January 25, 2012

Unlocking Keywords

In Google, keywords are key.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use different methods of determining which websites get top billing when a user enters a search. But despite the varying methods, they all rely heavily on keywords.

Search engines scour your website to see what it’s about. They’re looking for words that frequently repeat so that they can decide that the site is about a church or plumbing or vacationing in the south of France. These frequently used words are “keywords.”

When a user enters the word “church” in the search bar, the engines quickly (really, really quickly) collect all of the sites on the world wide web and then rank them, in part by the number of times the keywords are used. (There are lots and lots of other elements to this complex algorithm, but keywords is a great place to start because we can easily incorporate them into our site). 

What this means for you: as webmaster, you should make sure the key elements of your website are included on the page. You’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen. For instance, a site that lists Easter services may have the title at the top but then not repeat the word “Easter” again in the entire page. That leads the search engine to conclude that your site isn’t a top place for Easter searchers. What you need to do instead is repeat Easter service with each listing. It might be a pain, but it'll be worth it the first time you meet a visitor who first found your church on the web. 

Within the content management side of your website, there likely are places for you to enter the keywords in a separate field. This means that not only do they appear on the actual page, but also the keywords are in a special spot, waving an “over-here, over-here” flag to search engines. 

Next up: Google insights -- helping choose the best keywords.