Be Neutral
A Publication of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution


This is the first in a series of marketing articles that will explain SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on the Internet in layman’s terms.  This information is provided to help you modify your website so that it goes to the top of the search engine rankings.

Are You Using the Right Words ?

Frustrated because your website doesn’t come up in the Top 10 listings when someone does a Google search?  There are a number of reasons why this happens, and some of those are fairly simple to change.  Remembering that not everyone can be in the Top 10, let’s look at one thing you can do to optimize the chances that your website will be there.

Keywords Are Key
A keyword is the word or phrase the user types into an Internet search box to try and find a site that offers what they are looking for.  For example, if someone was looking for a mediator they might type in “divorce mediation” or “low cost divorce.”  If you had those words in the text of your web page (and had been indexed by the search engines – something we will discuss in the coming months) then your webpage would pop up in the returns.  But what would happen if they searched for “divorce mediator” or “no-fault divorce”?  If you don’t have those words in your text then your site wouldn’t come up in the ranked pages.

To ensure that you reach the largest audience, you need to make sure that you use the words that the majority of web searchers are using.  Luckily Google offers a tool to help you.  The Google Keyword Estimator tool ( ) will tell you exactly what words people were looking for in the last month.  This free tool allows you to enter keywords or phrases you are currently using and then it will tell you how often people searched for them in the last month, both locally and globally.  More importantly, our friends at Google will also show you a list of other suggested words and phrases that often are more popular than the ones you are already using. 

Armed with the information that Google has generously provided you, it’s time for you to go back to your website text and try to integrate those words either by replacing the ones you were already using or by supplementing your existing text.

Size and Color Counts
Now that you are using the right words, it is time to pay attention to how you use them.  First of all, the more you can use them on a page, the more relevant you appear to the search engines.  The more relevant – the higher your site will rank.  That said, you have to be very careful.  When you add these words to your text it needs to sound like natural speech.  If you bend over backwards to include these keywords and phrases in every sentence, your text will sound stilted and Google will punish you by ranking you lower.

However, there is a way to give more ranking weight to your keywords and phrases.  Google gives more weight to those words that are in a larger type size or are bolded.  In addition, those words in the upper left corner of the page carry more weight than those in other areas of the page.  Therefore it is important to add titles and headings to your page in large, bold text and to put them in the upper left corner of the page.  Often this will mean adding extra pages to your site with individual topics on each page to guarantee that your site will rank highly regardless of the keywords and phrases that the searcher is looking for.

Words Are NOT Pictures
Often people will think that they have posted the important words at the top of the page and in bold text.  However, what they may actually have is an image with those words embedded in them.  An example would be your corporate logo that includes your name.  Search engines read words, NOT pictures.  If you can’t highlight the words and copy/paste them into a Word document, then they are not text that is readable by the search engine.  You can add alternate text to the naming of the picture, but if you want the ranking credit for having big, bold type, this isn’t going to achieve your goal. 

META Tags     
In the good old days, search engines searched only for those keywords and phrases that were called out in the computer code with a META Tag – something your web designer did for you.  Today the search engines have the power to read the entire text of your page and rank you accordingly.  While including META keywords in the head section of your computer code won’t cause you problems, it also isn’t necessary so don’t waste your time on it.

Although this is only one small component of search engine ranking, it is a very important one.  Take some time to run the Google Keyword Estimator to make sure the words you are using are the ones the reader is looking for.  Once you have a good list of words and phrases, make sure you use them as often as possible and make sure you use them in large, bold text.  The search engines will reward you for your efforts !

Coming next month: Why Having Friends in Wide Places is Important to Your Search Engine Ranking


Michele Gibson is a Georgia-registered neutral and a certified emerging media consultant.  She is the president of Digital Smart Tool, LLC – an e-marketing firm offering website design, SEO, electronic newsletters, social media coaching, and marketing training seminars.


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