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Choosing Your Keywords

keywordsa 150x91Have you optimized your organization's web site for search engine results? Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of setting up your web site and allows people to find you without directly typing your URL into the address bar of their browser. Basically, when they go to Google or another search engine and type in what they're looking for, say a nonprofit organization serving your clientele in your city, you want your web site to be one of the first that comes up in their search results pages.

There are a lot of ways to optimize your page, and one of them is to use appropriate keywords. Just exactly how important they are, in conjunction with other SEO methods, isn't really known, but there's no doubt that keywords are very important. When someone types their search terms into Google, the search engine goes looking for those terms on web pages and pulls up the ones that appear to be relevant.

"Keywords" refers to words and phrases that you include in the text because you think that they are terms people will be using to search for the information that your site provides. This takes some pre-planning on your part because you want to weave them into the text on your site without intruding on the experience of actual users. That means that even if you think someone might be searching for "homeless shelter Yuma," you might not want to use that exact phrase. Still, you can use those words in close proximity to one another in order to let the search engines know that your site is relevant to the user's search:

  • "ABC is the oldest homeless shelter in Yuma, Arizona."
  • "The homeless in Yuma have turned to our shelter for 50 years."
  • "Those wanting to volunteer at a Yuma homeless shelter can contact us."

In order to do this appropriately, you need to spend a little time determining what phrases you think others might use when searching for your type of organization. You can optimize your page for more than one keyword term, just remember to make the text flow well and naturally. There's no sense in getting someone to visit your organization's page and then having them click right back off because it comes across as "spammy."

Along those same lines, the search engines don't like it when you use your keywords too many times, either. In the past, people have used the method of "keyword stuffing" to put search terms all over their sites and then rank higher in search engine results. Again, once someone clicks over to the site and discovers that the information isn't really useful, they're not going to stick around. The search engine companies recognize this, and sites that they think have used this method will be "blacklisted." Recommendations for "keyword density" vary, but keeping the phrases to about 2-5% of your word count is a good guideline.

In addition to coming up with potential search terms on your own, you can use various keyword suggestion tools. These work in different ways, but at the heart of it, they help you uncover what terms people are using to find similar information to what you offer.

Finally, keep in mind that it's not always the best idea to go for the most obvious keywords. You can optimize your site all you want for the term "nonprofit organization," but there's very little chance that you will rank in the results for that. The competition is just too fierce. However, you may have a decent chance of ranking for "nonprofit organization" + "your city."

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