As you all know the Google Penguin update has impacted website rankings based on MANY different variables. One of which is the keyword optimization of the target pages on the website itself. When we try to get your website to rank we target specific URLs to place the keywords on and those pages require the most attention to make sure they are optimized properly. Of course there are other on page factors such as the relevant content on the rest of the website and how all of the pages are interlinked, but this update is only to talk about the keyword optimization of the meta tags and the website content on the target URLs which contain the keywords selected for targeting.
Recently I was studying a website that had their keyword as part of the company name. I’ll give you a mock example. Let’s say we are optimizing a website for a company called “Jerry’s Salt Lake City Plumbing Company”. Our primary target keyword would be Plumbers Salt Lake City. In the example I was studying, the company name was used to a keyword density of 7% on the homepage. We used the exact target keyword once, and a variation of the target keyword twice. Now, since the client wanted their company name in the content so many times we used what they provided and inserted the keywords as needed on our end. This was done a year ago… and what happened when the Penguin update hit? The website lost two pages worth of rankings for over optimization of keywords on the homepage. Even though we stuck to our keyword density guidelines on the homepage, the company name happened to have similar keywords inside of it and as a result of using the company name too many times in the content it was interpreted by Google as being keyword stuffed and penalized as a result.
Thus, it is important for us to make sure the website pages we target are not keyword stuffed and follow specific guidelines which often times come down to common sense.We are always updating how we do what we do to conform to the latest search engine changes and I wanted to share with you our most recent updates to how we write meta tags, page titles, and website content. I have also included a video from Matt Cutts on proper keyword density and his recommendations for writing website content with proper keyword insertion techniques. In short, Matt Cutts says “keep it simple stupid” and do not write content that sounds repetitive or un-natural and you should be fine. With that being said we did several studies on our campaigns and found that inserting stop words in between the keyword phrase itself had little to no impact on rankings. Therefore, we can use the keyword phrase itself to a higher density with little to no risk of being penalized as long as we use stop words and synonyms in between the keyword phrase itself.
Not sure what stop words are? Stop words are words that are very common and typically carry little meaning in regards to pinpointing content with the keyword subject matter itself. Stop words includes words such as; in, the, what, was, or etc.
If your website has been over optimized with keyword stuffing we recommend to cut down on the number of keywords used on the target URL’s and diversify the reference to the keyword phrase. Below you will see our website content and meta tag optimization guidelines. The instructions below are for targeting 3 keywords on one page. This portion of our instructions was actually taken out of a 15 page document created for our internal use. I did not feel it was necessary to share the entire documentation because it is rather extensive and becomes a bit confusing.
As I had stated in my earlier email, I want to start sending more emails like this to show our partner agencies that we are staying on top of the trends. You know daily I have meetings about this sort of thing and as a result our team implements many changes per week, but you are never able to hear or know about these changes. So I will do my best with my busy schedule to start keeping you better informed on our internal updates to methodologies.
Website Content and Meta Tag Writing Guidelines
Important Note before Beginning:
If you are using stop words or synonyms of the keyword, please remember that you must retain the original context of the actual keyword phrase.
Incorrect usage of a keyword synonym in line with the original keyword context:
- Target keyword: real estate license
- Synonym: license real estate
While both keywords are referencing real estate licenses, they mean completely different things in context.
Keyword Usage Guidelines – 3 Target Keywords:
URL, Tags & Text Optimization:
URL: Use the primary keyword in the URL at least once as is.
Alt Text: Use the primary keyword in the ALT tag at least once as is.
H1 Text: Use the secondary keyword in the H1 tag at least once as is.[l1]
Body Content: Use the primary keyword as is at least once prominently near the top of the page. You will also use the tertiary keyword as is at least once near the top of the page but do not use the tertiary keyword in the same paragraph as the primary keyword was mentioned as is.
- You will use a variation of the primary keyword utilizing stop words or synonyms once more near the middle of the page or within the last 2 paragraphs of the page. Do NOT use the primary keyword variation in the same paragraph as you used the primary keyword as is.
- You will also use a variation of the secondary keyword utilizing stop words or synonyms once near the middle of the page or within the last 2 paragraphs of the page.
- You will also use a variation of the tertiary keyword utilizing stop words or synonyms once near the bottom or within the last 2 paragraphs of the page.
Meta Tag Optimization:
Title Tag: Use the primary keyword in the title tag at least once as is.
Try to keep the keyword as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.
65-70 Characters in length
* Note: Consider Readability and Emotional Impact. Creating a compelling title tag will pull in more visits from the search results. Thus, it’s important to not only think about optimization and keyword usage, but the entire user experience. The title tag is a new visitor’s first interaction with the client’s brand when they find it in a search result and should convey the most positive impression possible.
* Note: Think differently for local SEO… In local search, brand/business names are often more important than the keywords and it can be wise to optimize the title tag accordingly.
* Note: Utilize Meta title tags but do NOT over-optimize. Just make it descriptive. This is because if you do not specify your title via a Facebook open graph tag then Facebook will grab the Meta title of the page.
* Google no longer puts a limit on the number of characters in your SERP title. Rather, it limits the title based on the pixel width. http://www.seomofo.com/experiments/serp/google-snippet-07.html
Meta Description: Don’t use the primary, secondary or tertiary keywords as is. Instead, only use a variation of the secondary keyword utilizing stop words or synonyms.
Try to keep the keywords as close to the beginning and left of the description tag as possible.
The description should ideally be between 150-160 characters
* Recommendation: Use stop words and/or keyword variations here to make it more enticing for users and look natural for search engines.
* Note: The Meta description tag exists as a short description of a page’s content. Search engines do not use the keywords or phrases in this tag for rankings, but Meta descriptions are the primary source for the snippet of text displayed beneath a listing in the results. The Meta description tag serves the function of advertising copy, drawing readers to your site from the results and thus, is an extremely important part of search marketing. Crafting a readable, compelling description using important keywords (notice how Google “bolds” the searched keywords in the description) can draw a much higher click-through rate of searchers to your page.
Glossary for keyword rank:
Primary, Secondary, Tertiary & Quaternary Keywords:
By selecting primary, secondary, tertiary and even quaternary keywords, we are able to better utilize all on page attributes and optimization possibilities while remaining in line with Google’s recent Penguin and Panda changes.
Primary Keyword - The primary keyword is the keyword in which we have selected as the main focus point using certain on page attributes. This primary keyword is chosen by looking at the KWR stats, competition, etc.
Secondary Keyword - The secondary keyword is the keyword in which we have selected as the 2nd most important keyword to focus on using certain on page attributes.
Tertiary Keyword - The tertiary keyword is the keyword in which we have selected as the 3rd most important keyword to focus on using certain on page attributes.
- This is debatable… the debate is whether or not it would be better to put the primary keyword in the H1 or leave it focusing on the secondary keyword
- If we decide to use the primary keyword in the H1 instead of the secondary keyword, then we would need to change this stipulation to the following:
You will use the secondary keyword once as is near the top of the page but not in the same paragraph that the primary keyword was used as is.
You will then use a variation of the secondary keyword utilizing stop words or synonyms once near the bottom or within the last 2 paragraphs.