Keyword Optimization for Google

Ever wonder what Google is ‘thinking?’

It is important to know how Google views your site, because if Google has the wrong impression, you will get traffic with high bounce rates. High bounce rates equate to decreased search engine relevance. You need to know that relevant terms are being found so you can locate any ‘offending phrases’ and eliminate them from your pages.

You can start with Google’s Webmaster tools. If you haven’t signed up for this, you should. It’s free and can be very helpful. Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ to sign up. The tool requires that you verify ownership either by placing a meta tag (that they provide) in your home page or creating a blank web page with a specific page name. Once you are verified, look at >Statistics >Top search queries to confirm what search phrases your site is being displayed for and which of those phrases are generating clicks. Also check >Statistics >What Googlebot Sees. What you should see is a list of “linked text” found in external links to your site. Google weighs linked text and surrounding phrases heavily when evaluating relevant phrases for your site. (Note that you may get the error “Data is not available at this time,” in which case you will see two lists: one titled “In your site’s content” the other “in external links to your site.” I believe this occurs when you don’t have enough incoming links to generate a report, but the information is still instructive.)

I believe you can also get some good ideas by using its keyword tool for website content. Just for grins, go to Google’s keyword tool at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal, select >Website Content and type in your URL. Then, based on what Google finds when it hits your pages is a list of “keyword groups.” If your site is optimized well, these phrases should all be relevant terms. If any of the “keyword groups” are not relevant, you have some work to do. Navigation, page names, and site structure all play a part.

— It’s also a good idea to try the keyword tool on a competitor’s website.

Added  11/2008:

Google has released a new keyword tool named the Search-Based Keyword Tool. This tool tells you what keywords you are currently missing out on based on search data directly from your website’s content. Viewing this in reverse, that is looking at recommended phrases that shouldn’t be there, is another good what to know what phrases Google is associating with your site.

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