than it is even for someone who has been in business for only a year or two.

Your first focus for keywords is (bet you can hear this one coming): Quality Content!

Everything else, and I do mean EVERYTHING, is secondary to that! Write well (or find good reprintable articles), write to your target audience, and share something meaningful and of value.

If you don't have good quality content, then no amount of optimization will help you!

If you do have good quality content, then you'll do well even without optimization, you'll just do better with it!

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, for AdSense sites, keyword optimization has two areas of focus:

Search Engine Optimization - What you do to get good traffic. The purpose of search engine optimization is to accurately convey to the search engines the topic of your site.

AdSense Optimization - Fortunately, the goal here is the same to start with, which is, to accurately insure that Google serves ads that are relevant to your site. It does this by using the same kind of page analysis that the search engines do, so when you optimize for one, you are automatically optimizing for the other! Neat that, huh?

There is one more aspect though that applies to AdSense Optimization that does not apply to Search Engine Optimization. That is, you NEVER want to put in words that you don't want ads about!

You see, there are certain ad word groupings with very high demand, which there are not enough sites to show them on. And there are other words which are lower demand, and often Google cannot come up with ENOUGH ads to show on your site. So their engine works from most common keyword, down to least common, until it finds matches for available ads. For some categories, there is high enough demand that it seems even mentioning the word on your page will get you ads on that page, and they may end up being TOTALLY irrelevant, or even contrary to the message of your site.

I'd give you an example of this, but if I did, I'd surely get ads for something on THIS page that I do not want! You do want to insure that you check the ads that are displaying, and if they are not the right ones, remove the words that are triggering them. There is a little more about this in the Multiple Income Streams page (because other income streams will affect your keywords).

Often you will build a site in favor of something, and you may get ads opposed to it. This may be a problem for you, or not. If I build a site that is pro-life, I do not want ads for termination support to show up, so I have to be careful how I word the page, as an example. This is more of a problem on pages that are short and which have ambiguous focus than it is on tightly targeted content pages. If you have a listing of screening criteria for site submissions, this can be a problem, because if you do not accept items that Google does accept, then they will show ads on that page of all the things you list that you do not accept! So you may need to keep your policy more general.

Choosing Keywords

Choice of keywords starts with your own knowledge and intuition. If you are good at making net searches, you'll realize that sometimes you have to check a range of searches to find the very thing you want. So you narrow down, and narrow down, and try different ways of describing it.

You'll do the same thing when you optimize your page. You'll pick the MOST common, most logical way to describe precisely what you have (this will be a phrase, not a word - for example, this site would not be "AdSense", it would be "Build AdSense Website", or something similar that narrows it down).

You can find the most common description through using a keyword generator tool. Be warned though, they are NOT terribly accurate! I get good hits off of words that don't even show up in the keyword tools! And keyword totals are almost always vastly inflated - reporting sometimes 100 times the number of actual searches, due to inaccuracies in the way they report.

All a keyword tool is good for is general ideas. It will give you an idea of what is more popular than what, but you don't always want to target the most popular thing! Sometimes you want to target the less popular thing, so you can more easily find a niche with higher demand that supply.

Home pages follow different rules than interior pages:

  • Home Page - Choose general words that apply to the scope of your entire site, but specific enough that they target your intended audience. You don't have to cover them all - 90% of the natural search engine traffic that comes into a site comes in through interior pages, NOT through the home page.   
  • Individual Topic Pages - Choose words that describe the exact topic of the individual page. Make sure that they also target your intended audience if that is an issue on those interior pages (sometimes it is, sometimes it is obvious just by the topic in general).   

When you have chosen the keywords, use them in the following ways:

  • Title Tag, Links, and Page Headings: 1 or 2 keyphrases, no "keyword lists" (keywords with commas between them), and keep it short and meaningful.   
  • Description Tags, Description Text, and Alt Tags: Maximum of 3 keyphrases, no "keyword lists", and they should be descriptive with just enough detail to narrow down the focus to exactly what you are talking about.   
  • Content: Use your keywords naturally, vary the way in which you use them, and make it clear in your first paragraph just what the purpose of the site is. You can scan for "keyword density", but that will do you less good that having someone proofread it for understandability and purpose!   

Now, if you have to choose between what your gut tells you is the "right" keyword, and what the keyword tool tells you is the most popular, go with your gut! Do some testing to verify whether or not your instinct is correct - very often, it is!

If you understand your target market, choosing keywords is not difficult. If you do not understand them, then no tool can MAKE you understand them. When the keyword tools suggest something other than what you feel is right, think about why you feel your choice is right.

Sometimes popularity is not the issue. Sometimes you need to reach people who are looking past the most common items, specifically to find the less common approaches. Sometimes you want to target a variety of smaller keywords (through your topic pages), and the home page is not the most important page in your site.

You see, search engines send you traffic to individual pages, not just to your home page. They will pull up all sorts of things you'd never think of from the interior pages of your site, and send people there. So when you look past your home page, and start optimizing those interior pages, one by one, you have the ability to gather up a lot of insignificant traffic, which no one else thinks is important enough to target, but which, altogether, adds up to a nice bundle.

But we still start from the top and work down. When you build your site template, you can build in a page title for the home page, and metatags for the home page. Your links (optimized, of course) will already be in the template, and if you use a site heading at the very top of the site like I do (in the top blue bar), then THAT is build into the site also, but it is optimized for the home page. That is ok. Not great, but ok. It will do to get you started.

Later on though, when you have the time to work through one page at a time, you'll be able to customize those items for the individual page, so that each page then has the ability to attract targeted traffic in its own right - it will do this anyway, just because the content is different, but it will do it a little better if you also change the Title Tag, the visible heading, and the metatags.

This is also something you do one step at a time. And you can test, improve, and learn. Start with as much as you can reasonably do, and leave the rest until later. Don't let anyone make you feel like you HAVE to do that or you are a failure! Choose what is reasonable, leave the rest until you can fit it in without stressing too much, or until you can learn enough to feel comfortable doing it. It's ok to choose NOT to proceed to the next level for now. It's even ok, if your strategies are working, to stop where you are and not do anything else!

One other tactic you can use is to look at your stats tracking for your site. Look at the search words that are reported there (AWStats reports on this). It only grabs a few of them, but those can be important clues as to whether the keywords that people are finding your site with are actually related to your site content! When they are close, but not right, you may get clues as to what you might add to your site long term, or how you might change something in your site to avoid people coming in who are not there for what your site is about.

There is no "magic formula" for choosing keywords, no matter what anyone tells you. It still takes the personal touch to know just which ones are right, and which ones really are what your page is about!

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