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South African
Standard Time

    keyword selection

Document Objective: Providing the website owner with a basic understanding of current keyword technology. Why they need to be identified, and how they work. Then to provide a methodology that can be used to assemble effective keyword lists and site descriptions.

Developing the keyword list and site description is one of the more important decisions that a website owner makes at this time. When someone on the other side of the world types a keyword or phrase into a search engine then it's primarily a function of how well you have anticipated that keyword that will determine if we have a chance of getting the visitor to your site.

If the keyword was anticipated and we submitted successfully to that search engine, then your website will be presented somewhere on the results listing dependant on the structure of your site relative to that word. If the site is listed high enough, and the description catches the attention of the person making the search, then you have closed the loop and have the possibility of an additional visitor to your site.

This may seem like a complicated process (well, maybe it is a little) but it's one that's worth getting right as this process is occurring millions of times a day and growing at a fast rate. The search engines have the potential to deliver thousands of visitors per day and will generally be your biggest single source of traffic. General interest commercial South African sites are considered to be 'high traffic' sites at 10,000 unique visitors per month although many sites generate worthwhile business from as little as 500 visitors a month. Focussed (high interested visitors) traffic is obviously more important than sheer numbers. And it's this keyword description selection process that determines the quality of your traffic.

What we need from you is ....... :
      - Your two or three optimised keywords or phrases
      - A comprehensive list of grouped keywords
      - Three site descriptions: short, medium and long.

        ....... and the purpose of this document is to assist you in compiling that information for us. We will of course tweak and amend it accordingly to fit the site content, but it's your knowledge and experience of your subject (and your potential visitors) that counts in providing most of the source data for the keywords and description.

After you've finished with this document you'll realise why the offers of "we will submit your site to ten thousand search engines" simply does not work. Some 80% or so (if we talk international) of your total traffic will always come from the same 4 to 8 top search engines. And effort needs to be spent on positioning your entries well with those engines. Not in desperately spending long hours on a complicated submission to some obscure site (which should never deserve the 'search engine' title) which only gets some 100 search requests a day.


At the beginning of your base page we place two tags (text defined by surrounding code inside angled brackets), a 'Meta description' sentence and a 'Meta keyword' list. The description is for the search engines to use in their databases as the site summary for your website which is shown to people who have been presented with a list of qualifying sites after typing in a keyword. The keyword list is used by the search engine to find and return your site's title and description. Except for detail, it's not much more complex than that.!

After your site is submitted to a search engine, it will send a 'robot' to 'spider' your site. All this means is that a program will call up your site and extract the 'meta tags' from the base page. The contents of the base page, and perhaps the first two levels of pages below that, will then be examined in respect of each of the claimed keywords. Complicated algoriths (which are proprietary and seldom revealed) are run for each of the keywods to determine that keyword's relevance to the pages. This would include such issues as the keyword being a subset of the URL (website address), title and description, and how many times it is found in the first 100 and 200 words of visible HTML. The keyword and it's relevance rating is then saved in the search engines's database against your site's URL and description.

Now, having said all that ....... you have to disregard some of it. Keyword Meta Tags are not as important as they used to be, but the process of working out what they should be is just as important. And that's because those same critical keywords need to be embedded and used in your content text on your pages where the search engines will still find them. That's they way they still work for you. Some engines (such as Google) will ignore the Meta Tags and scan the content of your pages while other (such as Ananzi) will only use the tags and totally ignore the page content. So we need to have both right to get the best possible placements on all engines   -   and so this process identifies the words we need for both the tags and the page content.


- First thing you need to do is determine the most important keywords which the web designers will need to weave into the base page text.
- The second step would be to develop a comprehensive keyword list.
- The third and final step is to construct short, medium, and long descriptions.


This is usually a single word plus a two or three word phrase. It is not always advisable to choose the most obvious words, especially if a preliminary internet search reveals that those words will generate a long list of site matches. Do you really want to get lost in that lot.? It might then make more sense to optimise for more unique keywords that will still be highly relevant to your site's content. The less competition in the results listing, then the more chance that someone will be clicking on your entry.

Make certain that these keywords will focus on sites that are close to yours in terms of content. Spend a little time testing these keywords in the major search engines and make sure that they bring up sites which are similar to yours. Also make sure that they don't bring up too many results. If they do, then maybe you need less popular, nitched keywords.

As your top pages (home page and first level) will be optimised for these few keywords, you should be certain that they are relevant for local or regional usage in the markets that you are targeting. A product used for "harbour pollution" would need the prime keyword spelt as "harbor" if a large part of the target market was American. Many applications and general nouns that seem important and primary to South Africans have limited relevance in export markets. Check, and double check this issue.


We use the 'Grouping method' to place your keywords in groups (ranked most important down to least important).

The first group should include only your optimised words (separated by commas). The second and subsequent groups would be selected on the basis of words belonging together. This helps you think of new ones and spot obvious keywords left out. Could be one or up to maybe 5 groups of this type.

Then your last group or two are the wildcards and flyers. Remotely associated words, misspellings, place names, odd applications for products, other language spellings of optimised and major keywords, etc

So by now you might have ended up with a list of 4 to 8 groups of keywords. Optimised first, wildcards last, and several groups in the middle ranked in relevance with words of the same function within each group.

The next step, which we call the Keyword Shuffle, is to copy that whole lot to a spot at the end of the page you are working on. Then decide, by group, (excluding the first and the last groups) if all the words in each group are more important than words at the start of the following group. This is because many search engines will take your keywords in the order that you have presented them as being their order of importance to the site content. Perhaps in group two you will have the applications that your product is used for. The first two words are 95% of the market while the next seven words are very rarely used applications. So those seven words should be moved down to group five or six to bring the words in group three closer to the front of the entire list. Group three might be your brandnames and you don't want their importance too diminished by having too many words in group two. And perhaps you only leave the three important brandnames in group three and move the less important two minor brandnames down to group five. And so on......

The nett result is that we end up with your original groups and their original contents as well as the amended groups and 'moved' contents. Although we will join the amended groups together for the meta tag insert, it will always be possible to go back to this document (your keyword proposals to us) to re-examine the original groups, the completeness of the words in them, and the subsequent decison as to how some of those words were then moved to other groups. Phew.! Did we say somewhere this was real simple; - errrr... sorry, that was a mistake.!

Here's an example of what the finished keyword lists look like.

In the 'Descript.txt' technical file.......

     [ Optimised ]
         helicopter, flight training
     [ Second Optimised ]
          private pilot's licence, chopper, flying, PPL, commercial, aviation,
     [ Brands ]
          R44, R22, Robinson, Eurocopter, 
     [ Countries ]
          UK, U.K., United Kingdom, France, Germany, 
     [ Types of Training ]
          conversion, advanced mountain flight training, 
     [ Training Areas ]
          Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, KZN, South Africa, 
     [ Services ]
          aerial photography, helicopter charter, marine services, movie production
          services, security surveillance, stolen vehicle recovery

In the actual Webpage Header.......

     helicopter, flight training, private pilot's licence, R44, R22, chopper, advanced
     mountain flight training, Robinson, South Africa, flying, PPL, commercial, aviation,
     aerial photography, Durban, Eurocopter, helicopter charter, UK, United Kingdom,
     France, Germany, conversion, marine services, movie production services, security
     surveillance, stolen vehicle recovery, U.K., KwaZulu-Natal, KZN


OK, so we've asked you to put these lists together. And maybe even given you some helpful structured instructions as to how you go about it. But when you sit down with a pencil and jug of coffee you find you are just not getting anywhere fast. You need help. Inspiration. A muse.!

Here it comes, help, tips, and other stuff.......

Competitors Source Code
Track down a couple of your competitor's websites. At the base page, (presuming you're an MS-IE user) clieck on View, Source and start looking around the top of the document. The Meta Tags should be very near the top between the Head tags but a whole lot of scripts and Java code may have pushed the tags down. Maybe you'll have to search with the Find, Text on Page to locate the string 'Meta".

The GoTo Keyword Generator
There are also a few sites around that try to help with these processes. The GoTo Generator backends into a type of thesaurus that will give appear to give you sysnonyms of the primary keywords you type in. But what it really does is to search the web for the major (or most visible) website using this keyword. It then picks up the other keywords claimed for the same site, aggregates them, and moves on to the next. What you are then presented with is a report of the most commonly keywords at sites that use the keyword you offered. Most useful, and a quick way of doing the "Crib Your Competitor" thing.

You'll find this useful tool at: http://www.webpro.co.za/services/se_tools.htm

Having located the Meta Tags on your competitor's page, you should be able to get some ideas from their selections. Thay may have done it well, or particularly badly. Try and copy the former, and recognise the latter.! They've presumably been through this process and you can benefit directly from their research and should normally get some good ideas here. If you don't find the tags then don't be too alarmed, rather take some comfort from the fact that their designers are way off track and this site is going to be very hard to find on the web.

Competitor Brandnames and Trademarks
There does not seem to be any real prohibition on slipping competitor's brandnames and trademarks into your keywords. The worst that can ever happen here is that someone slaps you with a threatening letter demanding their removal. And that's a rare enough occurance. Your argument is that someone is using a brandname in a generic way to track down products of this nature; and perhaps they are. Perhaps not. But this method can bring them in to your site, thereafter it's up to the site design to effect their conversion.!

Common Misspellings & Foreign Spelling
Don't forget or underestimate the importance of this one. This can deliver very focussed traffic as there may be few other websites where the misspellings are used. And as the web is so dominantly English, the main German and Spanish keywords might well attract many focussed visitors. They also know how to use automatic translation engines to deliver your English language site to them in their native language, so don't worry about that aspect.


We said earlier that that the description, once crafted, gets dumped into the search engine forms. Hmmmm, not quite so simple.! But now that you've mastered the keyword selection process, we can look more closely at tthe constructions of the descriptions. Yup, more than one, unfortunately...

Most, if not all, search engines require a different length description. And some search engines (including the absolutely critical Yahoo) do not accept or collect your keywords, so here you need special care with the description. Bear in mind that your optimised keywords, at the very least, should appear in all meta descriptions.

The Short (aka Yahoo) Description

Yahoo is essentially a directory service, and not a search engine. It is also, in most cases, potentially the biggest single source of international traffic. Many sites that are well represented in almost all of the important South African and International engines (receiving visitors from over 30 to 40 different sources) will receive over 60% of ALL visitors from yahoo alone. You need to get this one right   -   mess it up and you have put a big hole in the bucket.!

What we call the 'Yahoo Description' is the size of description that we commonly use for most of the search engines. As Yahoo is now effectively a commercial service that charges R1200 (US$199) for business submissions, you might elect not to use it at all. But this is still the most important description for us for our SE submissions.

Because it's a directory, Yahoo does not collect your keywords in the Meta Tags, but only accepts the URL, title and description line for matching against search requests. So your critical (or optimised) keywords need to be in the title or description line. A human reviewer will visit the site which limits your capacity to hack the site title to include a keyword. And they also seem to happily edit your description down or change it according to their interpretation of its validity in terms of describing the site.

Your best chances here are to provide the right length description. Currently, and this is very important, that means you should not use more than 12 (twelve) words. Make sure that it uses plain language and describes the site clearly. Will the impression conveyed still entice a visitor to click the entry to visit your site.? And then you must satisfy yourself that you've managed to include several important keywords. Finally, will the (human) site reviewer accept it as a relevant description of the site and not crop or amend the text and thereby remove or alter an important keyword.?

Technically, there is a lot more that needs to be done for Yahoo but that you leave to us. It is considered near to impossible to get a Yahoo entry changed or corrected and your part in this process is to try and help with developing a twelve word description that is not going to be edited or pruned.

The Medium Description

This description is used for about half of the 'true' search engines and can be more up to 25 words long. This lets you concentrate on making the message conveyed more attractive and you might be able to address more than just the central purpose of the site. It helps to pop in the optimised keywords as many engines that rank keywords on relevance will assign extra points for any keyword that appears in the description as well.

The Loooong Description

Some search engines (although few and far between) will accept really long descriptions of up to 50 words which gives you a good opportunity to seed the description with a good number of your 'just off the top' keywords. We know which engines accept the longer description and we will select accordingly.


This is a fairly simple issue, and relates mainly to geographical issues. Do you want the site heavily registered on South African engines and International Engines, or heavy on one and light on the other, or particularly excluded from one or the other. Maybe you are selling goods and have a mandate only for South Africa, or perhaps your site is aimed purely at exports to the USA and you don't even want to receive mail from local visitors. Or maybe it's New Zealand or China that's being targeted. We need to know this so that we can target search engines accordingly.


Generally, no.! Some search engines will not revisit a site if it is already submitted until such time as their spiders are scheduled to visit. And that could vary from a few months time to never. Some, on the other hand will respider the site immediately on request. But it makes sense to play it safe and get it right from the beginning.

Yes, you can. But remember that double the listings does not mean double the traffic. It's estimated that, with international engines, some 80% of the trafffic you ever receive will come from less than 10 search engines or websites. The effort in getting onto another 100 minor engines is immense, and it may only collect a 2% or 3% increase in traffic.

Also be careful of resubmitting to engines where we have already secured a listing. This issue also relates to the subject of changing existing entries as discussed above. If the engine (unfortunately no human logic rules here) figures that you are spamdexing it (trying to get a second listing) then it may bar you altogether from that engine. This is not a situation you want to be in.! You can see the current list of search engines we use at: http://www.webpro.co.za/services/se/

One of the most productive things to try is to locate directories and website lists related to the type of site you are promoting. Then contact the webmasters and ask them to include your site. This can generate a substantial stream of visitors. Miningco.com and About.com would be typical examples.

No, some engines do ignore the meta tags entirely and attempt to index keywords from the site directly. To do this, they seek out what is known as 'visible HTML' which is the first code generated (as opposed to graphic images such as gifs and jpegs) text on the page. For this reason we need to place extra text on your base page which may seem redundant or detracting from the slick look but it is necessary for this reason.

The ultimate measure of goal achievement should be, perhaps, the amount of business that you conclude with customers who have been sourced from your website. Don't just measure the traffic and be satisfied with that. If you are bringing the wrong people to your site, or if they can't find what they are looking for; then you probably won't get much commercial success.

But, when measuring traffic, always ask for 'unique visitors' which is defined as someone who records as only one visitor from when they arrive at the site to when they leave irrespective of how many pages or graphics they view. IP addresses (unique to most visitors) are usually recorded to manage this issue and it should need a break of at least an hour or two before a visitor gets recorded as a new visit.

There is also often mention of hits and requests. A visitor (one person) viewing your site might start at the home page. (That's 9 graphics and the page itself - 10 objects requested for viewing) They then move to the products page. (17 Graphics and the page itself - 18 objects in total) The person then leaves the site. The statistical analysis of the server logs should record this as one unique visitor (useful information) and also as 28 hits or requests (which is pretty useless info). In the early days of the internet it was only the hits/requests info that was available so, in terms of legacy, that info is still reported today. Less scrupulous marketing people claim 100,000 hits a month on their site, knowing full well that it's only 6,000 unique visitors. They can claim to never have misled anyone as they know that most people will think that means 100,000 visitors, which it clearly is not. Ignore any numbers touted as hits or requests and focus instead on unique visitor traffic which is a measure of real, individual people.

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