Keywords are wonderful little guys that appear on nearly every website, whether intentional or not. Unless you are running a blank website, or a website built entirely out of flash (if you do, well, you have a whole different set of problems) you have keywords.

Understanding keywords is rather simple, but using them effectively is critical when you want to improve your search engine rankings. In fact, SEO and SEM specialists will often take a look at your target keywords before they build any internet marketing strategy.

Keywords: Understanding the Basics:

Keywords - Understanding the Basics

Keywords – Understanding the Basics

To put it simply, when you go to your favorite search engine and type in a word, the search engine then looks at all the sites that rank for that word. Websites rank for that word based in part to how often that word occurs on the site. There are other factors that influence search engine rankings – links, anchor text, metatags, to name a few – but keywords are a critical part of the search engine formula.

Step 1: Making the Right Keyword Choices:

Step 1 - Making the Right Keyword Choices

Step 1 – Making the Right Keyword Choices

In order to use keywords effectively, you have to consider what words you want to rank for in the first place. If your business, for example, sells potted plants, most likely you’d want to rank for keywords such as “plants”, “potted plants”, and perhaps the specific plants you sell.

If your business is ranking very high on say, potting soil, and you don’t carry or sell potting soil, it’s not helping your business. This is primarily what causes a high bounce rate – meaning a large percentage of your traffic will visit your website and immediately leave. This is probably because they were looking for potting soil, and found potted plants.

In a nutshell, choose the keywords you want to target and rank for first, and then you can start using them effectively.

The last piece of the keyword-picking puzzle is to consider the competition. If you use “The Best Plants Around” for a page title, the keywords “Best Plants” and “Plants” will be picked up. That’s great, since you sell potted plants – right? Well, consider how many other websites out there also sell plants. Hundreds – if not thousands. Trying to beat thousands of other plant websites is going to be next to impossible. Choose your keywords wisely. Google has a wonderful tool called – you guessed it – the keyword tool that helps you see how many other websites rank for any keyword you enter. If even tells you how difficult it will be to rank for it, and better yet, it’s totally free.

Step 2: Implementing Keywords for Maximum Boost:

Step 2 - Implementing Keywords for Maximum Boost

Step 2 – Implementing Keywords for Maximum Boost

Now that you have the keywords you want to rank for, it’s time to put them in the place that gives them the most exposure to search engines. To do that, we need to understand a bit about what search engines look for in relation to keywords.

Generally speaking, search engines like Google and Bing place more importance to the first 200 words or so each page. Placing your keywords in the beginning of the page’s content is going to get them more exposure – which is always a good thing.

Using keywords in headings and is also a great way for search engines to really pick up what you’re trying to rank for. When you title your page, or create a heading, try and work in your keyword as much as possible. However – and here’s where it can get a little tricky – you have to balance the heading making sense to a human visitor and it being friendly to a search engine. You wouldn’t want to say “Potted Plants for Sale” on every heading and page title. It would help you rank, sure – but most visitors would raise their eyebrows at you (and we wouldn’t want that).

Finally, using the keywords in anchor text helps a great deal as well. Anchor text is simply the words that make up a link that you click on. Granted, you can’t always control what people put in their link text when they link to your site – but you can control the links on your site.

For example, if you have links on your homepage that say “Buy Potted Palms” with a link to a product page that helps you rank for “Potted Palms”. If your link says “Click Here” it might make sense to the reader, but you aren’t helping your rankings.