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BACK TO BASICS: The Importance of Keyword-Rich, Relevant Content

by Dawn Nuccio, November 15, 2007

There was a day not that long ago when search engine optimisation was mostly about fooling the search engines into categorizing a Web site as relevant. Remember when a Web site's home page would list hundreds of keywords in size 1 font at the bottom of the home page? Remember when developers would pack keywords into Meta tags and fill the site with mostly irrelevant content? Well, the days of deceiving the search engines in an attempt to rank higher are over. The search engines have become increasingly more efficient at weeding out these search engine spammers.

The goal of search engine optimisation is to make it as easy as possible for the search engines spiders to discover what a Web site is about. Search engines will return search results in the order of their believed relevance in relation to the search word or phrase requested. The more relevant the site is for a particular query, the higher the site's listing will appear in the search results. Contrary to popular belief, this process is much more involved than simply repeating a keyword phrase several times in different ways. Sites must have targeted, expert information to prove to the search engines that they are worthy of a particular ranking.

Relevant Content

Although there are a many factors that contribute to search engine optimisation, one school of thought insists that the content of a Web site is now one of the most important details. Over the past few years, the search engine algorithms have been putting more and more emphasis on the relevancy of the written content of a Web site. Because of that, Web sites that have strong, relevant content have been rewarded with higher rankings in the search results. The presumption is that sites which contain expertly written content will attract visitors, inbound links and other referrals. Additionally, updating your content on a regular basis will encourage visitors (and search engine spiders) to return to your site more frequently. Of course this "relevant content" approach works best for Web sites which can provide large quantities of unique content. Content-based SEO alone may or may not be enough to give you the desired results, but without it, you would have little chance at achieving those first-page rankings you're going for.

Duplicate Content

Google defines duplicate content as ".substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or are appreciably similar". Content can be seen as "duplicate" when it is found at more than one Web address, or URL, and appears to be substantially similar at each location. Duplicate content diminishes the importance of the content in the search engines. The search engines want to produce the most relevant results. Web sites that are deemed to have duplicate content are typically not penalized; however, their pages will be filtered so that only one instance of the content is shown.

If you are presented with a duplicate content issue, it is best to take action. There can be a number of reasons for duplicate content, including those stemming from content management systems, dynamic URLs, other sites taking your content and making it their own, to inconsistent linking. Not all duplicate content is intentional, such as in the case of dynamic URLs or content management systems. If there are pages on your site that are significantly similar to each other, it is best to re-write each page so they are unique to the subject at hand. If re-writing is not possible, "noindex" the duplicated pages. Duplicate content is intentional when other Web sites take your content and use it on their site. Attempt to have the duplicated content removed by contacting the Web site, if they don't comply, re-write your content to be unique and relevant.


Search engine users find what they are looking for by searching for specific keywords and keyword phrases and choosing the most relevant result. It is important that a site provides as many opportunities to be included in those search results as possible. In other words, you should try to use any keyword phrase that you think someone might search for in order to find your site.

The search engines are looking for original and unique content that cannot be found anywhere else. The content should be built around specific keywords and keyword phrases that identify the overall theme or subject of the Web site. Visitors who search on a keyword or a keyword phrase generally won't stay on a Web site if what they want - whether it is information or retail products - is not easy to find.

The most effective keywords are 2 to 4 word phrases that accurately describe the Web site's content. It is best to use simple, everyday language that searchers are likely to type in. As a general rule, we recommend using 2 to 3 usages of a keyword or keyword phrase on a page unless the amount of content exceeds 600 words. Don't force your keywords into your content. You want it to sound natural. Additionally, it is preferable to avoid using only general phrases. If your keywords are too general then they will likely be up against too much competition from others targeting the same keywords. However, if your keywords are too specific, then fewer people will search for those terms resulting in fewer potential visitors.

Search engines rank individual pages, not sites as a whole. As a general rule, the home page should use more broad range terms and the supporting pages should use more specific and targeted terms that help support the home page. By using this method, you should have a better chance at more favorable results.

Some of the most strategic places to display keywords or keyword phrased are in:

  • Title tags
  • Page Content
  • Meta Description
  • Meta Keywords
  • Heading tags
  • Anchor text within links
  • Images (ALT attributes)

It is also important to evenly distribute the targeted keywords and keyword phrases throughout the page, placing them in the beginning, middle and end of your content. In pages with a high word count, it may be necessary to use the keyword phrase more than just a few times throughout the Web page to build a relevant keyword density. When inserting your keywords or keyword phrases in your content, it is preferable to do so using what is called the inverted pyramid. Since readers generally only glance at the first few paragraphs of text, the first paragraph should contain the key information for that page. The most effective writing is clear and easy to read - short, concise sentences that get to the point. A good practice is to keep paragraphs short and limit each paragraph to a single subject so that keywords will be immediately recognisable to the readers.

Keyword Density

Keyword density is the percentage that a keyword appears throughout the text of a Web page. It is defined as the keyword frequency divided by the total number of words being analysed. This number can be used as a factor to determine whether a Web page is relevant to a specified keyword or keyword phrase. The more times the keyword appears in relation to the total number of words on a page, the greater the overall keyword density. There is no specific formula for the optimum amount of keywords. It is also good to consider the keyword density of your competition and the industry as a whole when writing content. For example, the cell phone market is much more competitive than the market for hamster wheels, thus causing the keyword density of cell phones to be much higher and the keyword phrase must be used more frequently. When writing relevant content, use the targeted keywords or keyword phrases only where they make sense when reading the copy. Don't just force the keywords in the text just for the sake of having the keywords appear on the page.

The Last Word

The basis of nearly every successful search engine optimisation campaign is simplicity. The goal is to make a site easy to find, effortless to navigate, and painless to read for search spiders and Web visitors alike. Your Web site should be keyword-rich, contain well-written relevant content and have a considerable amount of inbound links from relevant sites. Search engine optimisation is a continuing and ongoing effort. Since search engines are constantly changing, what works today may not produce the same results next month. Patience, persistence and attention to details will help bring about the positive, long-term results we are all after.

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