Are Keywords Still Important?
Google is always trying to improve its algorithms, so it can more accurately judge the relevance of a particular webpage when someone enters a search query. The algorithm allows Google to instantly and automatically make an informed and calculated decision about what order to display thousands of results in. It’s pretty impressive that it can understand all the information on your website to make this judgement call, right?
Well, the answer to that is mixed. Yes, Google is making an extremely fast decision (and as you’ve probably noticed, it always loves to brag about exactly how fast that decision was by displaying the time it took to show your personalised search results). However, it is not taking everything on your webpage into account the same way a human does. It’s looking at particular things, which we normally refer to as ranking factors. We know that keywords have always been a very major ranking factor, which is to say, the text content on the page you’ve created needs to contain some words which match the query a user typed into Google in order for that particular page to be shown on a search results page for that particular person.
This is why keywords have traditionally been selected by SEO experts and amateurs alike in order to define a strategy for targeting particular phrases and ranking for them. If you want to be on the first page of Google (the objective of maybe 99% of people interested in SEO, at the end of the day), you need to know which first page that is. If your website is about an SEO marketing agency based in London, for example, you’re probably going to be aiming for a first page position for “SEO agency London”, not the first page of results for “dog grooming Birmingham” or “taxi service Sheffield”. Your keywords tell Google the context of your page.
However, as we mentioned earlier, Google wants to understand things better. It wants to think like a human. It wants to put the best result at the top, which is not necessarily the same result as the one with the best use of keywords in the places Google is checking for them. That’s why it’s introducing other factors with each consecutive update, and in fact the early 2016 updates to Google’s algorithm placed an increased focus on having a range of related keywords on one page, rather than just one. In fact, we already knew that actively keyword-stuffing your content could be picked up fairly easily and result in penalties. You need to ensure your content has enough solid information in there to back up each and every mention of your actual keyword, so it can be understood by readers as well as Google robots.
Does this mean keywords are less important, though? No, it definitely doesn’t! You still need to define a keyword strategy from the beginning if you’re expecting to have any success, otherwise your entire campaign is going to be too broad. If you can select a range of similar keywords, however, this might help Google to more accurately understand the point you’re making and how your content can add value for its users.