Are Keywords Still Important for SEO?

Are Keywords Still Important for SEO?

Last Edited September 11, 2023 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

Are Keywords Still Relevant for SEO?

A major discussion point regarding SEO recently has been that if topics or keywords are more important. This discussion comes from the fact that Google is learning how to understand the natural language. Google is so good at doing this now that it can actually identify similar terms for search queries, which makes it less important to worry about small changes in the way that you word your content when you are targeting a specific keyword phrase. Some people argue that it is more important to think about the concepts that Google interprets regardless of the actual words that are being used. While this may be somewhat true, keywords are still a very important concept of SEO.

Back in the day, a significant amount of money could be made overnight because of the way that SEO worked with Google; the formula was quite simple. All that needed to be done was identify an underused niche using keyword research. Then create your micro-site for that specific niche with a high keyword density. Then you would use that website to drive traffic toward your money maker, something like an e-book. This could be done over and over again for different niches and keywords.

In 2011, Google's Panda update changed everything. This method for making money was put to death, and SEO is completely different. While SEO does look different, it is still important to understand how it works so that you will have the upper hand. Google has continued to give new updates to its search engine and it now works in a way that is quite beneficial for the webmaster. The search engine has evolved and become quite sophisticated, because it can find the meaning behind your words, and the questions that customers would type into a search bar. It uses that knowledge to automatically make your site show up for those search queries that may not involve your own keywords at all, only phrases that are similar.


keywords targeting

How SEO Has Changed

Consider pagerank. It is not dead, but it did go from being the top determining factor for the ranking of a website to only one of over 200 factors that are used by Google to determine the ranking. And now all of these factors are sifted through and analyzed, to help google determine your own page authority. This means that things like your content quality, inbound links, outbound links, social media shares, ease-of-use, and even website design are all weighed to determine your worthiness as a leader in this subject.

Consider your keyword placement over its frequency. It is still quite important to incorporate your long tail keywords within your page title, sub headers, URL, meta-descriptions, image descriptions, and the like. And short tail keyword placement is still a very important factor. Considering frequency, you may simply need to worry less. It is not important for you to repeat a keyword over and over through the content anymore. This strategy simply does not work. It may actually devalue the copy and make it less enjoyable to consume.

Think about semantic search over short and long tail keywords. The terms long tail and short tail in reference to keywords have been around for a long time. Long tail keywords, those that are longer than three words, are said to be more effective than short tail keywords since they can target a more specific search query, which is helping you target your niche better. But, how true is that now thanks to Hummingbird? Google uses something called semantics search to filter out the meaning behind your words.

What exactly does this mean? For example, say you have a website for your organic dog treats in New York City. Let's also assume that you are content does not use the words “affordable dog treats” for whatever reason. But your dog treats are affordable, actually very good prices. These prices are listed so that your customers can figure out if it is within their budget or not. Assuming that you have a good amount of monthly views, if a potential visitor types in “organic cheap dog treats in New York City” your website could pop up within the top search results. This is because Google is able to determine on its own that your dog treats also fit a cheap qualifier that your potential visitor is looking for.

SEO for the Future

Keywords will not be disappearing anytime soon, they are still a very important part of SEO. It is likely though that SEO marketing will change time and time again as Google becomes privy to the games that some content publishers play with search engines. This will happen over time so there is no reason to get in a tizzy just yet.

Why Question Keywords Relevancy

The world's largest search engine, Google, has done many adjustments in the last few years to make individuals question if words still have value when it comes to SEO. Keywords have been removed from organic search data within Google analytics and websites have been punished that contain over use keywords within the anchor text when building links. They have even gone so far as to punish websites that use keywords within the domain. But the fact is still there that keywords are in very relevant to SEO. Any random person searching the Internet probably does not type "I want to find a box about cooking” within the search engine. They will type “cookbooks” or “books about cooking”. This is confirmed by Google. People of the Internet are still using keyword phrases when looking for specific content on search engines. They are not typing sentences, or paragraphs. They are typing in keyword phrases. This is the exact reason as to why keywords are still relevant in regards to SEO.

The average usage of keywords can be verified through Google adwords keyword planner. You can find search queries that individuals are using to get to your website using Google's Webmaster tools. And there are certain tools that will show you the 10 suggested keywords that Google gives when someone begins typing a search query. But regardless of this, do you know how to choose the correct keywords to use for your website? And how are you applying them to your homepage, your content, your social media profiles?

Using the Right Keywords

You will need to figure out the right keywords to use. Aside from using the tools that are mentioned above, there are more ways to discover the valuable keywords for your SEO strategy. There are many places that you will come across related businesses, websites, profiles, and even pages. For example, if you search for Redbox on Google, you will be suggested Blockbuster (there's a throwback!), Netflix, Gamefly, Walmart, and more. If you like a certain car company on Facebook, you will be shown “related pages” for all of the other major car companies. If you search for a large tech company like Windows on LinkedIn, you will see that people also viewed Google, Apple, Facebook, and more.

While not all of the items that are deemed related actually are, most are. They can be a great way to get inspiration for keywords, directly from your competition. Check out their website and see which keywords they are using. Look in the title, the descriptions, their bios, and pieces of content. There's a good chance that you will find one or two terms that you will be able to use for your own business.

Listen to your Visitors

When you have a business, then the people that you want to discover your website are all your potential customers, right? This is the reason that you need to listen to the keywords that customers are using when they are talking about your business or even your competition. You will see these keywords in things like a contact form or when they email you. Give special attention to phrases like “I am looking for a ___” “can you help me with my ____” the words that are used to fill in these blanks are likely what your customers are using in their search queries.

Keyword intent is also something to consider. For the most part, keywords will fall into one of two categories: non-commercial intent and commercial intent. Non-commercial intent keywords are those that people use when searching for just information. Commercial intent keywords are those that people are searching for when their own intent is to make a purchase of a product or service. Does this mean that you should be using only one or the other? No way. Even the non-commercial intent keywords carry the potential to lead to potential buyers. The key to this is to use the keyword with commercial intent on your homepage, about page, and products for optimization.

The simplest way to match online marketing with keywords is to do a quick audit. It should be noted that this will span beyond your own website. You will need to include:

  • The key pages contained on your website. This would be your homepage, products page, your about page, contact page, and the like.
  • The top content on your website. You can use Google Analytics to find out which of your blog posts were the most popular for the year.
  • The top content on your other media sites like SlideShare or YouTube.
  • All of your social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
  • Your author biography on websites that you regularly contribute to and get traffic from.

You will take the URLs for these pages and place them in a spreadsheet or a Word document. For each of them, you should document:

  • The SEO title and meta description on each page for key pages and top content.
  • The title and description for top multimedia for content on social media sites.
  • The text that is used in the company or personal description for social profiles or author bios on things like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Anywhere that there is a short description about you.

After this, you will need to match key pages with the top keywords for commercial intent. Match the top content on the blog with the top keywords for non-commercial intent. Match the top media on other websites appropriately with the top keywords with commercial intent for presentations and videos about services or products, and do the same with top non-commercial keywords for multimedia that is just informational content. You will also need to match your social profiles and author biographies with the top keywords with commercial intent.

Last, you will need to implement all of these keywords. All of the keywords that you have determined to be the most important will need to be put in SEO titles, social media biographies, etc. It should be noted that when it comes to author biographies, the keyword does not to be present in the anchor text, but the keyword should be close to the link to your website.

The Big Picture

Keywords are not just important for the SEO of a website, they are important for off-site content and social profiles as well. This is so that people using the internet can discover your website through a variety of ways rather than just through searching keywords that are contained on your website. This type of presence can get you hooked up with various networks, driving more customers to your business.

To sum it all up, yes, keyword density is not the same hot commodity that it once was. Keywords could be crammed in every corner of a website and it would drive up the ranking. Google got wise to the tricks and came up with a way to make it more difficult to trick their algorithm. Now, it is important to focus on creating content that is unique, high quality, and relevant while still using your target keywords when it is appropriate. The content should be optimized for the users, not just for the keywords. Otherwise, the content will feel forced and disingenuous.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Former Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.


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