Last week I wrote about Google Analytics. I’d had some questions about it from my fellow MyZippers, and it seemed that it would be useful to share some knowledge on it. Now that MyZip is gone, we will no longer be receiving those analytics reports, so that post is now pretty useless.

I will therefore make up for it with a post about keywords. I am going to use some of our friends who sell things online as examples. If you are in here as an example and don’t like it, just tell me and I will take you out.

Let’s say that you want to find something in the real world. You will probably look in the phone book, or ask your friends, or even just keep your eyes open as you go around town. But if you want to find something online, you would probably go to a search engine, like Google or Yahoo, and type something into the little box and let the search engine bring you suggestions.

Those of us who ply the Dark Art call those things people type “keywords.” A keyword can be a phrase, too. And if you want people to find your website, the keywords are very important.

Let me give you an example. When we first made the store catalog, we put in as our description something like “We are a family-owned business with a mission to support parents, teachers, and religious educators.” If someone had typed that phrase into Google, we would have popped right up. Indeed, when I did so, a week or two into my foray into SEO, we did pop right up. Trouble is, no one types that phrase into Google when they want to buy a pocket chart. We didn’t know about keywords, so we didn’t choose and use them, and our website was invisible to people who would have liked to be able to find us.

There are two parts to successful keyword development: first, you have to figure out what people who want to find you might type in at Google. Then, you have to make sure that those words and phrases are what Google sees when looking at your site. Choose and use.

How do you find out what keywords will be useful? You can start by brainstorming. What would you type in at the search engine if you were looking for what you have to offer? Our friend Formerprincess sells aprons at her site, so “aprons” is a pretty likely word for her. Since she doesn’t make every kind of apron there is, but special aprons, she probably would also want to use more descriptive terms, like “hostess apron.” Our friend Lostarts sells patterns for hand-knitted wimples. But “wimple” is not a word that lots of people use, so she might want to use “hood” or “cowl” as well. Our friend Ozarque sells books, and also her services as a speaker. She is fairly famous (she has a Wikipedia entry, for example), so her name is probably her best keyword, but she should also think about “science fiction” and “science fiction novels” and that sort of thing.

Now you take your list of words and phrases and go to a keyword suggestion tool. These are places online where you can type your words in and get suggestions of other keywords that you might consider. There are lots of these out there. I like the one from Google, because it shows lots of information,  but Wordtracker is a nice simple one.

When I type “wimple” in, I find that most people searching for “wimple” seem to be thinking about nuns. However, there are some people looking for “Medieval wimple,” so if I were Lostarts, I’d consider that as a keyword. Yesterday, when I was working on a musician’s web site for Client #2, I found that people looking for “singer” are sometimes looking for sewing machines, but “vocalist” doesn’t have that problem. “Classical singer” and “professional singer” are other possibilities there.

You can also get keyword ideas from your site meter or visitor tracker, if you have one at your site. You can look and see what people were looking for when they found you. Now, people have come here by searching for “knitting sluts” and “scorpion fish nose,” but those are not the most frequent things they search for. My commercial xanga gets the largest number of footprints from people looking for fairy tale lesson plans. I should therefore consider using those phrases as keywords.

Now here’s something a little advanced. You can see, if you use the Google tool, how many people are searching for a keyword and how much competition there is for that keyword. I can see, for example, that there are way more people selling aprons than looking for aprons. When I look at things like “hostess aprons” or “gardening aprons” I see that there is a better search to competition ratio, so I would go with words like that if I were Formerprincess. “Wimple,” however, has more search than competition. In fact, “wimple pattern:” and “knitted wimple pattern” also have more people looking than people selling. So, even though it is not a common word, if I were Lostarts, I’d continue to use it as a keyword.

The last step for choosing those keywords is to go to Google (even if it’s not your favorite, because it is by far the most popular) and type them in as though you were searching. This step is essential, because it can give you some surprises. For example, if we put in “apron” and Formerprincess’s geographical area, we see that this search brings up all kinds of things unrelated to aprons that you wear. I wouldn’t have predicted this, but it means that “aprons + local area” will not be useful for Formerprincess. 

Once you’ve done this process, you should have five to twenty good keywords. That’s the “choose” part. Write them down somewhere and commit to them.

The “use” part means that you have to have them in your site. They should be in your title, your descriptions, your meta tags, and in your content, too.

This doesn’t mean that you should stuff your copy full of repetitions of those words and phrases in an unnatural way, but it does mean that you must use them consistently. You can check and see whether youve succeeded by using a term extractor tool. Just type your URL in, and the tool will tell you what a search engine will think your keywords are. For example, our friend Moontree’s etsy shop has a keyword list of stuff about jewelry. This means that Google will think she’s selling jewelry, and will suggest her site to people who want to buy jewelry. Ozarque’s site seems to be about her name, science fiction, poetry, and novels, which is what she has to offer. Lostarts’s site shows keywords like “home” and “out our customers,” though, so Google is probably not showing it to the right people.

My commercial xanga gets mostly people looking for lesson plans. That’s also the folks I want to have there, since it was designed to send traffic to the catalog for a teacher store. There are also lots of searches for fairy tales, but people with an abstract interest in fairy tales aren’t going to click through to the catalog and buy pocket charts, so I am not going to encourage them by using “Rapunzel” as a keyword. Instead, I use “lesson plans” as one of my major keywords. I use it in most of the titles of my posts. I use it in my description and my meta tags. When I submit that site to directories, I use the phrase “lesson plans” right at the beginning. I use it when I link to things in my blog posts.

Now, I am not going to be at the top of the page on Google for “lesson plans.” There are bigger dogs than me working with that keyword. However, it is amazing the number of phrases including “lesson plans” for which I am in the top few choices. Ozarque isn’t going to be #1 on Google for “science fiction” either, but I bet she’s got plenty of traffic from people looking for particular kinds of science fiction or particular details about science fiction, as well as people looking for her by name.

So the moral of the story is this: if you want people to come to your web site, choose and use those keywords.