Are keywords still important for SEO?
Yes, keywords are still extremely important for SEO and search engine rankings.
That's right, SEO keywords are still important to your Google ranking and performance on all search engines. That’s because search engines, like Google, are getting ‘smarter’ and in doing so, they’re updating their behaviour to mirror us humans. Therefore, search engines require better keywords and a more comprehensive keyword strategy than before in order to match search queries with results. That means that when Google crawls web pages the search engine is looking for keywords that signal that the content will provide actual answers to the questions. For Google and Search engines more broadly keywords are what helps them locate content and connect it to search queries. That is what makes keywords still so important for SEO.
In this article we’ll cover more information on what keywords are, why they matter so much to your SEO and how to find the right keywords. The reason SEO matters to your business is because it makes your business searchable and findable via search engines.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the wild world of keywords. This is based on questions that we asked ourselves when we were getting started. We hope you find it useful - if you have more questions about SEO Keywords, or SEO and Keywords in general, feel free to get in touch.
Here's a quick overview of the Keyword SEO topics we’ll be covering:
What are keywords? And what do Keywords have to do with SEO?
What is an SEO keyword strategy?
What are the 2020 Google Updates for keywords (so far)?
How to find keywords that are good for SEO.
How to use keywords for good Search Engine and Google performance.
Let's get started!
What are keywords? And what do Keywords have to do with SEO?
A keyword (keywords) is a signal, or word, that helps search engines and Google locate your web content. Keywords tell the reader about the main idea or subject of something. For SEO purposes, keywords give instructional information about your subject or main idea to the search engines.
Chances are you already know that having quality content is important for your website and SEO. Hopefully that means that you’re publishing regular blog posts or have structured your web content properly. These are good ways to attract and engage customers, nurture brand loyalty and can even help boost SERP rankings (search engine results page rankings).
For us Muggles, improving SERP rankings translates to getting higher up in Google search results, and ipso facto being clicked and seen by searchers.
Keywords combined with a timely blog and a catchy title can also make for great engagement and traffic driving fodder on your social channels… results! Well, almost…. The point here is that no matter how good your content, if you want it to reach its full potential and drive organic traffic to your website, you also need it to be found and read by Google and other search engines.
The good news is that search engine optimization (SEO) can be supported by keywords to help your performance, without compromising on creativity or readability. A good SEO Keyword strategy can help set you up for success with search engines and make sure all your content - web, blog and otherwise - is working to improving your overall SEO Ranking.
Ironically, the first step most of us take to learn more about SEO is a Google search. Cue an overwhelming stream of conflicting information with differing schools of thought and approaches. One article might tell you to include keywords in all of the titles and sub-headers, repeat it in the introduction, underline it in the first paragraph and use it as much as possible, while another tells you to avoid all of that and focus on context, creativity and user experience. It’s a lot to take in. Perhaps the best way to help you navigate all of that is to tell you a story…
The rise and fall of Black Hat SEO
Once upon a time, SEO was a brand new concept and the very first search engines crawled website content for keywords to generate results. The content with the most relevant keywords made it to the top. “Yipee,” said the businesses and marketers who began to repeat keywords as much as they could, even when it made little sense. This wasn’t good news for consumers or search engines. People weren’t getting the quality results they needed. Google then put forth new algorithms named after numerous animals - Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird to name a few. They were built to crawl content for quality signals like keyword stuffing, duplicate content and content volume or structure. “Uh oh,” said those businesses - suddenly they lost all of their search engine juice and a lot of traffic. They would have to start all over again. The end.
Now what? Well, try as we might it’s not possible to keep up with Google algorithm updates. Not only do they happen frequently and without pre-warning, but they are also often only proven by speculation following a sudden dip in website traffic across multiple sites. There is however one certainty, Google (and all of its search engine counterparts), all want the same thing - to deliver high-quality search results for their users. They want the best content to be at the top, and they will keep improving their algorithms to help them do that.
Finding the right keywords is not about cheating the system, it’s about giving the algorithm bots a hand. You can do this by creating relevant and valuable content that will not only grab the reader’s attention and foster engagement on social, but also drive you up the SERPS without compromising on quality.
What is an SEO keyword strategy?
A clear SEO keyword strategy is a plan to help you craft content that helps you rank your website. Simply put, what words/keywords should you be focussing on in order to have your site appear in relevant search engine results.
Your strategy should include how you’ll use these now and also in the future to improve your performance and ranking for the keywords on Google and other search engines.
A 'good SEO keyword' strategy is well researched and considers the user intent in how keywords are used where. Research and consistency is key for keyword performance and their positive impact on SEO.
As the world of SEO continues to evolve (it is always evolving) the need for keywords and the best way to use keywords also evolves. Leading us to our next topic …
What are the 2020 Google Updates for keywords?
So far 2020 has seen further improvements to how Google returns answers on search queries. Namely, the BERT update. This update to the Google algorithm is the latest in a long line of Google updates to improve natural language processing and increase search accuracy.
BERT makes understanding keywords, especially long-tail keywords more critical than ever in creating quality content. It also makes keywords and quality content themselves more critical than ever in improving rankings in 2020 and beyond.
For more on how to write for Google's updates read our article HERE.
How to find good keywords?
You can find keywords many ways including online tools and on search engines themselves. There are so many keyword search tools available and clever ways to do uncover keyword opportunities.
Google’s Keyword Planner is a good place to start, which offers top-level insight free or full search volumes for Google Ads customers. Click on ‘discover keywords’ and add a bunch of keywords you think people are likely to use in the discovery field. You will then get a list of search volume on your chosen keywords and a long list of suggestions you can scroll through or download. Of course, this isn’t always a quick job and sifting through the results can be an art in itself.
If you want to avoid a keyword search tool vortex, then some best-guess assumptions and searching might do the trick. Consider what terms and phrases would your target audience search to find your blog and type each one into Google search yourself, now consider:
Are the results similar to the blog post you plan to write?
How’s the competition? Are the links from big publishers, or small businesses?
Can it be used naturally inside your content? Does it make sense?
Will your target audience search with that keyword? and what will their intention be when they do?
You can also take note of any suggested long-tail keywords in Google suggestions (the dropdown that appears while you type). Along the way, you may find a group of keywords that can be used throughout your blog and even inspire the content and angle. For example, you might have originally planned to write a blog on ‘top winter fashion trends’ and later discovered that ‘winter coat trends’ is a better keyword. You either decide to write a blog that is more specifically about coats or include this keyword as a subtitle and section in the blog.
In the days of tactical Black Hat SEO, the emphasis on keywords remained firmly in the secondary definition as a word or phrase to search a volume of data for information. If you want to find a ‘good’ keyword then it’s a good idea to think of keywords under the primary definition - a word or phrase that is contextual to the main idea or subject of your blog post. By that, we mean focusing on niche keywords or phrases that are hyper-relevant to the subject you plan to write about in your blog post.
As a general rule of thumb, a good keyword makes sense when it’s used inside the content, preferably in the main title. People are also likely to search for it and, as a consequence, actually get value out of your content if it appears in the search results. Get this right and you’re onto a winner.
Where should keywords be used in content?
You should be using your keywords strategically within the content itself. When considering where to place your keywords the key is relevance and intent. If you have found the right keywords then this shouldn’t be difficult - even better if you found a group of keywords with long-tail options that suit your H2 subheadings. A general rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t sound right, don’t use it. If it isn’t relevant? Don’t use it.
That said, if you can make it work without compromising readability, it’s a good idea to include your keyword in these areas:
URL (and page description, since Google is slowly moving away from showing full URLs in search results)
H1 tag (H2 / H3 where natural)
Body of your content
Images and video alt tags
Need help with your keywords? We're here to help!
Now that you know the basics, why not give it a try? If you manage to put in place even a few of these suggestions, you’ll start to see organic results within three to six months. And, we’re happy to lend a hand with SEO for your blog posts. Just get in touch and one of our SEO experts will talk you through how it works.
ARTICLE UPDATED: MARCH 16, 2020