I like to use a tag cloud generator to visibly demonstrate the keyword density on a page. It’s a great way for a client to visualize which words are most frequently used on their page from a search engine’s perspective. Yes, keyword prominence (where you put the keywords) is more important than keyword density (number or times the keyword is being used), but as a quick way to help the client or your team understand which words that are really on the page for search engines word clouds are great tools.

For instance, the owner looks at their homepage and sees a beautifully branded design with promotions and marketing messages and navigation and calls to action. But what they don’t consider is that all of that lovely information that may or may not contain valuable keywords is hidden inside of images or other areas that search engines can’t read. For example, from this tag cloud you can easily see why my daughter’s favorite online game site Poptropica won’t be ranking for “online kids games” anytime soon:

poptropica word cloud

Look how few words are available for search engines on www.poptropica.com

Another application for a tag cloud is demonstrating the CSS-styled text on the page that only displays when a user clicks or rolls over an area of the page. At times, this text can outweigh the relevant keywords on the page and dilute the keyword theme for the page. For example, Casual Male XL appears to be targeting [big and tall] and [big and tall men’s clothing] on its homepage, but its text-only cache shows a lot of size-based information related to the size profile that displays with JavaScript disabled. Consequently, the tag cloud shows many instances of “size” (11 times on the page) and “XL” (13 times on the page), while “mens” appears zero times and “clothing” appears twice. However, given that they rank in the top 3 in Google for [big and tall], their keyword density obviously isn’t hurting them as much as their keyword prominence (and likely other SEO factors) are helping them.

casual male xl word cloud

Casual Male XL's word cloud based on Google's cache

I was using Wordle for a while, but it didn’t have the options I wanted. Then I discovered Tagxedo. Both allow you to enter a block of text or a URL from which to grab text. Both allow you to customize color themes, fonts and orientation. But Tagxedo takes it several steps further to offer different shape options (clouds, star, heart, school bus, and many more), all sorts of word emphasis and filtering options, as well as the opportunity to modify the text in the cloud while you’re creating the cloud. Wordle makes you start over again with a new cloud if you want to change the text or URL the cloud is made of.

For example, here’s the tag cloud I made for the homepage of Web Pierat.

A kitty cat word cloud for Web Pierat's homepage from Tagxedo

First, I do a Google search for the cached version of a page like this: cache:i-devs.com

web pierat cache version

Google's cached version of i-devs.com

Then click on the “Text Only Version” link in the upper right so you see something like this:

text only version of cache for i-devs.com

Google's text-only cache of i-devs.com with the site text highlighted to copy

Then just paste the text from the text-only cache into Tagxedo or whatever tool you prefer and fiddle with the settings. Voila! A custom tag cloud of the text Googlebot can index on the site…. Well, minus the title tag since Google’s cache doesn’t display that, but you can add the title tag into the text box as well.

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