You have your keyword list that you keep in the back of your mind when writing content for your website, but do you really have a good sense of how Google “sees” your website? Word clouds can be the perfect tool to help you get a quick and intuitive understanding of how your content appears to a machine. Although word clouds are not frequently used in the field of SEO, they can be extremely effective. Read on to learn how and why.
If you aren’t familiar, a word cloud turns a bunch of text into a graphic that displays each word sized based on how frequently the word is used. The greater the number of occurrences of the word in the text, the larger that word appears. For example, here is the word cloud that gets generated from the Chrome add-on when you paste in content from the Wikipedia page for “marketing”:
From this word cloud we can see that beyond the word “marketing”, the Wikipedia page focuses on product and orientation.
Search engine optimization is the practice of structuring a web page such that search engines like Google will be able to:
In addition to making it easy for Google to read and retrieve your pages, it’s also important to make it easy for users to read your pages and to be providing the answers they are looking for. This is because Google will establish its initial ranking of your webpage, but the user behavior related to that page will further refine that ranking over time.
When search engines are performing steps 1 and 2 above, it is called crawling. They scour the internet, right down to every nook and cranny (website, web page, internal links, images) and then store that information in their database. This way they aren’t searching the internet every time you perform a search. Rather, they’re [more quickly and easily] zipping through their database.
When Google is crawling a web page, it’s not making a scan of the page. After all, it’s a machine that can’t see. The way Google “sees” your pages is through text: the content on your website pages and the text (code) that is used to render the page. This is why when you upload images to your website and blog posts, it’s important to assign “alt text” to them so that Google can “see” the picture. (more on alt text here).
All that being said, not only do word clouds help you to see what message your page is conveying, but it also it gives you a rough understanding of how Google views the content on a page. Word clouds won’t take into account the technical elements of SEO such as backlinks, headers, and alt tags, but they do give you a better understanding of your content.
Thanks to a former IBM engineer named Jonathan Feinberg, you can make your own word clouds free of charge by visiting his site: http://wordle.net. Simply copy and paste any set of text or the link to a page that has an RSS feed into wordle.net and it will instantly create a word cloud. Once the word cloud has been generated, you can manipulate the color, font, and orientation of the words.
You can also make a word cloud using this Google Chrome add-on. Once you install the add-on, you can paste text into a Google Doc, and from the “Add-ons” menu, hover over “word cloud generator” and then select “classic” or “new” (which is referring to the classic or new style).
Back to the subject of SEO, while it is important to write high-quality content that is interesting to your target audience, a little keyword optimization is also recommended. Word clouds are a tool that will help you to visualize that keyword optimization.
So, to wrap up this blog post, it only seems appropriate to see if I have been successful in targeting keywords that are relevant to ThriveHive. The word cloud below shows that while the content of this article is fairly dispersed, the key message around word clouds, content, and SEO is standing out in the results:
So, the next time you finish a piece of content to be published online, create a word cloud to get a sense of what Google is going to think the article is about. If Google has it “wrong”, then it is probably worth taking some time to modify some of the wording. It doesn’t matter how great a piece of content is if nobody ever finds it. Give Google a fighting chance by appropriately emphasizing your key message.