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October, 2011 Update

When I originally posted this article in 2006, I reasoned in it that getting higher page rankings on Google would make a big difference in my ability to attract new clients for my book manuscript editing services. And it did. As my page rankings went higher, I began to attract an increasing number of prospective clients. Now in 2011, I'm on page one and getting more editing queries than I can handle.

See the results of my latest search in 2013 for keywords to see how my position has changed on Google as a result of using more or less of certain keywords in the right places. Note the text additions in RED, which serve to update my latest search results for some of the keywords I was originally tracking.

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How to Improve Your
Google Rankings
with the Right Keywords
in the Right Places

by Barbara Brabec
(Updated March, 2013)

This article explains how I was able to move my writing and editing services page on Google from position #59 to #4 in a matter of days through the simple addition of the right keywords to body text and headings and to image and link tags.

When I began to offer writing, editing, and telephone consulting services to my website, I figured it was finally time to get serious about search engines. My focus was on Google since I get five times the traffic from Google than I do from Yahoo. My writing/editing services page was coming up six or seven pages down on Google, which is way too far down for anyone to look when they're searching for specific products or services on the Web. (If your listing doesn't appear on the first or second page, few people will find you.)

After reading several articles on the importance of using keywords to improve rankings, I started my "keyword project" by using a great little search engine optimization tool a friend directed me to. There, I found I could type in up to five keywords or keyword phrases and see how certain pages on my site were positioned on Google. The results were fascinating. (Now I use Google AdWords Keyword Tool.)

The first thing I learned was that search results vary dramatically depending on how one orders their keywords when doing a search, and also whether the keyword search is put in quotation marks. (All search results reflected in this article were obtained without quotation marks.)

Basically, to effectively plant keywords, you must first figure out what words most people are likely to use when searching for whatever it is that you're trying to sell on the Web, and then you've got to figure out how to string those words together in your text for the search engines to find.

Note that Google doesn't use the keywords placed in Meta tag definitions, but it does pick up your Meta description tag, so the more keywords you can tuck into that tag, the better (more on this topic below).

Use of Commas and the Word "and" in Keyword Searches

One of the things that surprised me was how search results varied when you used a comma or the word "and" in a keyword phrase. For example, my first search for "writing, editing services" back in 2006 had my writing/editing services page listed #59. But when I searched for "writing and editing services" (using "and" instead of a comma), that same page came up #19 (not great, but certainly better). More interesting, when I searched for "editing, writing services" (merely reversing the order of the keywords), my pages were nowhere to be found in the first one hundred listings. However, a search for just "editing services" had that page positioned #59 (same as "writing, editing services") whereas "book manuscript editing service" came up in #43 position, and "book manuscript editing" ranked me a bit higher, at #35. There were no results for me at all for searches for "book editors." but no wonder, given that some 405 million web pages not use those two words together. there are now (I need to work on these keywords.) In a very short period of time, however, I got my manuscript editing services to come up on page one or two (see below).

For those of you who are selling home-business products or services, note that listings will turn up in a different order, and also in a different volume, depending on the exact keywords you search for and whether you separate words with a space or a hyphen or use a plural of a word. A little "s" can make quite a difference. This is important to remember whenever you're planting keywords in your headings, sub-headings or body text, or in your Meta, image, or link tags. For example, check the number of listings that Google turns up when the following keywords are typed in the search box (notice the incredible growth since 2006):

home business - 17,700,000 in 2006; 51 million in 2011; nearly 7 billion in 2013
homebased business - 979,000 in 2006;
1.090,000 in 2011; 1,120,000 in 2013 
home based business -12,900,000  in 2006:
25,400,000 in 2011; 2.5 billion in 2013
home-based business -1,910,000 in 2006;
184,000,000 in 2011; 52,900,000 in 2013

The Power of the Hyphen and the Simple "s"

When I first began this study, I was tracking "home business books" and "home-business books" and getting entirely different rankings for the page that has always listed my book titles. I was also tracking "home-business expert," (note the hyphen) and was pleased to see that my name came up #19 in 2006. But there were fewer "experts" three years ago, and I never planted those keywords in my articles, so I lost that ranking a long time ago and haven't looked to see how far down I am now for those keywords. Today, if you search for "home  business expert" with and without the hyphen, and then add an "s" to both keyword phrases, you'll turn up different web pages for each, depending on how each website owner has spelled those keywords. All this is to say that if you're trying to get a high ranking for any word/s that others may be writing with a hyphen, or making plural instead of singular, add all variations to your list.

Of course, if you search for me by name, I'll always come up on top because I'm the only Barbara Brabec who is so active on the Web. For example, if you know my name and search for "Barbara Brabec's books," you'll turn up 55 million for me in 2013), but in 2006, there were only 400. It's not surprising, then, that a search for "books by Barbara Brabec" has me positioned #1 on Google. I was surprised to find that a search for "home-business authors" had me in #2 position in 2006, but even more surprised when I searched for "home business authors" (without the hyphen) and found I was nowhere to be found in the first ten pages that year. Now, in 2013, I'm still coming up on page one for both searches, which I find rather amusing inasmuch as my books are all several years old now. But this also tells me that Google is not paying as much attention to the hyphen now as they used to.

In trying to improve my page positions for my telephone consulting service, it was easy to get my consulting services page to come up #1 on Google, provided I searched for "telephone consulting service." But just because this is what I call my service doesn't mean anyone else is going to be looking for it on Google. If, however, someone was looking for "home business consulting" in 2006, my page turned up #44. I no longer emphasize "home business" on my telephone consulting page because my focus today is on working with authors who need help with a publisher's contract, or want my guidance on how to self-publish a book. I'm very happy that my book contract consulting service now appears on Google's page 1, but there are 6 million "book publishing consultants," so I'll have to figure out a strategy to get noticed here.

Adjusting and Adding the Right Keywords

Articles I've read have stressed the importance of using the same keywords several times on a page. The higher your "keyword density" on any given page, the more likely the page will be indexed by Google. Experts advise that we group keywords closely together, and also keep them as close to the beginning of a sentence or paragraph as possible. Add them to your headings and sub-headings and, when possible, use keywords in your links. 

After I got serious about this business of using the right keywords, my Google rankings for my writing and editing service pages improved dramatically. First, I studied the keywords being used by some of my competitors and made a list of words that should be added to my pages. Then I reread my pages and looked for places where I could add keywords to headings and body text. I then added descriptive tags to all my images and text links as well, since this is a legitimate way to increase keyword density on a page. (See below for how to write this HTML code.) Below, you can see how these changes improved my ranking for some of the search terms mentioned above. Of course, the rankings change all the time, depending on what others are doing each day, but the point is that I'm now on page one for some keyword searches whereas before I was on page six or nowhere to be found. This has made a big difference in my ability to attract new clients for my book editing, critiquing, and consulting services.

BEFORE AND AFTER RANKINGS -  2006/07 &  October, 2011

"writing, editing services" -  #59 / #4               (as of 10/11: #4 of 19,200,000 pgs.)
"writing and editing services"  -  #19  / #7       
(as of 10/11: #7 of 4,880,000 pgs.)
"editing, writing services" -  #100+  / #47        
(as of 10/11: #11 of 5,840,000 pgs.)
"book manuscript editing service" - #43 / #28  
(as of 10/21: #4 of 2,420,000 pgs.)
"book manuscript editing" - #35 /  #21            
(as of 10/11: #2 of 4.900,000 pgs.)

As you can imagine, in 2011, I was patting myself on the back for figuring out how to climb on top of all the millions of others on the Web who were offering writing and editing services, but I lost my ranking in the first three groups above when I stopped offering writing services to focus strictly on editing. In 2012, I landed the #2 spot on Google's first page for "book manuscript editing" (not in quotes for the keyword search) and am still there in 2013, but when "service" is added to the phrase, I don't turn up until page four.

How to Add Tags to Images and Links

I like to add tags to links because I can convey an added message to site visitors, but this also happens to be an effective keyword strategy as well. (Mouse over some of the links on my home page to see what I mean.) You should also add descriptive tags to images for the benefit of those who may have graphics turned off on their browser.

To bring up a descriptive box that comes up when you mouse over a link, modify your HTML code according to this example:

Sample text: Click here for details about Barbara's BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUING SERVICE.

HTML code and link would be placed before "Click here" and would read: <a href="writing_publishing/book-manuscript-critiquing-service.htm" title="Book Manuscript Critiques from author and editor Barbara Brabec">

(Note that I've just planted all my important keyword search terms in the title tag: "Barbara Brabec," "author and editor," and "book manuscript critiques."

To add a tag to a graphic image, you would use the word "alt" instead of "title" in your tag. For example: Text in one of my graphic images reads "Writing/Editing Services." The HTML tag for the image reads:

<img border="0" src="images_(file name)" alt="Graphic that says Writing & Editing Services, two of the services offered by home-business expert Barbara Brabec" width="156" height="49"></p>

As you can see, I've sneaked in three keyword phrases here: "writing & editing services," "Barbara Brabec," and "home-business expert." (Note that it doesn't seem to make a difference whether you use "&" or "and.")

ENDNOTE

I first got interested in all this keyword stuff when I asked a new client how she learned of my services. She explained that she had just gone to Google and typed "writing, editing services" into the search bar, and I said thanks for the information. Then, when I did the same thing on Google and found that my listing was on the bottom of page six, I wrote back and asked why she chose me over the 58 other editors listed ahead of me on Google. Her answer really surprised me.

She said she had checked several websites, but decided on my services because she liked the looks of my website, but mostly because she liked my picture on the site. She said I looked like someone she could trust to do a good job for her. If ever there was an example of a picture being worth a thousand words, this is it!

In my books, I have often written about the importance of including your photograph on your printed materials and website because people don't do business with businesses; they do business with PEOPLE. And they like to know what the people they're doing business with look like. I don't understand why so many product and service sellers alike try to hide behind the fancy design of their websites when what could really sell a stranger on their products or services would be a photograph of themselves. Whether it's a formal portrait, a casual picture  of you at work, or a nice line drawing that captures the "real you," remember that a picture truly is worth a thousand words, and it can often do a terrific selling job for you.

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