March 9, 2010

Placing Keywords for Maximum Impact


Hostway Team

By Melissa J. Luther

Using the right keywords on your Web site is important for good search engine rankings, but the location of those keywords is equally important. Search engines assign greater significance to keywords in certain positions compared to others.

To convince search engines that a keyword is truly important to your page, consider using it in the following locations.

Title Tag

The title tag may be the most important place on the page to use your main keyword. The title shows up across the top of a Web browser and is also the text that many search engines use as the hyperlink on their results page.

Use your keyword near the beginning of the title.


You may not be able to get a domain name containing your main keyword, but you can still take advantage of keywords in your URLs. Each page of your site should focus on a different keyword, so use that word as part of the page URL. Try to keep your keywords close to the domain name. In other words, use “” rather than “” This positioning is not critical, but for small sites, every little bit helps.

H1 Tag

Every page should have a main headline containing its main keyword. Emphasize that headline with an H1 tag.

Image Descriptions

  • Alt attribute: Search engines can’t see images, so every image on your site should have an alt attribute, that is, an alternate description for the search engines to read. Using keywords in your alt attribute appears to correlate surprisingly well with high search rankings.
  • Captions: Use keywords in picture captions.

Page Copy

Of course you know you should scatter keywords throughout the page, but even here placement matters.

  • First paragraph: Place your main keyword as close to the beginning of your copy as possible, preferably in the first sentence.
  • Bolded copy: Search engines appear to give a slight preference to bold words, so bold one or two instances of your keyword.
  • Anchor text: Good internal link structure boosts both visitor usability and search engine ranking. When linking between pages on your site, use keywords relevant to the linked page as your anchor text. If you link to a page about blue widgets, then “blue widgets” is good anchor text.

The Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag does not actually affect your ranking, but it can affect your traffic. Many search engines display the content of this tag in the snippet of text that appears in search results, so an engaging description can encourage searchers to visit your site.

Keep in mind that these are useful guidelines, not strict rules. On-page optimization is one of the few things you have control over, so take advantage of that and follow these guidelines when they make sense within the context of a page. You do not need to use every suggestion on every page.

Remember, too, that in the end, it’s your human visitors who will actually buy your products and services. Create a site that appeals to them.

About the Author

Melissa J. Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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