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Please stop designing web sites backwards! Choose keywords and keyword phrases first.

By Peter Mansfield
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2004

I am firmly committed to encouraging and assisting companies and organizations to get on the web and to do so successfully. Despite the dot.bomb debacle, the Internet remains the most significant mega-trend of our age and its
usage continues to grow and spread at an amazing rate.

Notwithstanding its growth, and the growth of new skills around it, I continue to be amazed at the daily sight of web sites that have not only been designed backwards, but not even been properly finished. Many such sites have been
designed by big design and consulting companies charging mega-bucks for their services.

If you want a web site that builds your brand, creates leads or sells your products, services or ideas, the first thing you need to ensure is that you have thousands, preferably tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors flocking to your web site each month.

Unless you have a large budget to market the URL of your web site, your visitor traffic is going the depend heavily on your search engine listings. Whether or not your web site appears in the Top 10 results offered by search engines to visitors searching for the kind of product, service or information you offer, is a critical issue.

Even with a big advertising budget, the majority of visitors to your web site are going to come via the search engines.

> Search engines - one thing in common

Search engines vary in the algorithms (formula) they use to determine the relevance of web sites. But they all have one thing in common - their search results are based on the 'keywords' and ‘keyword phrases’ that searchers type into their search boxes.

Despite the vital significance of keywords in attracting visitors to a web site, most designers and their clients insist on choosing keywords as the last stage of the design process! Effectively, they sort out the 'look and feel' of the site, insert the text and then check their text for keywords. If they remember to do so at all.

The bottom line is that, in terms of effectivness, they are designing web sites backwards!

To achieve high search engine rankings, by far the most effective web design process involves very carefully choosing the keywords and keyword phrases first, and then designing the look and content of the web site around the selected keywords. Keywords and phrases must be selected for every page of the site, not just for the index or home page.

Why design forwards? Because search engines judge and rank your site on the basis of keywords and keyword phrases. Choose the right keywords and use them right, and you will get high search engine listings and high visitor traffic. Without high visitor traffic your web site is bound to fail.

> Choosing the 'right' keywords

What are 'right' keywords? Obviously they are specific to each site and each page. To be able to select the right keywords for your web design you need to get yourself deep into the brains of typical members of your target market.

What words or phrases would Mr, Mrs, or Ms Searcher use in trying to find a web site offering your products, services, information or ideas?

> Anny's Hideaway

Imagine you own a guest house called Anny's Hideaway. Would your would-be guests be searching for Anny? If they were, they probably would not be looking for what you have to offer! Would they be searching for Anny's Hideaway? Not unless they had heard of your establishment and had remembered how to spell your name!

Words and phrases like guest house, accommodation, bed and breakfast, country lodge, and words that describe your location, or what you have to offer (fishing, tennis, bowls, yachting, gourmet meals, great wines, fireside
chats?) are more likely to connect you to your target market.

Even when you have selected your list of keywords your work is not done. You still need to check your choices. Is there a high demand for your selected keywords (frequently searched for)? And what about the supply (how many pages do search engines have to satisfy the demand)?

The best keywords and phrases are those with high demand and low supply. They can be found for any site. But it takes time, effort and skill. And it cannot be done last – after the design is complete and text written. By then it is too late!

About the Author
Peter Mansfield is the founder of CyberFace Designs (


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