Understanding Keywords & Trends
Ah, keywords - the stuff of life on the Web. Understanding keywords and keyword phrases is like learning the alphabet when you're starting to read. What can we say - it's a must-have skill. On the article upload form you'll use them in the title, lede paragraph, subheadings, links, and throughout the article itself, not to mention the tags you'll assign it.
You'll note the "s" for keywords plural - using just one is rarely a good idea. A 3-word phrase is ideal and is likely what you use yourself when sitting there at the Google window trying to figure out how to ask for what you're looking for. You need more than one word to get the level of specificity we're talking about.
You should have keyword phrases in mind when you sit down to write the article, starting with the title. It's a lot to ask we know, but we're a demanding bunch and we're doing it for your own good. In print, someone else writes the headline and sells it within a larger magazine or newspaper by subscription or at the newsstand, here it's all you selling directly to the reader.
Think of your readers flipping through the great card catalogue in the sky and this is what you put on the tab. They need to get it in a single glance and more importantly the search robots who crawl the site every few minutes need to.
Assigning the article a search-friendly title is one of THE most crucial aspects of this process and it's the hardest thing for print writers to grasp. Choose a title that reflects exactly what someone would enter into a search engine to find it; search engines put priority on titles matching the search phrase. This is no time to be creative, enigmatic, whip up plays on words or otherwise goof around - search is a precision-strike instrument and the more exact you can be, the more appreciative your readers will be when they've landed in the right place.
Titles are very useful for both readers and spiders, so there is no room for "cute" or "vague" titles that don't align directly with the content of the article. As much as we encourage playfulness, search engines are seriously literal beasts, so if it's a review of a movie make sure the movie title, the director, and the names of the stars are in the title and these keywords are also smack in the subheading, the first few paragraphs and links there to 2-3 other very relevant articles too so that the "aboutness" of the article is crystal clear. Dates aren't searched heavily on their own, but if it's key don't forget to put in the year as well.
If you are writing several articles on the same subject, don't think of it as a numbered series or put "part 1" in the title as this makes no sense to search engines nor readers who likely aren't going to navigate sequentially. It wastes valuable title real estate so instead link related articles together using anchor text in the body of the article. Our system won't allow you to create two identical titles, and why would you want to? This will just get you the same traffic you've already targeted and not new searchers who may have used synonymous terms that widen the field.
How Readers Find Your Stories
Did we mention that 95% of your traffic comes from these search engines? You should know the keyword(s) so don't assume that people will find your article from the homepage, from a link on your blog, or because they have hours to surf the site. Assume that your readers want to find what you're posting, but they want to be sure that you're going to "do what it says on the tin", ie that the story matches the title, the inside matches the outside.
If there are relevant terms in Google Trends your life is easy, target those. If there are no apparent trending terms you will need to do a little research before you type a word.
Finding Trending Keywords
How do you know which keywords are strong? There are tools to help you find out what terms are being searched for at any given moment, the related terms being used, and which keywords are seeing the biggest spikes in traffic volume. One reliable and free tool you can use is Google Insights for Search, which has a section called Breakout that lists terms with a 1000% increase in the last 24 hours. This is the "pulse" of the Internet and essentially tells you what is getting its heart racing, raising its temperature, and generally causing a fuss. We don't want you to chase stories you know nothing about, or to follow the crowds for the sake of it, but if you have expertise to share on a topic that is gathering speed, weigh in and use the words the crowds are using to discuss the story.
Also take a look on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and in a variety of search engines (Google, MSN, Yahoo, Answers.com) to see how your story is being described. What words are people using when they reference links? How are bloggers reporting the events? Do a Google News search and look at how various news agencies are structuring their headlines. Recombine those headlines to build something unique that takes advantage of the stronger keywords being used.
Try to determine the highest trafficked but least competitive terms that are relevant to your story. The best way to do this is to enter 3-5 main keywords and see what shows up under “Breakout” terms in Google Insights. These are the terms that have seen the largest spike in queries in the past 24 hours and will likely be the most relevant to your news story.
Once you've chosen a set of "good keywords" the next step is to use them effectively.
- Ensure that your headline is keyword rich; avoid nondescript words or those with multiple meanings and no modifier. Don't repeat it more than once - use a synonym or proper noun
- Use the keyword phrase from your title in your first or second sentence and put the words in a bold subtitle every 2-3 paragraphs. Link to 2 other articles that share these keywords and are very relevant. They should appear at the very minimum within the first 250 words of your story.
- Use your keyword terms as tags in addition to any proper nouns (capitalized words) within the story and synonyms for your target phrase.
- Strive for 3-5% keyword density (5-7 keywords and/or keyword phrases per 100 words of text).
- Use your target keywords as the anchor text for any outgoing links to other NowPublic stories.
- Place the keywords in your closing sentence.
- Crosslink to relevant stories offsite using target keywords as anchor text and/or the headline of the destination page.
Good and Bad Keyword Examples
Keep in mind that keywords for a story about an earthquake in Haiti should NOT be: "Haiti, quake, disaster, rubble, trapped, 7.0, richter scale, deaths, poverty, bodies" even though these words could appear in the story. If you entered these individually into the Google search engine, imagine all the results that would appear for the word "disaster" in all its contexts since the beginning of time.
Instead, combine the words to describe the geographical, temporal and topical parameters of your story, exactly what this particular story is about, ie "Jan 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti" or "7.0 Earthquake Port-au-Prince Haiti" or " Haitian Earthquake relief effort". See the difference?
The best keywords are those totally unique to one entity. Chris Martin, lead singer of the band Coldplay, has a daughter named Apple who is likely the only Apple Martin in the world, and therefore an excellent keyword for a profile of her father, as opposed to "celebrities' daughters," which is not strong because there are thousands of celebrities of every stripe with female offspring and the field is still too large.
Consider the stand-alone word "game" - not a good keyword when covering a football match because on it's own it could mean board game, electronic game, mind game, any game of any sport, game as in hunting game that is eaten, game as in "I'm game"/willing - you get the picture. Better to use the full names of key players, coaches, the stadium, the team names with the date of the match, and any unique event that occurred during the game itself in combination with who it happened to.
Our editors will do their best to help you by rewriting headlines to show you what would be more effective or explaining in a flag or email, but it's just practice, trial and error that really make the difference - that and thinking like Spock - very literally and strategically.
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