Don’t “Stuff” Keywords

Use lots of relevant keywords, as often as possible on your website. This is what many website owners have been taught about search engine visibility. But that's only part of the story. And it's possible to do damage to your search engine ranking by going overboard.

For example, too many keywords crammed into "small" space—"keyword stuffing"—can make search engines shun your site. Some simple guidelines can help you avoid this pitfall. so here are some do's and don't's to remember.

DO differentiate yourself and your site. The trick is to be specific enough with your keywords to target the people you want to find your site, but not so specific that no one ever finds it.

Where are you most likely to get your customers? If it's Southern California, try including "Orange County appraiser." But then drill down further. Are you seeing a lot of homeowners in your area dissatisfied with their tax revaluations? Then try "Orange County property tax appeal appraiser." The point is to understand what Web visitors want to see on your site and deploy keywords that accurately describe it.

DON'T simply cram your keywords into your title and metatags. It's good to have relevant search terms appear in your page title and early in your content. It's bad to have them appear in the title and tags and then no where else on your site. Scatter your keywords liberally throughout your content, don't cram them all into one or two spots.

DO write like you (and your clients) talk. A phrase like "Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio mortgage appraiser with quick turn times in Summit County and the Akron, Ohio area" is rich with keywords, but a lousy way to start off a page on your website.

Write a clear message first, then make an effort to be sure keywords are included. Don't make keywords your message.

DON'T go overboard with the words "appraisal" or "appraiser" on your site. It's a really good idea to include text or even dedicated content pages about all the areas you cover. But there's a catch. Let's say you put the following text on your home page to attract search engine traffic:

Atlanta appraisals
Sandy Springs appraisals
Marietta appraisals
Alpharetta appraisals
Cumberland appraisals
Gwinnett appraisals

There are two problems with this. One is that it may give an actual human, who's browsing your site to see if he should hire you, a headache. (Remember you're supposed to write like you talk.) The other is that search engines are likely to see "appraisals" repeated so many times in a tight space that they discount your page as spammy.

The keywords "appraisal" and "appraiser" are probably all over your site already, so you don't need to repeat them when you're trying to get search engines to pick up where you do business. Instead of the above, a simple "We appraise real property in the following areas:" followed by a list of communities is a much better bet.

DO remember that keywords aren't enough on their own. Yes, keywords help your search results. But there are other important ingredients that do too, such as:

* A lot of content. Your XSite has dozens of pre-written pages you can customize and publish with a few clicks.
* Frequent updates. Don't let your text stagnate. Revisit to freshen it up often.
* Lots of inbound links. Other sites are more likely to link to you if you have good, relevant content than
if you don't.

Whatever you do, write good, attractive, engaging copy that also happens to liberally use your keywords. Don't mash as many keywords as you can into as small a space as possible. It will turn away both search engines and visitors.