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Location! The Art and Skill of Being Regional

Most people visit a search engine when they are looking for some sort of product or service and conduct a search on a rather broad topic. Someone looking to buy a house in their own town might type the keywords "real estate" into the search engine. When they are returned a list of 300,000 Web sites starting in Alaska and showing all the real estate in the world, they quickly see the value of narrowing their query. The next search they conduct will be something like "Virginia Real Estate." This will give them something more manageable.

What this should tell any Web marketer promoting any product of regional significance is to regionalize their site description and keywords where appropriate. A real estate agent client of ours learned that by keeping his site title and description stuffed with "VA" and "Virginia" his site ranked well above other similar sites that didn't pay attention to this technique.

Use LONGER Keywords
If possible, choose a longer form of a keyword. The reason is a concept called "word stemming." When a search engine does use word stemming, it means that searches for word roots will also include the variations of that word. For instance, searches for "consult" would also return documents that have the words "consulting" and "consultants" unless the user chooses to do an exact search.

What this means to Web marketers is that they can reduce the number of words in their META tags and on their page because search engines that practice word stemming will return their Web site for searches on those other word variations. Therefore, putting the word "consulting" in the META tag will likely come up on searches for both "consult" and "consulting." This can be important when you are designing your Web site and have to choose which keywords to include. When facing this decision, always choose the longer form of the word.

Keyword Power Combinations
If you conduct a search on the word "software" at almost any search engine, your result will likely be several thousand documents. The ones at the top are there because of an array of factors, and some will be beyond your control (e. g., the search engine awards points for the number of sites linked to a Web site, and they have thousands, you have none).

You can't be in first place under every keyword, and you have to be realistic about which keywords offer you a reasonable chance at achieving a good ranking. Many people make the mistake of targeting very general keywords and get frustrated when they can't get into the top 10. However, statistically, more people narrow their searches by searching on two or more keywords in combination.

One technique you should consider is to visit different search engines and conduct searches for a variety of your keywords and keyword combinations. Sometimes you will find that certain keywords return a limited set of Web site descriptions, and therefore, you have a better chance of attaining a great ranking for that keyword combo.

Don't waste efforts trying to get your Web site to the top of the list for a keyword like "software" or some other keyword where the competition is so stiff. If the engine is giving Microsoft a boost because of the "popularity" factor, it will not likely lose its first-place ranking under the keyword "software" to your home-office-based company, "Joey's Software Utilities."

However, if your little company makes a great software product, we strongly urge you to attempt to own the keyword combination "utility software." If you conduct a search on the keyword "software," Yahoo! returns 22,934 site matches. But if you searched for "utility software," Yahoo! returns only 825 site matches. You have at least a fighting chance of getting to the top of the "utility software" result set. You should decide which battles you wish to fight.

The industry vernacular for these low site match keyword combinations is "power combos." We strongly suggest you visit the important search engines and try a few keyword queries. When you find a power combo, write it down and prepare your META tags, title and description submissions to leverage this little bit of marketing advantage you have uncovered.

It's important that the phrase, or power combo, you pick would likely be thought of by someone else. There's no guaranteed way to determine what people will search for and in what quantity. However, try to determine the most generic phrasing for a particular subject matter that is still somewhat specific. The more sophisticated the search phrase is, the less likely people will choose that combination to search on.

Avoid "Stop" Words
Most search engines save resources by skipping over certain words, which are sometimes called "stop" words. These are very common words such as a, the, and, of, that, it, too, Web, home page, etc. Search engines do this to both speed their searches and to save disk space.

So if your site contains stop words in areas where a spider looks for copy to index, the stop words are ignored, possibly affecting how you're indexed -your site may be slotted in an irrelevant category.

For instance, suppose you want to be indexed as a "Web copywriter." Many search engines will likely skip over the word "Web," reading only "copywriter." So you will be indexed under "copywriter" as opposed to "Web copywriter."

Or, if the prominence of a keyword in your title is crucial for a particular search engine's ranking scheme, having the first word in your title be "the" could damage your ranking.

If a stop word is part of your site name or title, put it in quotes, or come up with another name or title that doesn't include the stop word. To determine which words are considered stop words for a particular engine, do a search for a list of words and take note of which ones it says were ignored on the results page.

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