Search Magnifying GlassFor the last twenty years, numerous SEO companies and internet advertisers have depended on keywords as being a guiding light for search engine indexers and site crawlers. A tactic commonly used by ethical and unethical online marketing agencies alike, heavily emphasized keyword implementation was so pervasive throughout the web development community that almost everyone has come to rely on it. Of course, this all started to change with the arrival of Google’s Panda updates as well as the recent release of Penguin. Now, webmasters are looking for ways to remain relevant to Google and other search engines while revising their own operations.

Smart Keyword Use: Only When Necessary

As Google made clear in its original announcement of Penguin, high-quality content is at the top of the company’s desired SERP content. The implications of this demand for engaging webpages is many, but in this case we’ll focus on the greatly reduced effect of what is known as “keyword stuffing.” This practice describes the rather unscrupulous behavior of repeatedly using key phrases and terms in order to game a search engine and artificially strengthen their relevance to the page or site in question. In the past, too many marketing agencies would repeatedly stuff their clients’ online properties with keywords, but these days search engines have become smart enough to know the difference between spam and good content.

As a result of this, everyone needs to get on the same page (pun not intended) as Google and emphasize the importance of interesting and unique content over questionable optimization methods. Although the world’s biggest search engine still uses keywords to categorize and archive pages, the repetition of a key term throughout a page means that Google’s search algorithm now regards it as having a low value. As a result, business owners and webmasters should use focused keywords only as needed.

Keyword Limitations Lead to Quality Content

While being forced to use a keyword conservatively may sound like a hassle, the fact is that it actually yields a number of benefits. For one thing, putting a limit on one’s keyword use leads to content that is fresher and also more interesting to read. Content writers should also use the situation to explore more interesting and more varied topics. For example, a keyword such as “car engines” may be the focus of a page, but that doesn’t mean that the content needs to be all about that term. Instead, users can choose to focus on the way engines work in classic automobiles versus top-of-the-line racing cars or other topics.

Even though the new obstacles set forth by the Google Penguin and Panda updates may be a thorn in some SEO developers’ sides, it’s really just another way to motivate website and blog owners to create content that users will read and maybe even share. For further advice regarding how to use keywords in this post-Penguin world, I can be contacted at jwersits@webimax.com.

Keyword research is a valuable step in the SEO process in which webmasters dedicate extensive time in order to select the best keywords for a campaign. Searching for the best keywords involves finding words that are relevant, words that web audiences are searching for, and words with competition.

But, with the recent launch of Google’s webspam algorithm, Penguin, proper keyword selection is important more than ever.  Long gone are the days of single keywords. Now Google is on the lookout for related phrases and more descriptive keywords in order to know exactly what people are searching for. Using related phrases helps give search engine crawlers a better idea as to what content to yield in the SERPs and how to index it. For example, if you were to type in the word “bike” into Google, Google wouldn’t know if you were referring to a training wheel bike, mountain bike, or a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Here are three steps to follow to help you select the best keywords that meet Penguin’s criteria:

  1. Create a list of basic keywords
    First, pretend the Penguin algorithm doesn’t exist at the moment. Instead, focus on what keywords you would target right off the bat. Select words that cater directly to a product or service you’re looking to target.
  2. Expand these keywords
    After you select the core keywords, expand upon them. Using the above example regarding bikes, the keyword “mountain bikes” would be an expanded keyword. Also, you want to think about what web audiences are searching for. While the words may not be directly related to the targeted keywords, they will have the same concept, helping to support your targeted keyword.
  3. Develop keyword questions
    What some webmasters may overlook is that people don’t use search engines just to type in words, but they also type questions in search engines. Think about the types of questions web audiences would have concerning a product or service. Referring back to the bike example, a keyword question could be, “where to buy mountain bikes.”

It’s important to stress that webmasters should think of web audiences first and search engines second when performing keyword research. While you want search engines to pick up a site, you want web audiences to utilize the site and turn a reader into a customer. Also, these are not only great ways to find the best keywords, but also help in the brainstorming process regarding article concentration.

What’s the broad-term-search competition like in your industry?  In most, it’s intense.  Broad terms lose some luster for successful brands that have “made it,” though ironically, the more popular a brand within an industry, the more likely it ranks well for broad terms of the industry, at the same time lessening its internal, marketing dependence on broad terms for traffic.  For instance, most, desiring the brand’s product, would conduct an “iPhone” or “Apple” search rather than one for “cell phone” (though it’s likely the brand’s long-term engagement in online marketing has secured it good rankings regarding its respective industry’s broad, search terms).

If Apple’s reputation was of a lesser degree, or just beginning to issue cell phones, “cell phone” would be a keyword receiving high attention (and dollars) regarding the company’s SEO and overall marketing efforts.  Through degrees of brand and product awareness and success, brand-related keywords, such as “Apple” and “iPhone,” start attracting more traffic.

Companies must place focus on search terms related to the brand’s evolving reputation.  Some terms, such as those related to a small business’ name and appellations of head executives or bloggers, may receive ancillary or zero focus; this is an oversight, especially considering the widespread options we have on the Web to promote reputation and awareness.

Over time, a brand, devoting resources to building its reputation and those related to services, products, and recognizable personalities, can shift browser behavior, lessening dependence on highly-competitive and budget-draining search terms.

How can a brand help generate awareness and success?  As a company may segment broad and brand-related search terms, it can segment its endeavors of creating exposure.

Short Term

In the short term, social platforms invite immediate opportunity to engage customers and industry cohorts directly.  A company can present accolades, express appreciation, and regularly interact with markets, creating awareness and sowing social seeds, which later develop into brand-related user traffic.  How can a company network and spread social awareness in the short term?  Take your pick of a plethora of available social media platforms!  Know your target market and consider which platforms provide the best opportunity to create a good dynamic with it.

Quick tip: Have you tried creating a social account for a particular product, service, or fictional personality, making it come “alive” and interact with the public?  If performed properly, and befitting to your market, it could attract attention!

Long Term

While social networking and social media engagement is effective, user behavior and traffic on social sites can be staggered and inconsistent – by both consumers and brands.   A company needs stable, ongoing, and reputable outlets to create brand-related awareness.  A company blog gives a business the chance to share information and expose a brand’s personality and figureheads to a specific market.  Through time, dedicating resources to developing a company’s reputation and that of brand-related personalities, products, and services, will influence user-leveraged search terms, allowing the brand to take the broad terms out of close focus regarding SEO and online marketing budgets.