~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

From: Walter Loughney

Hi Jill,

I really enjoy your newsletter. I get several SEO newsletters a week and yours consistently has the most useful and relevant information. I think this comes from your real life use of the info rather than just writing about it which some seem to do.

I have had good (maybe even great) results in getting my home pages ranked in the top 10 or top 20 depending on how many thousands or tens/hundreds of thousands of pages are found for various keywords. But have not done as well in getting my more content specific pages ranked as high for the same keywords even though they have more content and use the keywords. Is there such a thing as too much specific use of a keyword on a page?

For example say your site sells shoes (not my product). If you have a page that talks about shoes and says you have red shoes and brown shoes and black shoes and large shoes and small shoes and open toed shoes and work shoes, etc. You might expect to get a good ranking on shoes. The page is named shoes.htm and the title is "Shoes in all sizes - Shoes in all Colors" and you have keywords on shoes being careful not to violate any of the "rules" on how many times you use "shoes" or "open toed" etc. in the keywords.

You might expect to get a good ranking when someone searches for shoes. But if you search for shoes and find sites in the top 10 for shoes that do not have the best page name, title, keywords, or use of the keywords in meaningful content...well you have to wonder what happens.

Any thoughts on this? Is too much of the right things just too much? In particular I am optimizing for Google, Alltheweb, AltaVista, MSN, AOL and Yahoo.

Thanks for any comments and I hope I have at least given you some things to think about.

Walter Loughney


~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Walter,

Glad you enjoy the newsletter!

There are many reasons why your inner content pages may not be ranking highly in the engines. My first question to you would be, are the pages actually in the search engines' databases? Obviously, if the search engines aren't aware of the pages, they can't come up in the results. So the first thing you must do is check to see which pages of your site are indexed. Generally, you can figure this out by typing in your URL at the engines' sites and seeing what pages come up. If the inner pages aren't showing up, this is probably the reason they don't rank well!

Of course, if the pages aren't showing up, then you have a major problem on your hands. All the optimization and great writing that you do will be for nothing if the search engines can't find or index your pages for some reason. If you have a dynamically generated site, it's possible that your design is causing your problems. Certain dynamic pages are still not crawlable by many of the search engine spiders. There are ways to get around this, but if you created your site dynamically with no thought to the search engines, it can be a lot of work to "fix" things after the fact. I've discussed some of the workarounds in a few issues of the old Rank Write newsletter. (Do a search at Rank Write for the word "dynamic" and you should find all the articles.)

Another reason that the search engines may not have your inner pages indexed is because they are simply buried too deep within the site architecture. Make sure that any important pages that you definitely want indexed by the search engines are easy for the spiders to find and crawl. At a minimum, build a sitemap page that has a link on your home page, and make sure all the important pages of your site are listed on it.

If the search engines *do* have your pages indexed, but they have poor rankings, then yes, you do want to revisit your copy. There are definitely problems with the over-use of the word "shoes" in your example. For one thing, I wouldn't recommend even attempting to rank highly for the single word "shoes." Yes, in the case of a shoe store, that may definitely be the word that could bring you the most traffic, but you've gotta change your mindset when it comes to search engine optimization.

Instead of trying to take one page and rank highly for "shoes" you've absolutely got to find more descriptive phrases and optimize whole bunches of pages specifically geared towards each of them. In other words, don't try to rank highly for "red shoes," "brown shoes," "black shoes" and the rest of them all on one page. Use WordTracker and find the specific phrases people use, and then focus on just a couple of them for each page. If "open-toed shoes" turns out to be a good one, have a page that discusses those. You could even write an article that discusses how open-toed shoes are all the rage right now, or whatever. Certainly, you could discuss both "open-toed shoes" and "open-toed sandals" on the same page, but don't stray too far off course, or you'll make things difficult for yourself.

You don't need (or want) to repeat the word a zillion times over and over again. The key is in using your phrases where they make sense in the copy. The copy *must* read well. It absolutely must. The biggest mistake some SEOs make is sticking their keyword phrases anywhere and everywhere. Don't do it. Don't be tempted to do it. Make sure you have enough copy to work with (at least 250 words) and go from there. My basic rule of thumb is that if it sounds stupid or sounds like you're overdoing it, most likely you are! As my former Rank Write partner Heather Lloyd-Martin always says, read the copy aloud. You can pretty much tell if you've gone overboard when you hear it out loud, so don't forget this important step in the writing process.

If you use your keywords naturally, you won't have a problem with the search engines. If you simply stick them everywhere, it's certainly possible that your pages could get flagged as some sort of doorway page, and then be given a lower weight. I'm not saying this is a certainty, but the engines do seem to give a preference (as they should) to well written pages. Content is king, guys. Always has been, and always will be. Keyword repetition is not good content. The goal is to give the search engines and your readers what they want. It's not always easy, but it is most definitely doable. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But you really do have to start with good writing from a professional copywriter. I cannot stress this enough. If the underlying copy is good, it's much easier to then get your keywords into it. If you can start from scratch with your keywords in mind, you should definitely do that. However, very often you can find good places for your keywords within your existing writing. In fact, this is what I discuss in my Search Engine Strategies presentation, "Writing for the Search Engines." (You're gonna have to come to the conference to learn all the editing tricks I've amassed through the years! I'm also hoping to eventually put it all down in a book, but I just have too many other things on my plate right now. (sigh) Someday...)
July 18, 2002

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Keywords Coming Out of My Ears