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One Year Anniversary Review: Keywords

Keywords are words used in the post content area of your blog that help searchers find you on search engines. They are the words that you use repeatedly throughout your post and blog to help search engines categorize you, and people searching with search engines find the right combinations of words to find your blog.

I have written a lot about writing web pages with keywords over the years and consolidated much of that in articles over the past year on .

In “What Are Keywords?” I wrote:

Remember the “old days” of the library card catalog? You’d stand in front of a huge cabinet filled with small drawers. In each drawer was a white index card. If you were lucky, they were loose. If you were not, and the library was concerned about the theft of these carefully typed index cards, each card would have a hole in the bottom edge of the card into which a long pole would skewer the entire stack of index cards in each drawer.

You’d think up key words that summarized your book’s topic and then pull open drawers and flip through hundreds of white index cards. You’d find the cards with your key words and a list of numbers for the category of books that may or may not have the information you needed. Carefully, you’d write down the numbers on a piece of scratch paper with a worn out half-sized pencil with no eraser you snagged from a little cardboard box on the librarian’s desk. With charcoal smudged fingers, you’d head down the many rows of book shelves, playing match game with the numbers. You’d find the Dewey Decimal digits that matched. You’d pick up the books one by one, flick through the pages until you had three to eight books that might have the information you want. You’d gather these up, straining your back, and carry them over to a table. One by one, you check the table of contents and indexes in each of the books, looking for your topic and the information. If your search was unsuccessful, you’d head back to the card catalog for another go at the drawers and the index cards.

Today, you turn on your computer and connect to the Internet. You call up Google, Yahoo, or whatever your favorite search engine is, and type in one or more key words to search for the information you need. Within seconds, you are confronted with a list of thousands of choices. You can add some key words to narrow down your choices, or you can start opening page after page after page after page to find out if that page or site has the information you need.

Even today, key words haven’t changed. They still help you find the information you need, the only difference is that today, the process is supposed to be faster, and give you more options, and possibly more timely choices if you are looking for current and topical information.

In the simplest of terms, keywords are the words used to identify and catalog your web pages, not much different from the old card catalogs. According to Wikipedia, keywords are key words used to identify and categorize the content within a web page.

Writing an article or book is very different from writing on a website or blog. Writing a book, you are writing to pull a reader through from word to word, paragraph to paragraph, keeping them turning every page as fast as they can. Writing an article, you spend more time thinking about the audience and aiming the content to their needs, answering their questions and helping them understand your point or perspective.

Writing on a web page means thinking about the audience and how they will find your site when they search. It means thinking about how search engines search and how they collect information from your page and store it in their database, awaiting someone’s search.

When you think about how people search, you tend to write with words and phrases people use to search for what you are writing about. Therefore, your writing style is dictated by the keywords necessary to be found.

In “Keywords Help You Write Your Blog”, I describe the process of learning to write with keywords in mind this way:

Once I started seriously considering how I used keywords in our online documents, my web writing actually improved. I have a list of keywords for my site, but then I would make a list of the keywords I want to use in my post. I keep thinking, “How can I incorporate these words into the article while still attaining the goals of the article?”

I found that this helps outline and organize my thoughts, keeping me focused on the topic at hand and not on the tangents. Still, using too many of the same keywords can get you in trouble, so it’s a game of balance between getting enough and not getting too many.

Once I’ve written the article, I often run it through a keyword checker like Word Counter before pasting the content into my web page layout. I look at the keyword results to compare them to my original post keywords outline and my blog’s keyword list. Do they match? If not, I review the post content to see if there are ways I can edit it to include more keywords, and edit out the unnecessary information. This step really filters out the unnecessary words and topics, streamlining the content to really get my point across, thus better representing my topic to my audience.

Over time, this keyword writing process becomes more natural, as the keywords stay in the front of my brain as I write. I spent less time running the post through the keyword checkers since I have learned how to get the keywords I need into the document without sounding like I’m excessively using keywords. If you look closely, you will see that I’m pushing the limits of the keyword “keyword” in this paragraph, something you might was to reconsider as you edit your own keyword driven articles for your own keywords.

As popularity with tags grew, I realized that tags were keywords or phrases people used to search tag services for information. An article with a tag of “blogging tips” should offer tips about blogging, right?

Unfortunately, as tagging is still new and tag services are still finding their way around, the tags are based upon what the author thinks the article or post should be categorized as and not how it should be categorized. The Dewey Decimal System hasn’t reached tagging. Categorization based upon trust is a hard one to enforce. So an article with “blogging tips” listed as a tag might actually not be about blogging specifically, but about something else, muddying the waters.

Still, tags were keywords and that got me thinking about keywords in a different light, leading me to write about how keywords were once so abused, and how tags are just as vulnerable, and in fact, the same thing as keyword spamming.

Keyword spamming” was a technique involving adding keywords – related or unrelated, didn’t matter, you just had to get the attention of the search engines – hidden into your code instead of content. Oh, you could have content, but this method ensured search engines grabbing up all these extra keywords would help you gain search engine page rank. Thus your site would move to the top of search results by using a variety and the most popular keywords. The additional keywords were hidden with CSS or comments so they wouldn’t be visible on the page but they would be visible to the search engines.

…Now, move ahead to “modern” web design and development techniques where such keyword spamming is recognized and punished by search engines, knowing a trick when they see one. The same pages are now filled with tags.

..What makes this list different from the first one? Sure, the tags are links, and the links could lead to more pages on this site or to Technorati, or even another ring tone cell phone service site. They are still keywords added to the content to “help” your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and search engine page rank.

…So what is being done to check for abusive use of tags? Is there anything? Sure, if splogs, spamming websites or blogs get into tag service databases, tag services say they are working to remove them, when they find them. But what about abusive tag use?

What do these look like? How do you tell? Is it a measurement of how many tags are listed, or how the tags may, or may not, relate to the site or post content? Is there a way to check? Should they be checked like search engines are doing with keywords, content, and links? What kind of tag usage will trigger a meltdown with search engines, penalizing your site? Is this happening? Have you seen tag spam? Would you report it? How?

I’m not saying tags should be controlled. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I’m asking you what you think about abusive use of tags, and what you think should, or shouldn’t, be done about it. And is there anything that can be done?

From Abuse: Keyword Spamming versus Tag Spamming by Lorelle

It’s a fine line to walk between using too many keywords and just enough so a search engine can incorporate your site into their database appropriately. While other methods of manipulating search engines have been beaten and fallen by the wayside, the content within your posts is still the most evaluated part of your blog. It is judged by search engines and your readers. It serves to help the searchers find what they are looking for, and it helps to clarify what you are writing.

Writing for web pages is all about the words. Make them count for you not against you.

Here are some other articles I wrote over the past year on keywords, including a few which address the issues of keywords, categories, and tags.

Articles About Keywords


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

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  1. [...] One Year Anniversary Review: Keywords « Lorelle on WordPress (tags: blogging tips) [...]

  2. [...] Some of her (I think it’s a her!) about  maintenance,  accessibility/usability & keywords are very pertinent – and things that I have though/ am thinking about. [...]

  3. [...] One Year Anniversary Review: Keywords [...]

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