My Marketing Thing

SEO Tips Part 1: The Keyword Palaver

Google Penguin and Panda cartoon

How to get decent ranking on Google has never been black and white. Particularly when Google changes its rules – or algorithms – for how it ranks a website.

In 2011 the big algorithm change announcement was called ‘Panda’. Which put dark circles under the eyes of many a SEO expert as they tried to work out why once high-ranking sites were suddenly dropping into oblivion (otherwise known as page 3). Last year, in April, it was called ‘Penguin’. Which had many in a flap. Sites that had previously received gold stars and fairy claps from Google slipped away overnight.

It’s a jungle in there.
SEO John Hacking Search Tempo cartoon
While we all like high ranking, reading about algorithm shifts can be brain-bendingly dull if you are not tech-inclined. Which is why I thank the gods for John Hacking’s Friday SEO Tips (you can subscribe on his boutique search engine marketing company site: Search Tempo). While John is an SEO Tech Maharishi, his weekly tips are easily digestible (and rather tasty) morsels for non-tech plebs like me. Now that the Penguin snowstorm is beginning to settle, I asked John if he would mind chewing the krill on Google’s changes here on My Marketing Thing.

This is Part One of our Six-Part SEO series. Today John and I are talking about what is going on with Google generally, and keywords specifically. 

John, what is Google trying to achieve by their algorithm changes (beyond creating a new market for anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals)?

    In my opinion, Google is broken at the moment and it’s getting worse and worse. Just because Google has a patent to do something doesn't mean they are going to use that patent. There’s a lot of assumptions that Google is looking for this and looking for that because it’s in the their patents. But if you sat down and looked at the maths involved in assessing just two pages – not 2 billion pages – there is not enough processing power to do all that. So while there’s probably about 200 factors Google’s supposed to use to rank a website, I suspect there only about five or six of them are really important. Google say they are trying to improve search quality. Meanwhile, the conspiracy theorists are saying it's to make search rankings more random in order to push people towards Google Adwords.

I hear jamming lots keywords in website text now out – music to my copywriter’s ears. Can you explain ‘keyword stuffing’ and why it is now akin to a decomposing turkey?

    One of the good things about the Penguin update is that you can now be a lot looser with keyword density. If you are too stringent with ticking keyword boxes it will actually hurt you. You can have the keywords in there, but if it’s too ‘tick the box’ your ranking will suffer. It’s back to real communication. So look at two search terms per page for SEO – anything beyond that is simply what is logical and useful information for your reader. 

Also, people used to put keywords in bold to enhance their ranking. But now only put the keyword in bold if it makes sense to the reader to have it in bold. It is no longer helpful to your ranking.

  3. How many per page should we shoot for?

    The biggest mistake most people make with SEO is that they try to make one page – usually the home page – rank for everything. With WordPress or any other decent CMS site, it is easier to throw up another page. Interestingly, I’m finding at the moment that keywords appearing on internal blog pages (i.e. blog posts in a section of a website) is getting higher ranking than core pages (like ‘About’ , ‘Services’ and ‘FAQ’). Your page title is what you name your page. The page title appears as a heading (called ‘H1’ under formatting) at the start of your page. On a core page it might be ‘About us’. But on a blog or news page it could be ‘Five puppy training tips’. So you can weave keywords in there too.

  4. What’s the easiest way to find the right keywords?

    If you simply type in some search terms in Google some popular phrases come up. These can guide you as to what could be good for you. You can use the Google AdWords keyword tool to search for keywords in your area. When using this tool, don’t be seduced by volume. Be seduced by the combination of volume and conversion rates. Think about what words people would use to buy something you sell (and that your competitors sell). 

  5. Can you give us an example?

    Okay, let's take airlines as an example. ‘Flights’ is a broad term. Too broad. ‘Cheap flights’ is better as it is more specific. But it’s still pretty broad. ‘Cheap flights Brisbane to Melbourne’ is more refined again. There will be less searches for this, but the conversion rate is a thousand times better than just ‘flights’. SEO tools are great. But they don’t replace thinking about what your prospective buyer with type in. Not sure? You can always throw $200 at Google AdWords and see what happens. It’s a great way test search terms.

So how far should we push search terms?

    Don’t be greedy about the number of search terms you are trying to optimise for on a particular page. Be a bit looser. 18 months ago is was all about search terms. Post-Panda, that’s all changed. You need to mix it up more with marketing terms. Have the keywords in there, sure. But have marketing text in there as well.

Your BIG opportunity: Ask the SEO expert

What do you want to know about SEO? I already have a couple of questions from clients:

Sophia asks: "All the focus with SEO seems to be on Google. What about Yahoo and Bing and the others?"

Claude writes: "I have a old web site that I build myself back in 1996 using a Freeware HTML editor. It ranks really well but I want to update it. How can I make sure I won't lose my rankings?"

So what's your question? Ask in the comment box and John will answer it at the end of the next SEO Tips post.

In SEO Tips Part 2, John gives us the low down on keywords in URLs. Stay tuned…

John Hacking of Search Tempo can help you with the Google wrestle – no matter where you are in the world. Give him a tinkle on the blower (that’s cockney for ‘give him a call’…not that other thing you might have been thinking).
 P.S. He doesn’t charge monthly fees.

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Posted on Jan 16th, 2013 SEO tips  ,  ,  ,  ,

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