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SEO, words, keywords, LSI

The Basics | SEO for artists and Small Business | Episode 1

Words and Spelling and HTML… Oh, My!

I was checking out the competition today and came across a site that made me chuckle… well, more than chuckle actually. They spelled their company name wrong in the Header Bar of the site! I checked the name 3 times to make sure their name really was what I thought it was and it was spelled correctly everywhere else. I won’t disclose their name because, well they are the competition after all, but it does illustrate how important it is to get the basics right. So, let’s talk a little about the basics of website construction and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)…

Obviously, something as simple as a misspelled or misused word can leave a negative impression. For example, I once made the mistake of asking my readers to asked my readers to “Bare with me.” Since I wasn’t asking them join me at a nudist camp, it should, of course, have been “Bear…” Another exmple, make sure you use the word “to” correctly. It bugs many grammar Nazis when the word “to” is used when “too” is meant. I like the word myriad. I was first introduced to author Larry Niven through his book All the Myriad Ways. Yes, he uses it correctly. Myriad means infinite. One doesn’t have a myriad of something any more than one would have an infinite of it. So, use your spell check, reread your work, and have someone else read those important posts you are trying to make a special impression with.

But there is an equally important reason to watch your spelling. The words you use are also evaluated by Search Engines… not for esthetic reasons, but instead to determine what your page is about and consequently determine where to rank it in searches. You want to be on the first page of a Google search, preferably in the first 3 “organic search” positions. Interestingly, the top 2 or 3 listings, the ones with the colored backgrounds, are paid for and they don’t rank as well as the 3 top spots without the background. Those are are the top sites ranked by their actual content, also called “organic.”

Words, words, words, words, words.

Why am I so hung up on words? Because, while Google, et al, can read and understand (on a toddler’s level), they can’t really see. There is no search algorithm for visual esthetics, nor for creative design. If you have a page that is loaded with photos and gif captions, search engines see that as a blank page… and that actually hurts your ratings! If you have a fancy Flash intro, well, chances are that’s invisible also!

So what’s the plan?

  • Design your website as if each page is a complete website unto itself.
  • Use Google’s free Keyword tool to choose Keywords that both describe what your message is and are commonly searched for. You should limit each page to 1 or 2 primary Keywords- preferably Long Tail Keywords.
  • Use Long Tail Keywords whenever possible. Long Tail Keywords are very specific search phrases (see my previous post for a description). Find one that speaks to exactly what you are talking about, and use it 2- 3 times on your page. Note: no more than 2-3 times! Google sees an excess of a single keyword as an indication that the page or entire site is simply SPAM and that’s a VERY bad thing!
  • Make a list of (!!GEEKY TERMINOLOGY ALERT!!) Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords and work them into your copy. Essentially we are talking about synonyms. LSI keywords are those that are directly related to your main long tail keyword. I know, it sounds complex, but it isn’t really and there are tools available to help. Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to build a page around a group of paintings of Oregon Coastal Seascapes. If you used oregon coast seascape for your keyword, some related LSI keywords and phrases might be image, painting, explosion waves, beach tides, ocean drawings, coast seascape scene, framed ocean prints, etc. In this particular case they simply add color to the descriptions on your page, but if your keyword is something like “Bar” you would want to make sure to use LSI words that would clarify to the search engine whether you meant a place that served drinks, a long metal rod, or the exam you take to become a lawyer. Here’s a short little video that explains it pretty well…
  • Finally, get under the hood and add a few things to the HTML code. If you’re using a program like Wordpress, there are several free and paid SEO plugins you can instal on your site that will do the grunt work for you. Just fill out the form, update, and it will add the code. So what needs to be done? Well, remember, were talking to something that can read but not see, so wherever there is a graphic element, we need to tell Google what it is. We do that with Alt Text. Again, a program like WordPress will give you an opportunity to add alternative text (alt text) when adding a photo or other graphic element. If you are working directly in the HTML code, look for a line of code that looks like this: blah blah blah Where url is the address of the picture on your site. You may have to add the alt=”blah blah blah” part. The “blah blah blah” part is where you put your text. Let’s say it’s a picture of a flying seagull. You could just replace the blah blah blah with Seagull, but it’s much better to write “Seagull flying over the bright sand of an Oregon beach.” A great place to learn HTML and other web languages for free is W3schools It features full, interactive, and easy lessons for just about anything you could want to do on your site and it doesn’t cost a dime!

OK, now this isn’t supposed to be a complete exposition on the topic. Books can and have been written on the subject. This is just a starting place for your studies. That’s why I introduce those geeky terms… so that searching out answers and better understanding will be easier. Please give me your feedback and tell me the kind of topics you’d like me to address.

BTW, I really recommend if you really want to get your geek on, check out the Wikipedia entry for
Latent semantic indexing.