Integrating your keywords into your marketing materials is essential to your search engine optimization (SEO) process.

It is important, however, to avoid “stuffing” too many keywords in your documents, says Cara Crosetti, Los Angeles-based account director and web specialist with Wickware Communications Inc. of Toronto. Otherwise, you risk raising the ire of Google.

“You shouldn’t use a keyword in more than 5% of your website content,” Crosetti says. “If you exceed that, it looks like you are stuffing keywords, which is frowned upon.”

Stuffing keywords is considered by the online community to be a “black hat” or unethical practice, which, Crosetti says, you should avoid at all costs.

Instead, she says, focus only on “white hat” methods that will legitimately help you build your business online.

Crosetti offers these (white hat) strategies to help you succeed in the world of SEO:

> Set goals
As you chart the course for your SEO voyage, it is important to know where, exactly, you hope to end up.

For example, do you want your visitors to stay on your website longer? Or are there particular pages you want to stand out on your site?

Identifying these goals is a crucial part of knowing whether you are succeeding with your SEO project.

Crosetti also recommends looking into analytics software, which tracks traffic to your website so you can get a measure of how well you are progressing toward your goals. Think of it as a map or a compass to help keep you on course.

> Write with keywords in mind
As mentioned earlier in this series, the content that search engines want to see is often different from what human eyes would find attractive.

Keep that in mind when you are writing copy for your website. While a pithy headline might attract human interest, it does not guarantee SEO success if it lacks a keyword.

This isn’t to say that you should water down your copy, Crosetti says. It just means your writing will have to be more nuanced. You must write meaningful sentences, but with the keywords strategically inserted in a way that does not alter your message or appear awkward.

“Writing for SEO is like writing with a hidden meaning,” Crosetti says. “It’s a constant juggle.”

> Think marketing – not tech
Remember that an SEO project is first and foremost a marketing activity, Crosetti says, not an IT project.

While your IT department has a role to play in implementing the message you want to convey, she says, it is your team’s responsibility to craft that message first.

For example, your meta-tag description should read like an advertisement that pumps up your products and services. If you run a small, independent practice, this approach will help you compete against advisors at the big institutions, who have significantly higher marketing budgets.

This is the fifth instalment in an occasional series on using SEO to build your business.

Next week: Working on your SEO “poker face.