Properly choosing and using keywords can help you rank high in Google and other search engines. A high ranking can help you get visibility, visitors, links, and perhaps even conversions. Before you can gain all those benefits, though, you need get a better understanding of keywords themselves.
Keywords are words that search engines users type into the text box to find whatever it is they're looking for. Google sees someone type in the phrase “Nike sneakers,” for example, and chooses websites from its index that it has determined are most relevant for that query. Searchers decide whether to visit any particular website in the results based on what they see in the search results: a snippet of text from the site, along with its title and URL.
So how do you choose and use keywords for your website? Well, start by asking yourself what your website is all about. If you sell sneakers, it may seem obvious that your site is all about sneakers. But that one word – “sneakers” – can be very hard to rank for. You see, while you want to show up high in the search engines for that word, lots of other people do, too. So what can you do?
Notice that the example query included two words: “Nike” and “sneakers.” Instead of focusing on “sneakers” as your keyword, perhaps you should focus on two-, three-, or even four-word keywords. Trying for longer keywords is known as going for the “long tail.” People who search using those keywords have a better idea of what they want, so they're more likely to buy. Thus, while you might not attract as much traffic as you would if you ranked high for just plain “sneakers,” the traffic you DO attract will probably be more lucrative.
Brainstorm a list of the keywords that searchers might use to find what you have to offer on your website. If you're selling sneakers, you might get people searching by brand for, say, “Adidas sneakers;” they might search by style, for “high-tops” perhaps; they might search by sport, for something like “tennis shoes;” they might search by age or gender for “boys' sneakers” or “sneakers for women;” they might even search by some function that isn't necessarily related to any of this, for “cross-trainers” perhaps. And if you serve more than one country, remember that they might have a different term for “sneakers.” In the US we say “sneakers,” but in the UK they say “trainers.”
Once you have a list of keywords, what do you do with it? You need to set your navigation up so that your internal links use those keywords as anchor text. Use the words “Nike sneakers” to link to a page that lists all of the styles of Nike sneakers that you carry. Put the words “Nike sneakers” in that page's Title tags, so that they show up above the of that page, so that they show up above the URL when someone is on that page. Use the keyword in text on the page itself; don't overdo it (perhaps five times in 250 words is enough), but use it in section headings on the page. Don't try to rank a page for more than one or two keywords; if you want to rank your site for more keywords, use different pages for each of the keywords.
If and when other sites start linking to your page, ask them to use the keyword for which you're trying to rank the page in their link's anchor text. This will tell Google that the other site thinks that your site is relevant for those words. While there is a lot more involved than just this, Google's algorithm is strongly based on what links tell them a site is relevant for. Do a good enough job of convincing Google that you're highly relevant for particular keywords, and searchers using those keywords will see your site and start checking it out. Good luck!
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