Before November of 2003 it was easy to rank well in Google for just about anything just by using the keywords in your anchor text and plastering the term everywhere in your page copy. I appreciate that, knowing that back then I ranked in Google’s top 10 results for search engine marketing without knowing much about the topic. As time passed it became clear that Google began to look for natural and unnatural patterns, and what I was doing did not fit the mold.
In a recent 100% Organic column, Jill Whalen wrote you can’t OVER optimize, which is true, but what put you at the top of the search results a few years back might get your site filtered out of the search results now. We all look back and say we predicted some of the trends, but after the Florida update some of the people who claimed it was no big deal also learned to change with the algorithms to remain relevant.
Mixing it up & Changing word order
Some people are still focused on keyword density, but you really have to look at how words are used in the content. By changing the order of the words and using alternate words the page is less likely to get filtered out of the search results for being too focused, and is much more likely to rank for a wide array of related keywords.
Instead of leading all page titles with your site name or a target keyword consider adding a specific page related modifier to the front of the page title. A strong modifier at the beginning of your page title reduces your focus on the core term, makes your listing less likely to get filtered out of the search results, gives you a chance to differentiate your offer from the competition, and may improve your clickthrough rate and/or traffic quality. For example, if a page is about SEO services, you could start the page title with Professional SEO services.
Excessive duplication across on page elements also leads to a risk of being filtered. If your page title contains Dallas, Texas Real Estate Listings consider using alternate versions in your meta description tag and page headings. Perhaps the meta description might contain professional realtor located in Dallas, Texas, while your h1 tag might contain Dallas homes for sale.
If you want to find out what words Google thinks your page is about you can plug it into the Google AdWords Sandbox and find other relevant words to work into your copy.
Think similarly with links. If every link to your site uses the exact same anchor text it does not appear natural. Consider using click here, your business name, your URL, or other variants in some of the anchor text in your inbound links.
Leveraging keyword modifiers in page content
Longer search queries tend to have more implied intent and thus convert better than most short keyword phrases. If your page is rich in related keywords you can compete for a much broader array of keywords. If your site is still too new and weak to compete for the core industry related keywords you can still compete for more relevant long tail terms.
Tools like Quintura make it easy to visualize words that are common in top ranked competing web pages. You can also look at the ad copy and page copy of competing sites to see what keywords are popular. If your page copy is similar to the content of many competing pages then your copy is improved by any targeting and refinement they discovered throughout their history.
What search engines want to rank
If your content is unnatural and a person who knows little about SEO can pick out your keyword phrases without much effort it is safe to assume search engines won’t want to rank that type of content well. Search engines wants to rank high quality editorial content. Content that reads well to people and looks like a journalist wrote it will outrank keyword stuffed content. By mixing things up and targeting a wider set of keywords you help keep your search rankings and site earnings are stable.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.