Are Keywords Still Important When it Comes to SEO?

By Mark Zeni

There was a time not too long ago where keywords were the end all be all of SEO. All webmasters had to do was to fill their pages with specific keywords, use optimized anchor text for backlinks, add keyword rich headers and title tags, and voila! You had a fully optimized website. While things may have been more simple from a marketing plan, they completely undermined Google’s product offering. Many people forget that Google’s main goal is to provide the most relevant search engine results to its users and keyword manipulation techniques meant that their algorithm was easy to circumvent. And for this reason, Google hit webmasters with update after update to make sure that things like keyword density would not hold the same weight in future rankings.

However, keywords aren’t completely dead and are still in many ways the backbone of SEO. They just have to be approached differently. Let’s take a look at how the role of keywords has changed when it comes to search engine optimization.

Keyword Placement

Google still needs the use of text, and therefore, keyword placement still plays a major role when it comes to search engine rankings. However, keyword placement will do more for your site than keyword stuffing or keyword rich backlinks.

Placing your main keywords in your title and headers is still an important part of any on page SEO marketing strategy, and this probably will be the case for years to come, unless Google makes a huge change in the way pages are indexed. Title tags play an essential part in search results, and poorly optimized title tags will always yield negative results.

Google still gives priority to key areas, such as meta information and headers, followed by copy and navigation last. It is therefore capital that you optimize these key areas with a variety of keywords so that tags across your site do not become redundant.

Keyword Meaning

Google is doing everything in its power for its algorithm to be more “plastic” and tailor itself to the user’s needs. It is also trying to make its algorithm more human by not only identifying keywords and indexing them, but by deriving meaning from them as well. Google is constantly changing its algorithm so that it can make correlations between keywords on a specific page to allow it to make sense of what the page is truly about.

For instance, different iterations of the same keyword phrase are less likely to rank for different search terms than they were before. So, you should forget about adding specific keyword phrases to your pages and rather focus on a consistent theme throughout your pages that will allow them to rank naturally for certain keywords.

So what does it mean for SEO Marketers?

It simply means that keywords are not completely obsolete, but our approach to them has to be changed. Instead of focusing on keywords, webmasters should focus on the human aspect of search and focus on providing relevant content rather than creating content for machines. As technologies such as machine learning are being introduced, the gap between man and machine is drawing consistently closer, and this should prompt SEO marketers to move towards other facets of SEO such as user experience if they want to be more successful in the future.




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