What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear “search engine optimization?” Up until recently, my answer would have been “keywords.” Lately, though, it’s a common theme across a variety of SEO articles that keywords are no longer the bread and butter of search rankings. That being said, keywords/queries are still an important component in a successful SEO strategy. In fact, in an article by MarketingProfs, 48% of respondents identified keyword/phrase research as the most effective SEO tactic with 34% citing frequent updates as necessary or beneficial.
In the old days of SEO, Google used the frequency of different keywords within a page and matched it with users who entered queries also using those words. The problem with this, as you may guess, is that it’s incredibly easy to manipulate the search engine into showing your page–whether it’s relevant to the query or not. Since then, Google has been steadily refining its algorithms to constantly improve a user’s experience when they perform a web search. Basically, when a user enters a query in a search bar for a specific purpose (learning information, navigating to a particular web page, or intending to download/purchase an item–learn more), Google wants them to achieve just that.
So, DO keywords matter? Absolutely! Keywords are helpful as a reference point to guide you in content creation. Using keywords is about developing quality content and an updated keywords strategy that focuses on a good user experience based on intent.
So, how can you get a killer keyword? It’s easy as 1-2-3.
1) Use your resources!
Try using a free tool such as Google trends, Ubersuggest, or Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner to research potential keyword phrases and/or compare the competition level of different keywords.
Bing webmaster tools and Google webmaster tools each have reports related to keywords that your site is currently ranking for and whether any of those queries led to someone visiting your site. You can also use Google Analytics to see what users did when they came to your site via a search engine–did they leave immediately or navigate to other pages? How long did they stay? Are users lingering on certain pages and leaving from others? All of this information can help you identify which pages are showing up for irrelevant queries or if your site is not clearly establishing its purpose. Use a few, mix and match, or try them all–knowledge is power.
2) Don’t be afraid of long-tails!
(SearchEngine Watch–Resurgence of Long-tail Keywords in SEO)
Long-tail keywords are queries that are composed of 3 or more words. It’s easy to shy away from longer keyword phrases due to the extremely low amount of traffic a single long-tail keyword brings in on its own, but when combined with other long-tail keywords, it comprises 70% of the total searches conducted. Think about when you use a search engine; you’re more likely to use natural language such as “how do you get rust off of knives” instead of “knives remove rust.” The more specific you are, the less competition for the keyword and the more likely you are to rank in the top results (Long-Tail Search). Users rarely look beyond the first page of search results and often don’t scroll down at all if they find an answer in the top 5 results.
3) User intent is KEY
(Source: Marketing HubSpot) Think from a user’s perspective.
Be the User–When choosing a keyword, rather than focusing on changing your content, try to imagine what types of users would visit your page and be satisfied with the results. What is your ultimate goal for a person who visits your site?
Act Naturally–Don’t force or stuff keywords (see negative ranking factors). How helpful is your site/page to people searching for that topic?
Currently, keywords in search engine optimization are based around natural language. You should never force a keyword to match a page–people don’t appreciate feeling tricked or not being able to find what they were looking for because your keywords don’t match your content.
SEO has changed dramatically over the last few years. No longer being able to boost your website/page through the SERP’s by stuffing keywords unnaturally into a page, provide the information/products/resources that are relevant to the text/content on the page. This way, Google will better understand what your site is about and continue to match user’s queries to the most appropriate content. If you don’t have time to keep up with all the algorithm changes we can help! Set up a SEO consultation today!
Written by TinaKay Oliver || SEO and Google Analytics Consultant