I had a meeting with a client yesterday who was a little concerned. We do some of his content creation and he had noticed that we were not including meta keywords on the blog posts we had been doing for him. He was sure that either he didn’t know something we knew, or he had caught us in a mistake. I assured him it was the former and he was not alone in not knowing where keywords need to be placed on webpages. We see a lot of clients dead-set on making sure the meta keywords are filled out in the WordPress backend.
The old-hat notion that Google pays attention to meta keywords is based in reality—well, actually it’s based in ancient history (measured in Internet years). Google used to pay a lot of attention to meta keywords. However, too many people started stuffing the meta keywords with dozens (in some cases, hundreds) of keywords hoping to hit it big on the Google roulette wheel. Google had to stop paying attention to them because they were too often misleading as to what was really on the page. Google has moved on to far more sophisticated ways of judging what the content is on a particular page.
But this notion that Google will reward you if you put keywords in the right places is true…it’s just that too many people don’t seem to know where those places are. I’m here to solve that mystery.
Let’s Solve the Keyword Location Mystery
Google does pay special attention to keywords put into certain locations. There is, of course, debate as to the exact order of importance of these locations. And the Internet being the Internet, not only does the order of importance change, but so do the members of the list. However, as of April, 2013, this is a good rule of thumb to follow:
1. Keywords in the Domain Name
DON”T GO BUY A NEW DOMAIN!! GoDaddy does not need more of your money to make more of their “wonderful” commercials.
Yes, Google does look for keywords in domain names. This fact is what drove people to begin using domains like
But the days of “exact match domains” dominating the search results are over. It’s far better to brand your business in your domain. So bobscabins.com still gets you the word “cabin” in your domain as a base for your SEO.
So don’t drop your short, well branded domain name for some long monstrosity that has all your keywords in it. It’s helpful if you have one or two keywords in your domain, but it is no longer vital.
2. Keywords in the URL
Google does pay attention to keywords in the rest of the URL, and there are indications this is nearly as important as having them in the domain and is one of the main reasons #1 above is no longer vital. Instead of the long domain example above, getting important keywords into the rest of your URL is important. If your cabins are on Lake Googleota, it might be a good idea to occasionally get the name of the lake into your URLs for people looking for cabins on that particular lake. And it doesn’t have to be difficult to do; here’s an example of all it takes:
Most CMS and blog systems give you the tools to make the end of the URL (called the slug) anything you would like.
3. Keywords in the Title Tag
Title tags are a small piece of HTML that do several important things: they show up in the browser tabs to let people know what content is in the tab…
and they play an important role in search results pages…
So for both the reasons above and because Google looks for keywords in your title tags, they are important pieces of text—make sure you spend some time thinking about the title; strong titles are very descriptive of the page and if it can contain some important keywords for you, all the better.
4. Keywords in the Headline
If your website was built well, you will likely have a headline on each page and that headline will be wrapped in a <h1> tag to let the search engine world know that it is the most important header on the page (as opposed to <h2> on down to <h6> headers). In the modern XHTML world, you can have more than one <h1> tag on a page, but for most websites one of these is all you need. And, Google pays attention to what keywords they find inside that headline.
5. Keywords in the Body
And, of course it’s a very good idea to have keywords in the body of your page. However, don’t spend time trying to stuff as many keywords onto a page as possible. Write naturally about the topic of the page and you will be fine. What Google does not like is the same keyword repeated over and over and over—a practice called “keyword stuffing” funnily enough.
Bonus: Where Keywords Don’t Matter!
There are places that it is well researched Google no longer pays attention to. The two biggest are meta keywords and meta descriptions; there is no need to spend time and effort on worrying about keywords in these locations. However, the meta description should still not be ignored because Google will often (not always) use the meta description for the two lines of black text in the search results. Given you can control the blue headline (via the title tag), the green URL, and also the two lines of black text, you are in a great deal of control of how your “ad” in the search results will look.