Search engines are not humans. Although they try to understand the information they receive, a simple keyword search is the result of millions of pages crawled. Despite constant updates to the search query algorithm, there remains solid on-page SEO strategies you can use to help search engines like Google understand your site. So what is the best way to translate a page for a search engine while remaining true to your visitors?
A good place to start is with keywords.
Keywords are the foundation of optimizing on-page content. Keywords inserted among titles, headers, image alt attributes and the written text itself is an essential way to shout to search engines, “RELEVANCE, I’m right here!” A component to consider is the term frequency-inverse document frequency, a fancy word for keyword density. This calculates the significance of a keyword by measuring the number of times a keyword appears. But a simple strategy like this becomes abused and misused. Thanks to spammers, keyword density can easily turn into keyword stuffing. Use only a sufficient amount to illustrate what your page is about.
Excessive keyword usage means an overly optimized page. In consequence, this can hurt rankings. Awkward keyword placements sound unnatural, look forced and will negatively turn away site visitors. By committing to one keyword, it also limits the site’s potential to attain relevance. The solution is to employ natural variations of a keyword. This will not only give more flexibility to the content writer but will open the page to a larger pool of searches. For example, if a dentist is trying to optimize for the keyword “dental practice” variations such as “dental office”, “dental clinic”, “dental location,” “dentist office,” or “dentist practice” can be added to target a wider audience.
Search engines also consider placement of keywords as an important factor when prioritizing keywords. Main body content proves more relevance to what the page is about in contrast to sidebar or footer content. An H1 tells the search engine its higher importance than an H2 or H3. These structural indicators are especially important for websites accessed on mobile devices. By utilizing HTML5, the search engine can distinguish what section of the website the content belongs to.
By accessing the distance of keywords, search engines can further infer its relationship and identify keywords of equal, lower or higher importance. For example, keywords placed in a section, list or paragraph point to a closer relationship than keywords from different paragraphs.
Phrase Based Search | Entity Salience
Keyword search has certainly come a long way evolving to the present day advanced phrase based search. Phrase based search involves looking at a keyword occurrence in relation to another keyword of common category such as “dentist” and “porcelain veneers”. Rather, a page will show higher relevance if it sees the appearance of commonly associated keywords. A page filled with keywords: dentist, teeth whitening and amalgam will perform much higher in search than a page that includes non relative keywords: dentist, vacation deals, and education. Furthermore, search engines like Google have stepped up from phrase based search with entity salience. Entity salience refers to taking keywords that fall under a strong and clear entity and assigning a relevance score.
Altogether, Google has grown more intuitive in analyzing keywords and its relationship to other keywords. From pigeon, hummingbird, panda to penguin, search engines continue to reach closer to human interpretation of websites and search queries. Although it is important to be strategic with writing and organizing web content, the most important strategy is to create content that best fit the needs of the visitor.