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If you are new to web marketing then you have probably figured out the basics thus far—new customers can only find your business if they search for your business by “keyword.”  (Otherwise, you’ll have to spend big bucks and advertise on the likes of popular sites like Google, Face Book, Yahoo, etc.)  The good news is that keyword marketing is usually much cheaper than running expensive banner ads.  More importantly, it’s “targeted advertising.”

Targeted advertising means that you are sending your message to web users that have already expressed interest in buying the types of products and services you sell.  They have actually gone out of their way to look for a specific type of product and you are (ideally) in the right place at the right time.  The odds are in your favor that the customer will buy from you.

Of course, that’s assuming that you have a great company presentation, a quality product, an excellent marketing plan, and last but not least, effective keyword optimization.  Keyword optimization involves your entire SEO strategy, from your HTML meta tag information to keyword research and keyword repetition.  If you can optimize your content for search engines you will move up higher in the “rankings”, that is, the list of returned websites, based on a particular keyword search.

The Importance of Keywords

Choosing the right keywords is half this battle.  You must determine which keywords are the most profitable for you.  In essence, you are trying to guess what keywords your prospective customers are typing in when looking for your product.  Naturally, the most popular one word or two word phrases are very attractive to multimillion dollar corporations, and so it will be difficult to earn a high ranking with these keywords because of the intense competition.

This is why you should focus on targeting longer string keywords (an entire phrase or even a short sentence), and perhaps even local keywords.  Once you find several keyword phrases that you like using you simply insert the keywords into your text and work them into the article logically and coherently.  Search engines will now associate your company with your chosen keywords.  If you can consistently produce content with keyword phrases interjected throughout the article, you win earn higher rankings for your selected keywords.  In addition, your audience will read your content and see the keyword in your text, instantly realizing that your company is precisely what they’re looking for.

Resisting the Urge to “Stuff”

However, determining the right number of keywords to use is not always an easy process.  What’s your first instinct?  If you really want to attract attention then you should “stuff” your content with keywords using dozens of keyword strings per paragraph, right?  Maybe that worked back in the 1990s, but for the last 10 years or so keyword stuffing doesn’t work.

It is actually considered a “black hat” technique, meaning it’s considered cheating and thus perceived as an illegal tactic.  Why is it considered cheating?  Well, no one wants to read a slew of keyword phrases instead of reading coherently written paragraphs of thought.  Humans certainly don’t like reading garble.  Can you imagine reading an article in the New York Times that uses the word “new garden products” ten times in one paragraph?  No one would buy the magazine!  So the principle is true with web writing.  Web writing is “real writing” and your websites should always be associated with quality content.

Search engines, which are operated by robots as well as human editors, reject keyword stuffed content and the websites that publish them.  In fact, if you do this too often your I.P. address could be “blacklisted” and permanently left off major search engine sites like Google.  Do not attempt to stuff your contents, or work your way “around” this technicality through other means.  (Like keyword stuffing in black fonts on a black background)  The search engines can spot cheaters and will punish you accordingly!

Key Issues of Keywording

That brings us to a pertinent question: if keyword stuffing is a no-no, how then can you get noticed?  Is there a set number of times you’re supposed to use a specific keyword?  Or should you only use your selected keyword once per article?  Some websites do only use one keyword per article, but if this is your strategy then you have to really make sure it is a unique keyword term.  This is known as a “long tail search” strategy.

You type in a longer keyword phrase, one that few (if any) websites will be using.  For example, you might type in something like “forks spoons knives in White Settlement, Texas.”  Obviously, such a long tail keyword would not yield that many results.  If you are convinced that your audience is typing in these very specific terms (they may even add quotation marks around the phrase, so that EXACT matching is returned) then this strategy can work.

However, the majority of our clients are more interested in doing a broader keyword phrase campaign.  They want to attract a larger part of the market, and so decide to focus their efforts on popular or moderately popular keyword phrases.  In order to rise above the intense competition, these websites must use the selected keyword more than once or twice.  They aim to use the keyword phrase as often as possible without censure from the search engine company.  They also want to make sure that the keyword phrases they use does not seem forced or awkward, because this risks not only a lower search engine ranking, but also the disinterest of a prospect.

Once customers sense that an article is written for search engines and not for human beings, they tend to lose interest.  Hey, how can you blame them?  Robots and humans don’t like each other!

Search engines are not only presided over by human editors but also have very complex systems in place that help the search engine company determine which articles truly have the most sophisticated content.  If you use too many keywords then the search engine will penalize you for using a black hat SEO technique.  If you use too few words then you will be accidentally penalized, because the search engine won’t quite understand what your content is advertising.

Understanding Keyword Density

This is why it’s important that you become familiar with a term called “keyword density.”  This refers to a percentage value that calculates how many times the keyword appears in an article, compared to the total number of words in the article.  Take the number of keyword phrases you put in an article and then divide the figure by the total number of words.  Now multiply the new number by 100.  The 100 will give you a fractional number, which then converts into a percentage.  Thus five selected keywords in a 100 word article (per page) would be .05 or a 5% keyword density.  Using only two keywords for a 100 word article would be a 2% keyword density.

This is the standard formula, and the majority of search engine guidelines and article directories suggest that you stay within a 5% keyword density.  Anything over this amount will probably be disqualified from search engine listings.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should only use 5% keyword density.  In fact, some clients don’t like using 5% keyword density too often because it carries a slight risk.  Why?

The search engines may decide to rank another site, one that uses a 2% keyword density effectively, above you.  This scenario doesn’t always happen but it is very possible.  Thus, many web publishers experiment with 2%, 3%, 4% and 5% densities and track their results.  Most importantly, try to use keyword phrases that seem natural with the flow of the article.  Double check your word count and your keyword density using a word processor like Microsoft Word.  (You can use the “find/replace” option to check for keyword occurrences)

Are you worried that the search engines are too dumb to figure out what your articles are “about” without consistent 5% keyword?  No need to be so paranoid!  In fact, search engines are already using new technology (“latent semantic indexing”, for one) that automatically determines what an article is about, based on style.  Rest assured, the search engines (the billion dollar Google Company) are one step ahead of you when it comes to finding keywords and patterns.  The best policy is to just publish good work with a variation of 2-5% keyword density.

Cluster Phrases, Standards and Tags

In addition to strict keyword phrase usage (searches with quotation marks), you also have to consider cluster phrases.  As you might have already learned through your own searching requests, search engines seem to return website results that have multiple occurrences of all keyword phrases, not necessarily the precise keyword phrase you were looking for.

Case in point: when you search for garden supplies some sites will come up featuring both the words “garden” and “supplies”, in different contexts.  If the searcher wants to ensure that only the precise keyword phrase “garden supplies” is returned in the search, he or she must type the phrase in quotation marks.

Therefore, you should be careful about using too many individual keywords apart from your entire keyword phrase.  If you are using the word “garden supplies” at a 5% keyword density, then using multiple instances of the term “garden” (without “supplies”) could make you exceed the 5% standard.  Try to substitute overused keywords once you reach the proper density.

Last but not least, you must also consider “tags” (along with titles and page descriptions) which refer to HTML code on your web pages that detail which keywords you want to highlight to search engines.  If you are creating your own website using a word processor or a graphical editing program, then you must insert the code yourself.  If you are using a Web 2.0 publishing tool then you can just enter the text into the “tag” box for easy inclusion.

Let Words You Want Help Your SEO Campaign!

Whenever clients ask Words You Want for advice on keyword density, first we analyze their selected keywords and then provide personalized advice based on their research.  If we believe that a client is conducting a very high-density SEO campaign that could backfire, we will inform him/her of the risk of search engine disqualification.  We recommend staying at a 2% keyword density in most cases, unless our clients have a specific reason for requesting a higher density.

Yes, we have seen some successful campaigns that have used a 5% density, but it’s not something we encourage.  In fact, since we do a lot of our work with important websites like Ezine Articles, we can safely say that using anything above 2% density will not fly with major directories.  Ezine Articles actually states that it will not accept articles with a density over 2%.

Most importantly, we try to write articles for people—not for machines.  We know firsthand that human customers respond to human articles.  So yes, repetition does have its place in professional writing.  However, true repetition is built on the principles of journalism—not on search engine tricks!

Let us help you reach your professional goal this year with search engine optimized, top-tier quality content!

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