Semalt Tells About The Importance Of Keywords For SEO Purposes
In the early days of SEO, keywords were the foundation. Whether it was a single word or a full sentence, they served as a way for webmasters to attract relevant users organically. But since then, many changes have taken place in Google's algorithm and the SEO field in general. So it's worth asking if keywords are still an essential part of promoting a site in the search results of Google and other search engines today?
The answer is yes. Keywords are more relevant today than ever. From the perspective of the average Internet user, keywords are typed or said to the search engine; and when used correctly by the site developer, they should affect all content on the site, in order to satisfy the user's intent and present them with appropriate content.
Why does the concept of a keyword seem to have expired?
Rumors often circulate online that keywords are an outdated relic from ancient times in the history of SEO. There are several reasons why these rumors pop up from time to time: For example, in the past, you could see a lot of various information about keywords in Google Analytics and similar SEO tools, but starting from 2010, this information started to disappear. The conclusion of many site developers was that the vanishing of this information from Google Analytics meant that the keywords were no longer relevant to Google, but in fact, nothing changed. People continued to search and keywords are still an important part of the ranking process.
Another reason for the rumor about the death of keywords is that Google's interpretation of queries typed (or said) by users has also changed. This is thanks to the update of the "Hummingbird" algorithm launched in 2013 and the RankBrain artificial intelligence algorithm launched in 2015: which translates into another query that uses the geolocation system.
Other reasons are the meteoric evolution of voice search, which allows us to converse with Google in a natural way as if it were a small talk with another person, thus apparently eliminating the need for keywords (but not really, because even unwritten keywords are still keywords...); and technical reasons such as the tendency of Google's keyword planner since 2014 to consolidate keyword data by groups rather than by individual keywords.
Keywords are still important for SEO
Keywords are clues. Put aside for a moment the keywords, the site's search engine ranking, leave it all, and consider the following thought: If you knew the thoughts and feelings of each of your customers, how would you run your business differently?
Studies show that when people express their opinions in front of others, their words can be influenced by how others perceive them. However, when they conduct anonymous, private, personal searches, they reveal through keywords what they really think and want. In other words, keywords tell you what the user's real intent is, and with them, you can better meet their expectations.
Keywords are a kind of personas
A well-known marketing method is the construction of personas with certain characteristics that represent the relevant target audience. Such a method helps business owners make sure they are indeed addressing the right group of customers. Paradoxically, such a targeted outreach to different types of people is usually much more effective than a general, featureless one.
Keywords are used in the same way: A look at the Google Search Console data will reveal that there is never a one-time keyword that gets you to the surfers. If you take one keyword, a primary keyword, and derive secondary keywords that can be used by different target audiences, you will reach a segmented and targeted audience that will bring you better results.
How do you choose the right keywords?
The best way is an in-depth keyword research and a detailed data analysis. The dedicated SEO dashboard can be very useful for this task. Nevertheless, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Do not start with keywords. Before you arm yourself with SEO tools and approach analyzing data tables and graphs, first of all, be human: Get to know your customers, preferably from the customers themselves. Know how they feel and what perspectives they hold from a variety of aspects related to the nature of your site.
- Formulate an initial list of keywords, based on the knowledge you acquired in the previous step and your understanding regarding the meeting between the needs of the customers and the answer you are able to provide you. Have a short brainstorm and write down a list of words and phrases that effectively describe what you have to offer.
- If there is already information about certain keywords from the list, use it. Make a list of the keywords that are already bringing surfers to your site with the Google Search Console and any other information you have.
- Expand your list using Google's organic promotion tools that focus on keywords: Search for keyword groups, similar phrases, synonyms, and similar "long tail" versions. If you have not yet done keyword research, it's time to do it.
- Sort the keywords into groups so that you can easily spot the intent of the user who might be typing them in the search bar. For example, you can sort by target audience segment, by stage in the sales funnel, or in any other way that makes sense to you.
- Match keywords to the content on your site. Choose up to four main keywords for each page on the site, based on relevancy and search volume. Then find additional keywords, or those that are semantically related or long tail phrases, to support the main keywords you have chosen.
- Once your keyword strategy has been successfully implemented, Google has had enough time to respond, and you have gathered enough information, it's time to carry out the whole process from the beginning. After all, optimization is a process that strives for continuous improvement and never ends.
The keywords can be divided into countless categories according to a huge variety of parameters and reasons. Here are some of the more common:
Brand vs. non-brand
There are key phrases that include a specific name of a brand, business, or product, and those are called Branded. It can be the exact name, misspellings, acronyms, the name of a particular campaign, slogan, or anything else whose search clearly shows that the answer is the same specific brand. Thus, expressions of this kind usually receive particularly high conversion rates - because the surfer who performed the query already has a certain type of early acquaintance with the brand.
In contrast, there are all the other key phrases (Non-Branded). Such phrases usually describe some need that the surfer has or what the business has to offer in response.
It is interesting to note that there are businesses whose brand names may be interpreted here or there. For example, "Canada taxis" can be a general search term when someone is simply looking for a taxi in the Canada area, but can also be a search term of the first type if the business is called "Canada taxis"…
Long head and tail expressions
Keywords that have a high search volume are called "Head Terms" in the professional language, compared to keywords that have a smaller demand, called "Long-tail". By the way, about 15% of the searches performed on Google every day are new searches, ie "long-tail".
Other differences between the expressions can be the nature of the competition (fierce competition for head phrases and weak competition for long tail phrases), the number of words (a little in head phrases and a lot in long tail phrases), the number of ways to interpret the user's intention behind the query(one and only in long tail expressions), and more.
Primary and secondary keywords
Keywords (sometimes also referred to as "targeted") are your most important keywords, whether in the context of a particular page on the site or the entire site. The Secondary (or "supporting") keywords are all the other keywords you work with, with a slightly lower priority.
Seasonal versus evergreen
"Evergreen" keywords have a more or less constant search volume over long periods, compared to other keywords that increase in search volume over time and then decrease. For example, "Gifts for Tu B'Av" is a key phrase of the season, compared to " Refaeli Bar " which is searched throughout the year.
Distribution by stage in the sales funnel
One of the ways recommended by SEO experts is to sort the keywords according to the stage where the surfer is in the sales funnel, thus refining the message for each of these stages to optimize the funnel and increase conversion rates. For example, you can sort by "Awareness", "Consideration", "Conversion" and "Customer Retention" stages.
Distribution according to the target audience segment
If search engine users included details such as their age, gender, and interests with each query, it would be much easier to identify which target audience segment each query belongs to and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, not all users type into Google, for example, "I'm 35 years old, have a bachelor's degree in business administration, am married with two children, and am looking for a robotic vacuum cleaner."
Fortunately, while there are almost no queries specific to a particular segment of the target audience, there are still common denominators that allow us to reasonably assess which segment it is. All we have to do is look at the results we get when searching for such a query and try to understand which target audience Google tends to think it is. Since Google's mission is to provide the searcher with an appropriate denominator, the target audience of the first few results will most likely be the same one who typed the query in the first place.
Keyword optimization as part of SEO
It is not enough to know which keywords to focus on but also to effectively optimize the site for those keywords. Here are some tips to help you get started on the right foot:
Where on the page should keywords be included?
Page URL: The URL changes very rarely, it is conspicuous and describes everything that happens on the page, so in Google's eyes, it is a valuable parameter to rank the page.
Static Content: Search engines are getting better at crawling dynamic content, but static content will almost certainly be crawled and added to Google's index.
Title tags: They affect both the ranking and the clickthrough rate (CTR), so if they are well written then the keywords incorporated in them have the potential to positively affect both.
Meta Descriptions: Unlike title tags, meta description tags do not affect the ranking in Google's search results - but they can certainly improve your clickthrough rate.
Striking content: Google does a great job of seeing the content of a web page as human surfers see it, so keywords should be incorporated in areas where the content is conspicuous to the human eye. For example, a large headline would be much more prominent than a small disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
Links and the content around them: Incorporating keywords in the anchor text of links that are on other sites and lead to your page helps Google understand what that page is about. Similarly, incorporating keywords in the link environment may have a positive effect (albeit at a lesser level than the anchor text itself).
Media file names: Instead of using the automatic file name given to an image on a smartphone or choosing a generic name for a video, give it a descriptive name that incorporates keywords.
Alt tags for images: Many people think that alt tags are intended for visually impaired surfers, but in practice, Google uses them to understand what is seen in the image. Therefore wisely incorporate keywords in these alt tags as well.
Subtitles or Video Transcription: Similarly, some videos include a variety of relevant keywords without Google having any idea about it. What can be done is to turn the words spoken in the video into written words that will be crawled by Google.
Tips for incorporating keywords
Do not exaggerate: there is definitely such a thing as "over-optimization", and it can drive surfers away from you and cause Google to impose sanctions on you. How will you know when you are exaggerating? Just ask yourself if it helps or offends the user experience and act on your answer.
Ignore the Meta Keywords Tag: It gets very little attention from search engines, if at all, so it's best not to waste time on it.
Do not optimize in a vacuum: Treat the keyword issue as a whole that needs to be taken into account, thus avoiding misspellings, gaps, or cannibalization of keywords. All this, of course, unless you have a single-page website.
Check it all out: If you have the opportunity to work on sites that have multiple pages, you can use them to improve your optimization techniques.
Keywords are the basis for ranking websites by search engines in general and Google in particular. Although there have been changes along the way in both algorithms and technology, the importance of keywords has not changed in about two decades, so there is no reason to assume that in the future we will be able to give up keyword research and its intelligent integration across our sites.
If you need to learn more about the subject of SEO and website promotion, we invite you to visit our Semalt blog.