As Google continues to improve and update its search algorithms more and more SEO specialists have been questioned the relevance of keywords. They have been increasingly asking if keywords still matter as part of a Search Engine Optimisation strategy.
What Are Keywords?
Keywords are the words and phrases in your content that help make it possible for people to find your site using search engines. It is important to know how people are looking for the products or services that you offer. By researching the keywords your competitors are using you can optimise your website to help outrank those competitors in the search engines.
The word ‘keyword’ points to the fact that certain words or phrases are key to determining what your website is about. For example, if you are trying to sell dog food you are likely to use the phrase ‘dog food’ a lot in your website content. However, the phrase ‘dog food’ is very broad. When people use Google they will often type a question such as “What is the best dog food for my puppy?” An SEO specialist will likely target this, or a similar phrase because it is more specific and therefore easier to get a high search engine ranking.
What Other Factors Influence SEO?
Those people who doubt that keywords still matter often point out that keywords are one of many factors that make up Search Engine Optimisation. In fact Google uses around 200 various factors to determine the ranking of a website. Some of these include:
- The length of the webpage content – Short or ‘thin’ content is unlikely to provide much of an answer to someone’s search query. Remember, the point of a search engine is to provide a list of websites that best answer a person’s question. To answer a question thoroughly you will often need a lot of content. The point of a search engine is to rank the best and most relevant websites first.
- Duplicate content – Obviously, plagiarised content is looked upon negatively by Google. Duplicate content includes copying another website or even using the same content multiple times on your own website.
- Backlinks – Backlinks are links to your website that come from other websites. The best backlinks are from sites that Google trusts such as news websites, Wikipedia or Government websites. There are many other factors that make a ‘good’ backlink. However be aware that there are a variety of shady (grey and black hat) practices involving backlinks that can really hurt your website and can earn you a Google penalty.
- Image optimisation – By using the correct alt text, caption and description you can use images to improve your Search Engine Optimisation.
So while keywords do matter, they only form one point of an overall SEO strategy. As Google uses new AI technology new SEO factors including semantic search are becoming more and more important.
Introducing Semantic Search
As Google and other companies embrace the latest forms of Artificial Intelligence search engines have been adopting new ways of providing users with the best possible experience. We talked earlier about how Google tries to provide people with the best and most relevant answers to their questions.
Semantic search seeks to improve the accuracy of Google searches by understanding the contextual meaning of words as they appear on a web page. By analysing and understanding the context of words through synonyms, concept matching and natural language algorithms the AI programs that Google use become better at understanding the intent of people when they enter a search query.
In this context how can we approach the question, do keywords still matter? The answer is that semantic search plays a large part in helping Google identify low quality web pages. Keyword stuffing and article spinning become much more obvious when the context of the content is analysed. This doesn’t mean that keywords are redundant. In a long article about dog food you would expect to see certain keywords and phrases appear fairly frequently. Semantic search involves identifying whether those keywords appear naturally or not.
Content Is (Still) King
The phrase ‘content is king’ has been used by SEO professionals for as long as I can remember. And it is not hard to see why. Google users are searching for content that is well written, informative and interesting. They always have been and always will be.
The concept of semantic search demonstrates that content is more important than ever. If you are not a good writer or you hire bad writers or use article spinning software your website will never reach the coveted first page of Google. And that’s where your customers are.
Make no mistake. Failure to invest in high quality content will cost you money.
My Own Test Results
If keywords and phrases do occur naturally when writing about a particular topic then it makes sense that keywords still matter. Doesn’t it?
I did my own keyword test with an article about Donald Trump. When I first wrote the article I used my chosen keyphrase only three times. This gave me a keyword density of less than 0.5%. Even though I had not chosen a competitive keyword the article languished on the third page of Google. By increasing the keyword density to 1% the article jumped to the first page of Google and has stayed there. This appears to answer the question, do keywords still matter.
The Way Forward
So what can we learn from all of this? I think there are three key points to remember when writing web content:
- AI will be increasingly used by Google – As a search engine Google is in the business of providing answers to questions. Artificial Intelligence provides the best way to understand user intent and provide the best search results for that person.
- Content is King – There can be no doubt that high quality content is one of the key factors in achieving a high Google ranking. Therefore, website owners should not shy away from spending reasonably large amounts of money on the best writers. Great freelance writers can be found on sites such as Peopleperhour and iwriter.
- Keywords Still Matter – My experiment shows that you need a keyword density of at least 1% to make a significant difference to your Google rankings. Keywords should be regarded as an important part of on-site Search Engine Optimisation.