How to Use Keywords in HTML

Learn how keywords impact SEO and where to use them in HTML


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SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is an important and often misunderstood aspect of web design. Search engine findability is obviously an important factor in the success of any site. You want a person who is conducting a search for the terms that match the products or services that your company offers to find your website, right? 

That makes perfect sense, but the application of SEO practices is unfortunately open to abuse and outright scams, either by outdated practitioners who are not up-to-date on the latest trends and industry best practices, or actual scam artists who are out to take your money in exchange for services that could actually harm, rather than help, your website.

Let's take a look at what keywords in web design are, including how they can help your site and what practices you should avoid.

What Are HTML Keywords

In the most general of terms, keywords in HTML are words you are targeting on a web page. They are typically short phrases that represent what the page is about. They are also the words that someone might type into a search engine to find your page.

In general, HTML keywords are found whether you intend them to be there or not. Keywords are just text like any other text, and when a search engine views your page, it looks at the text and attempts to make a decision regarding what the page is about based on the text it sees. It reads the content of your page and sees what important words are contained in that text. 

The best way to use keywords is by making sure that they are naturally included on your page. You do not want to overdo this, however. Remember, your content should be written for humans, not search engines. The text should read and feel natural and not be peppered with every possible keyword. Not only does overusing keyword, called keyword stuffing, make your site hard to read, but it can also get your site penalized by search engines so your site is actually pushed deeper into search engine results.

Metadata in HTML

When you hear the term keywords in web design, the most common use is as metadata. This is typically thought of as the meta keywords tag and is written in HTML like this:

<meta name="keywords" content="keywords,html keywords,meta keywords,keyword data" />

Search engines today don't use the keywords meta tag in their ranking algorithms because it can be manipulated so easily by the web page writer. In other words, many page writers used to put random keywords into the keywords tag, in the hopes that the page would be optimized for those (probably more popular) phrases. If you are speaking to someone about SEO and they talk about meta keywords being important, they are probably out of touch with current practices! 

Description: A More Important HTML Meta Tag Than Keywords

If you are going to include metadata on your web pages, ignore the keywords tag and instead use the meta description tag. This is metadata that nearly all search engine use to describe your web page in their indexes. It does not impact rankings, but it does impact what a person sees when your listing appears. That extra information could mean the difference from a customer clicking on your site for information or on someone else's.

HTML Keywords and Search Engines

Instead of relying on the keywords meta tag, think about keywords in the actual content of your web page. These are the terms that the search engines will use to evaluate what the page is about, and thus where it should appear in their search results. First, write content that is useful, and then focus on search engine optimization to optimize that content for the keywords you are focusing on for that page.

How to Choose HTML Keywords

When you are choosing the keyword phrase for a web page, you should first focus on just one phrase or main idea per web page. It is not a good idea to try to optimize one web page for many different things, as this could confuse not only the search engines but more importantly your readers.

One strategy that may seem counterintuitive but works well for many sites is to choose “long-tail” keywords. These are the keywords that don't receive huge amounts of search traffic. Because they aren't as popular with searchers, they aren't as competitive, and it's possible to rank higher in a search for them. This gets your site noticed and you gain credibility. As your site gains credibility, it will start ranking higher for the popular terms. 

One thing to be aware of is that Google and other search engines are really good at understanding synonyms. This means that you do not need to include every variation of a keyword on your site. Google will often know that certain phrases mean the same thing.

For example, you may optimize a page for the phrase "mold cleanup," but Google knows that "mold removal" and "mold abatement" mean the same thing, so your site will likely rank for all 3 terms even if only 1 is actually included in the site's content.

HTML Keyword Generators and Other Keywords Tools

Another way to determine the keywords in your HTML is to use a keyword generator. Many online tools will analyze your web page content and tell you how many times various phrases are used on your page. These are typically called keyword density analyzers. Check out keyword density tools recommended by others online.