Keywords – Where Did it All Go Right?
If in recent times you’ve started to ask yourself ‘Why are my sites doing well in Yahoo and Bing, but not in Google?’ Then you probably need to keep reading.
We’ve all heard the advice: Get your keywords at the beginning of your page title, mention them again in your title, get a couple of mentions in your page description, and then feature them prominently in H1 tags plus bold text on the page. This is still the mantra of many ‘SEO’ companies.
If we still lived in 2005/6 then this technique would be fine. Yahoo and Bing will still reward you for using these techniques, but Google….well Google have seen this all before and are not impressed.
Why we should all be glad about this.
Just imagine a set of search results that rewards identical treatment of all pages. All SERPS would begin to look identical. Samey titles, descriptions and page layouts…how boring. If there were truly a magic formula then that is precisely what we’d start to see.
Thankfully Google are looking for pages that read well and offer true diversity and relevancy.
So what can we do to ensure that we are using keywords and key phrases wisely? How can we mix them up enough to ensure our well chosen words are meaningful, natural in tone and, perhaps most importantly, effective?
Synonyms, hypernyms and hyponyms are your friends (…no, really!)
Using Synonyms – words that are similar in meaning to our keywords is one effective way to improve the quality of our page, without going off-topic. For example, a page featuring cars for sale might use the terms purchase automobiles, buy motors etc.
Another way to include variety is to use hypernyms (or sometimes spelt hyperonym). These are words that relate to a general category e.g. vehicles is a hypernym of cars just as it would be of another type of vehicle such as a bus or a truck. In other words it is a generalisation of a number of more specific terms. Conversely, hyponyms are words that fall beneath a general category. For instance, car is a hyponym of vehicle.
Using this principle will get us thinking of other related terms we might find on a car sales site. We would expect to see a list of brands such as BMW, Mercedes, Chrysler, Ford etc and perhaps more general terms such as 4×4, coupes, saloons, family hatch backs, hot hatch backs, estate cars (station wagons), sports cars etc.
All of these help Google to see that this is indeed a page selling cars and not a spammy, worthless site unworthy of ranking well.
Using this lateral thinking method to gather a larger group of related words will allow us to write pages that are good to read and are appealing to Google Bots.
Another important thing we can do is to use the stem of our keyword and change the tense, adding a plural or altering the ending of the word. When you put your mnd to it, there are a number of variants for most words that we might want to emphasize. For example, from Car sales we can get the following words: cars, car’s, sale, selling, sold. These five words all carry similar meanings respectively to the two stem word’s car and sales, but are all different from the originals and therefore add variety to a page of text.
So we’ve got our new list of varied keywords, now what?
Rather than stuffing our title, description, body text, H1 and H2 tags full of our keywords, now is the time to step back and see how the page scans. Is it a page that you would like to read? Would you spend any time reading it, or would you think ‘ah, yes I can see what they are trying to do here’ i.e. rank for these keywords and phrases.
If it doesn’t look natural and read like a genuine page written by a someone who has something valuable to say, then the chances are Google will not like it. There are, of course always going to be some exceptions to this, but as time goes on we likely will see the keyword filled pages disappear from all but the lower rankings despite large numbers of inbound links.
There is growing evidence that H1 tags are no longer what they were in their ability to improve ranking ability, so how much better then to simply use them in a natural manner that increases the value and readability of the page. Some well written relevant body text is still important no matter what else is on the page.
‘Yes, but what about my beautiful, shiny new ecommerce site? I don’t want to fill it up with loads of text’.
Of course you don’t. We’ve noticed that a couple of paragraphs of informative and relevant text, even placed low down on ecommerce landing pages is often enough to have a beneficial effect on ranking. As a general rule simply placing a single and short paragraph will have less benefit on a product-rich page, more is good.
‘Can I have too much text on the page?’
Again (and sorry to go on about this) relevancy is key. Does the text belong on the page, or does it look like a load of waffle placed there only to aid ranking? If it doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t right and will be marked down. Whereas if the text is some useful information relating to the products featured, then Google are more likely to smile on it.
In summary, perhaps the hardest thing for an SEO to get his or her head around when using keywords is to not be so devious. It is already way past the time to stop following the clichés. Shrug off the tired old thinking and realize that Google has come of age. Of course, this being the case, it’s only a matter of time before Bing and (by default) Yahoo follow suit.