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By Paul Sheng

RISMEDIA, March 8, 2007-Do you ever wonder how search engines decide who gets to be #1? You're not alone- search engine optimization is a thriving industry. You should know as much as you can about how to boost your site's ranking before you hire a search engine expert.

The first thing you should look at is the copy on your home page. This is what will greatly determine your Web site's relevancy to a search engine, so it should contain your major keywords and phrases. Keywords are the terms that people type into the search windows when trying to find something on the Internet. It's safe to say that everything about Internet marketing begins with keywords, so the first thing to do is make a long list of every possible key word and phrase that someone might use to find your Web site.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

– Keywords should include the cities, districts, and region that your services cover.
– The more "niche" your market, the better chance for higher search engine rankings because you will have less competition for your specialty keywords.
– Capitalization does not matter with keywords.
– Many words should be listed in both singular and plural versions.

It's All Relevant

Your keywords are phrases that you believe are relevant to your business and that people will use at the search engines to find services like yours. Examples of this would be:

– San Francisco real estate agent
– Cape Cod homes for sale
– Orange County apartment rentals
– Pensacola beachfront home
– Pittsburgh mls listings
– Idaho new home

Once you have your chosen keywords, select eight to ten of the most relevant. Use these keywords in your homepage title, headline and the first 300 words of text on your Web site's home page. For example, "San Francisco Residential Homes for Sale." If possible, your title tag should also contain three to four keywords. You should be able to change the Web site title, description, and keyword tags through your Web site manager.

Remember: your keywords provide relevance for the search engines – by targeting fewer, quality keywords, you attract visitors that are more likely to be interested in your services. If you pack your site with keywords that have little to do with your business, you may get more traffic but fewer resulting leads. For instance, if you frequently use the keyword "Alfred Hitchcock" on your page, you'll get lots of traffic, but they'll probably be movie enthusiasts who aren't in the market for a home.

Keyword Density Deciphered

Now that you have identified your important keywords, you can start inserting them throughout your Web site content. This process creates keyword density- the amount ("density") of words on your page that match the terms you want people who find you to use. You don't want to stuff the keywords here, however. For example, Google expects a keyword density in the entire body text area of maybe 1.5% to 2% for a word that should rank high.

Read through your current text, and see where you can add them, while keeping the content flow and readability.

In place of "we" or "us," use your company name whenever possible – your company name is a key search term.

Search engines will give more weight or importance to words that appear near the tops of pages, headlines, and words in bold. Using keyword-rich copy to open paragraphs is important.

Bulleted lists are a good way to keep things from sounding awkward.

Here's an example: let's say you sell homes in Palm Beach.

Good use of keyword density: "Palm Beach has a beautiful selection of homes. In fact, Palm Beach real estate has been called "the best real estate in the world."

Bad use of keyword density: "Real estate in Palm beach is real estate you want to buy in Palm Beach. Palm Beach real estate offers the best Palm Beach real estate to people who want to buy real estate in Palm Beach.

See the difference? Writing your keywords into the text is different from just cramming them in there. And the second example isn't too far out: I've seen many similar Web pages with garbled, unintelligible paragraphs.

While the top of the page is an important place for keywords, your copy also needs to make sense to people visiting your Web site, not just search engines. You need to strike a balance between readability and search engine-friendliness. Make sure you read your copy aloud to make sure it sounds right. If you can't make this balance happen, place a keyword rich paragraph at the very end of your page- where no one but the search engines will look.

For more information on keyword density, and to see how your site performs, visit

Paul Sheng is CEO of iHOUSE Web Solutions for more information, visit