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What Are Keywords?

Keyword filter - graphicRemember 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.

Now, let’s look at the process backwards. When the writers and publishers of books in libraries wanted to get into those index card catalogs, they would provide the libraries with key words to help classify the books. The Dewey Decimal System allowed numbers to be assigned to books which represented their “categories”. The numbers and key words were carefully typed up on the index cards and filed alphabetically with cross references by title and author, allowing the public three ways to find a book.

You, as a website author or blogger, are responsible for providing the “key words” to help categorize your web page in the database of search engines.

Incorporating Keywords Into Your Blog or Website Writing

Aware now of your responsibility as the author and publisher of your online “book”, it’s up to you to provide the key words that will help search engines categorize your post and/or article in your blog. There are several ways to do this, but let’s start with the core foundation for keywords: content.

Here is an example short post. Read it through and then find the keywords.

I want to talk about journal writing, the process of expressing yourself through an online diary. It’s called a “blog”. You can write down your thoughts, opinions, ideas, commentaries, and expert advice, sharing your words with a wide audience through your website.

The “key” to keywords is using enough of the same words and synonyms to tell the search engine “this is the topic under which to categorize this post”. This example uses journal, writing, online, diary, blog, blogging, and words, but is it enough to help categorize the information?

This example is about blogging in blogs. So the words “blogging” and “blogs” needs to appear enough to make the search engine understand that this needs to be stored under “blog”. So let’s rewrite this so it puts more emphasis on the key words that will help categorize the post.

I want to talk about blogging, the process of expressing yourself through a blog. Like an online diary or journal, a blog is a website for writing down your thoughts, opinions, ideas, commentaries, and expert advice, sharing your words with a wide audience through your blog.

With four references to blog or blogging, it’s pretty clear what this post is about.

Successful keywords in your writing does not mean using the keywords like a thick jungle for the reader to plow through:

I want to talk about blogging in blogs. Blogging blogs is a way to blog about a variety of blogging topics…

While you are working hard to fill your content with as many repetitions of your keywords as possible, you can cross a line. Search engines calculate how often a word is used alongside other words. For instance, if you use the word “welcome” in a sentence such as “You are very welcome to visit our welcome page today”, the word “welcome” would be used in two out of ten words or have a keyword density of 20%. From among 100 other words, it would have a 2% density. According to experts, your keyword density for a single word should be less than 12%, though many recommend 3-10% to be safe. Many keyword validators provide keyword density percentages to check your keyword ratio.

Here is more information to help you understand more about writing with keywords and writing on the web.

Keyword – Testers and Checkers

Site Search Tags: , , , , , ,
Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network


  1. Posted January 19, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

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  2. Geoff Dodd
    Posted February 16, 2007 at 10:39 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for the library analogy. Now I hear Google wants to index every printed book there ever was! Wow. Data entry job, anyone?

    Key words also define NICHES as the marketers say – always forgetting to use the proper French pronunciation. These slivers or pizza slices are segments of a buying market, defined by the searchers’ key-phrases.


    Geoff Dodd

  3. Posted December 31, 2007 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorrelle,
    This may not be the most profound of comments, but I wanted to let you know that your blog provided a lot of important information for me. I don’t have a WordPress blog yet, but contemplating starting one. A lot of the information you provide in your blog is universal and I can apply it to my blog on Active Rain or on any other platform. Thanks.

  4. Ret
    Posted April 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I was wanting to find out whether there was a difference between the use of tags and keywords but this has left me confused. I would have thought the whole point of creating keywords was to fill the special meta tag in HTML that relates to keywords.

    Using the keywords you present in Blogging Challenge: Top 10 Keywords for Your Blog, I would have expected to have seen a statement like

    <meta name=”keywords” content=”wordpress, word press, blog, blogging, writing,, tips, help, design, plugins, plug ins, plug-ins, themes”>

    in the source of at least that page as I believe this is a tag specifically designed to help search engines categorize pages by keywords. But there’s nothing!

    I’m now thinking there’s really no difference between tags and keywords. What am I missing?

  5. Posted April 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    @ Ret:

    I’m not sure what you are asking me. You are talking about keywords within content and in the meta tags. Meta tag keywords really don’t work and are recognized by few search engines today, and few WordPress blogs incorporate them accordingly.

    I write about keywords within the post content.

    As for the difference between tags and categories, both are tags. Which means tag directory services, such as Technorati, recognize the rel="tag" attribute within a blog as tags, but other search engines, like Google, recognize the use of tags and keywords within the blog as just keywords. Nothing more. Google currently doesn’t treat the tag relationship attribute of a link with any special favors. It’s just another element within the content.

    As for the difference between what you choose to set as a category and/or tag, categories are considered the table of contents on your blog, directing readers and visitors to specific collections of related content. Tags are the micro-categories or index words that help people narrow down their search to keyword specific content.

    For example, WordPress could be a category on someone’s blog. WordPress Plugins, WordPress Themes, WordPress News, and such might be tags for posts within the WordPress category. They could also be sub-categories, but hopefully you get the example.

    You can read more about how WordPress handles tags in Tags and Tagging in WordPress.

16 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] What Are Keywords? […]

  2. […] Think through your post for keywords people will use to search for your content. For this particular article, keywords would be seo, search engine, optimization, keywords, clean, checking, maintenance, site maintenance, cleaning, optimizing, search, crawler, search engine crawler, validation, web, and standards. If you were searching for an article on search engine optimization, the odds are that you would use one or more of these words or phrases, so it is critical to include these words or phrases in your writing, at least more than once, to make sure the search engine crawler understands that these are words important to the content of your post. […]

  3. […] Search engine optimization means making your website or blog as friendly and open to search engines as possible. It means having valid code that won’t stop a search engine in its tracks. It means having keywords used repeatedly throughout the content that helps the search engine understand the topic you are writing about and associate those words with search keywords. It means building a web page that search engines like and accumulating a good score card that will improve your changes of being towards the top of the list when the search results are ranked. […]

  4. […] Quality Content: Make sure you have quality content on board written with solid keywords, maximizing the information search engine crawlers can gather about your site and content so you are ready for inclusion in their databases. Without words, search engines have nothing they can add to their databases. Make sure you have plenty of words that match your blog purpose, topic, and keywords. […]

  5. […] What Are Keywords? […]

  6. […] “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. An example might be the following, buried in the code of an article on buying ring tones for your cell phone: […]

  7. […] This is a two-fold exercise. First, off the top of your head, write down the top ten keywords you think describe your blog. Keywords are words you use frequently in your blog that search engines look for as they crawl through your site, helping them categorize your blog’s content. They are also referred to as the words people typed into a search engine when they end up with your blog in their top search results. […]

  8. […] 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. […]

  9. […] What Are Keywords? […]

  10. […] What Are Keywords? […]

  11. […] On the net – Lorelle on WordPress […]

  12. […] What Are Keywords? « Lorelle on WordPress […]

  13. […] You, as a website author or blogger [or article marketer], are responsible for providing the “key words” to help categorize your web page in the database of search engines." […]

  14. […] What Are Keywords? […]

  15. […] from a list of topics to write on. Normally, instructions from the client, including length and keywords are spelled out for the writer. Writers compose the article and submit it via the content mill’s […]

  16. […] where they are found within your blog post, influences the PageRank score. These words, known as keywords, are the search terms used by those searching for your blog post. If you don’t use […]

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