Keyword Questions and Answers

Newcomers to SEO ask questions about many things. Few areas seem to inspire as much confusion as keywords, however. Fortunately, SEO forums let veteran SEOs share their expertise with newcomers. Keep reading for some questions and answers about keywords culled from our own SEO Chat forums.

If you’re interested in delving more deeply into the keyword topics discussed here, there’s an entire forum section devoted to keywords: http://forums.seochat.com/keywords-30/. You’ll find questions about what keywords to pick, how many, how to use them, keyword analysis tools, and so forth. You’ll even find threads that cover factors other than keywords – when both sites are keyword-rich in the same niche, yet one outranks the other. I’ll be including an example of that later in this article.

One question that comes up regularly involves targeting markets in the UK vs. the US. A recent poster noted that his UK-based website uses the term “jewellery” and has been ranking very well for it. But his company wants to expand into US and Canadian markets, where searchers use “jewelry.” Some posters advised him to add “jewelry” as a new keyword to new pages on his site, and make sure the content is unique.

One respondent in the jewelry business, though, noted that “it does not make a big difference at all.” And respected SEO Chat member drelly observed that “If you do a search on Google, you will see that it already knows they are the same word.” I tried the experiment myself, and I did get different results for “jewelry” and “jewellery.” I did note one interesting result in the experiment: Google knows where I live, and included results for “jewellery” near my own location. Since I live in the US, those retailers almost certainly did NOT use “jewellery” on their websites. I doubt that links to their sites used that spelling of the word in the anchor text, either.

Does Google’s knowledge extend to regional differences when the word is completely different? That is, does Google know that “soda” and “pop” describe the same beverage in different parts of the US? That’s a question I can’t answer, but it sounds ripe for experimentation.

Some questioners concern themselves with the quantity of keywords they should use, and how to choose the right ones from a longer list. The tricky aspect to knowing whether you’re choosing the right number of keywords, though, is that there isn’t an easy answer to this. As as SEO Chat forum member cnich007 noted, what you’re really targeting isn’t keywords as much as the right niche. “You might find your niche isn’t even profitable and find yourself coming up with a different direction for your site while researching your keywords.” He suggested 50 for a blog with just a handful of pages, and around 300 for a website with 30+ pages.

It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that a good blog can grow from a few pages to more than 100 over the course of a year or less. But cnich007 does make a valid point about niches: “If your niche is too broad (like ‘traveling’) you’ll never win any keywords. If it’s too narrow (like how penguins mate) then you’ll never find profitable keywords. You need to find something in the middle.”

If you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you know that you can track the keywords that searchers use to find your site. And if you’re developing a diversity of keywords, you may be wondering (as one of the posters to SEO Chat did) how the number of different keywords searchers used to find your site over the course of a month measures up. In this case, the poster was wondering if “visits from 180 different keywords” in one month when 67 percent of his traffic came from search engines was a good statistic.

The best answer to this question came from realityhack, who stated quite bluntly that “It depends.” He cited at least three considerations: the type of site, its total traffic, and the site’s size and how tightly it’s targeted. As you’d expect, small niche sites would see traffic coming from fewer keywords than more general sites (such as Amazon). Still, even a niche site can see traffic arriving from a diversity of keywords if it features a lot of content because “The more content you have…the more oddball key phrase will be present on your page (especially with customer reviews) so Google will see that keyword you never thought of in the review and send someone your way,” realityhack observed.

Rather than focusing on statistics like this, realityhack focuses in on what really matters: “Are they relevant keywords? Is the traffic bouncing or converting? Are you making money?”

I’ll focus on one more keyword-related question. Normally we discourage forum members from posting on threads which haven’t received any posts in nearly a year, but this one (http://forums.seochat.com/keywords-30/oh-my-keywords-313758.html) was something of an exception, because the original poster was still around and gave an update on her situation.

Dr. Marie, the original poster, noted at the start of the thread that she’d been targeting two keywords with one of her websites for about a year. She then launched an affiliate program and one of her affiliates wrote a blog post about the service. His blog post made it to the number five position on Google for her keywords, but her site sat at number 10. It was particularly irksome in a way, because his site had very little to do with those keywords, except for that one post.

Some of you may be wondering how this is possible; the veterans among you may have already figured it out. His site was older than Dr. Marie’s, and she admitted that it “likely has a good number more authoritative links.” EGOL, perhaps the most respected member of our forums at SEO Chat, observed that “This is a good lesson… Lots of people syndicate their content. If heavyweight sites start grabbing it and posting it and ranking above you then they are going to get your traffic, your links, and your sales.”

This keyword story has not one, but two happy endings. The affiliate, whose site has been around since 2002, turned out to be a good guy, and when Dr. Marie pointed out that “his single blog post rated higher in the SERPs than my site he was nice enough to put some links on his site with appropriate anchor text to help me out.” But the kind of boost he got from the age of his site was not insurmountable to someone with Dr. Marie’s dedication. A year later on the same thread, she noted “For that keyword the affiliate of mine is no longer on the first page. And, I am hovering between #1 and #2.” Hard work DOES pay off!  

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