Monday, November 16, 2009

Who put that 'Key' in my 'Word'? Keywords are key!

Also known as an index term, subject heading or descriptor, keywords are arguably the most important feature of blogs and websites.  These "terms" or "keywords" capture the very basics of a posted topic of a document.  We can debate about layout, content, format, flash and CSS, etc., but if a site can't be found by a search engine, those points are moot.

Probably the most common use of keywords on the web are tags which are directly visible, often containing words, phrases or acronyms, and can be created by non-technical people. Index terms are created either manually with subject indexing via document analysis or automatically using sophisticated methods of keyword extraction and automatic indexing . Index terms may be taken from a controlled vocabulary or freely assigned.

For sake of simplicity and usability, keywords are stored in a search index with common terms such as articles (the, a, an) and conjunctions (and, but, or and nor) eliminated for efficiency.  Virtually every website in English contains the word "the"; including it in a search would create massive numbers of pages retrieved and information overload.

Since keywords essentially describe the essence of an article and assist site discovery, using them carefully and appropriately is vital to search engine optimization (SEO) and bringing traffic to your site.  A good (and free) tool I've found for determining relevant keywords is available at:  Simply enter in a keyword and the Wordtracker engine suggests approximately 100 alternative terms.  Wordtracker is like having a virtual thesaurus for your website!

 - AJ

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