web design resources
The Magic Keywords

The Magic Keywords

Teacher: Bob McElwain

What will your potential visitor enter into a search engine to find your site? If you can find these magic keywords, phrases real people will use, then optimize your pages for them, you will have taken a key step toward generating hits. If you use the wrong words, you will waste a good deal of effort and achieve next to nothing.

A friend of mine has been working with an ex-IRS agent who can be of significant help to those with tax problems. But he has decided to search for clients only in the area in which he lives, the Santa Clarita Valley in Southern California. It is a snap to get a #1 position on most search engines with such phrases as Santa Clarita Tax Expert, Santa Clarita Tax Solutions, and so forth. And he did so. But he is not getting any hits.

The problem is in two parts. Many people who live in the Santa Clarita Valley do not know that they do. Even those who do tend to feel they live in Los Angeles. Secondly, many do not know how to spell Santa Clarita. So his first place position is meaningless, unless he turns to advertising in locally circulated newspapers, magazines, and newsletters. This can cost bucks, and he could have done this without the effort it took to build his site.

Discovering what potential visitors might enter to find your site is a challenging problem, one often overlooked in advice regards position on search engines. One way to begin is to list a few words you feel will work, go to your favorite search engine, enter them, and see what comes up. Any phrase that generates a lot of unconnected listings is not likely a good candidate.

When you find something that ranks your competitors high in the list, check out the sites. Once the page has fully loaded, take the option in your browser to view the page source code. Find the keyword meta statement near the top of the page, and check those listed. Add as appropriate to your list. Also check the page content to see which keywords are sprinkled throughout it. These may be the most important ones. In particular, see how the keyword you used to get this page is handled. You may find clues as to how best to use it on your page.

At this point you have found and expanded your list to include keywords others use. So is that it?

No! To stop at this point assumes you have found what potential visitors will enter when they want a product or service such as yours. But you do not *know* these are the phrases real people will use. You do not know you have the magic keywords.

I have a suggestion. It is not a guaranteed solution, but I have used it successfully. It goes like this.

I write a good description of the product or service I want to sell, maybe half a page. I describe what it is, what it does, and how one will benefit from it. I write much as I would when producing an ad. However, I do all possible to *avoid* the keywords I feel will be used.

Next I pester everyone I know, asking what they might enter to find this product. And I give it time; not everyone is as interested in my problem as I am.

When I have collected replies, I go back and pester these same people with a list ranked with the most common suggestions up top, including phrases I found that were not mentioned. I ask them to pick four or five they feel are best.

I have found some really neat keywords in this way, phrases I would never have discovered on my own. I hope you can make it work for you.

I sense this is an aspect of search engine positioning often overlooked. It is easy for me to pick a phrase related to your business and get you top position on at least some search engines. It is meaningless, though, unless people actually enter that phrase.

About the teacher:
Bob helps webmasters grow their sites by showing them how to work smarter for more fun and profit with less effort. He has been marketing on the Web since 1993. Visit his newest site: http://SiteTipsAndTricks.Com. Subcribe to STAT News Now: join-stat@lyris.dundee.net

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