What is a Keyword?

A keyword is a word that is descriptive of the meaning of a sentence or passage.  In web terminology, keywords are “single words, or more commonly strings of words, that represent the content of a web page and how people ask for web content (Chelsea Adams, Back to Basics: What are Keywords and Why Do they Matter?)”.  MS Adams goes on to say, “Keywords are strategically selected by optimizers and are intended to help your web content communicate in a way that resonates with humans and Google search spiders”.

graphic of 3d text - keywords - david bateman, web designerSo, what did Chelsea Adams just say?  Google crawls the Internet and analyzes web pages to determine the subject matter of that content.  It identifies and indexes keywords that are descriptive of that content so that, when someone does a search on Google for a particular topic, it can return the most relevant results for that search.  The most relevant content to that search will appear on page one, in the first position with the next most relevant appearing next, and so forth.  The purpose of carefully selected keywords is twofold:  1) To aid in providing relative content to humans who are searching; 2) To get the attention of the Google web crawlers.

Obviously, our goal is to place as close to the first position as possible.  This is why the selection of keywords and keyword phrases is important.  As web publishers, we want to upload content that is relevant to the keywords people are searching for.  Here is an example:

Let us say that you maintain the website for the church of Christ located in Macon, GA (Macon church of Christ).  Your first objective is to make it possible for people to find you who are searching for a church of Christ in Macon, GA.  Your keywords, then, should be “church of Christ”, “Macon”, “Georgia” and “GA”.  You will want to upload content which contains these keywords.  You will also want to place as many of these keywords in your domain name and metadata (page title, page description, and listed keywords) as is practical.  So, you might want to select “maconchurchofchrist.org” as your domain.  You would also want to include these keywords in your page description and page title.

Let us consider another example.  Suppose you want to publish an article on baptism.  The title of your post is, “Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?”  Obvious keywords would be “baptism”, “salvation”, and “essential”.  You will want to be sure these words are found throughout the content (without overdoing it).  You want to be sure that Google will be able to find these keywords in your metadata.

However, we have to use caution in applying keywords.  We don’t want to “over-do” it.  By placing keywords in content with a frequency that comes across as unnatural, we leave ourselves open to getting penalized.  Google considers keyword “stuffing” to be “black-hat” SEO tactics.  Keyword stuffing occurs when someone repeatedly uses a keyword over and over in a way that is not natural.  If Google suspects this is what is occurring, they will send your website to the bottom of the heap.  Your webpage could be demoted in rankings or even removed from search returns altogether!

One important element of keyword strategy is keyword research.  Before writing an article on a given topic, research some of the words you plan to use and determine how many people are searching for those words and phrases (a future article about how to do keyword research is in the works).  Your research might lead you to replace certain words and phrases with words and phrases that more people are actually searching for on a monthly basis.  The obvious benefit is the potential of driving greater traffic to your article and website.  However, this approach to writing must be tempered with the goal to provide quality content.

Keywords can be more than just single words.  They are often strings of words, or phrases.  Going back to a previous example, your keywords might be “church” and “Christ”.  But, you should also add the string “church of Christ” as a keyword as well.  The use of the keyword phrase “church of Christ” will make your web page more relevant and more likely to show up in a Google search for someone looking for a church of Christ in Macon, GA.

In future issues of our newsletter, we will look at these topics – Keyword research, keyword strategy, optimal keywords for Internet evangelism, and the dangers of Keyword stuffing – in more detail.