Home | Blog | How Much Do Keywords Matter for SEO in 2016?
Way back when in the golden days of SEO, (insert me clearing my throat) the 1990’s to early 2000’s, you were probably told over and over by the experts that keywords were king! They might it crystal clear that the best way, and quite possible the only way, to increase your visits, sales, and search engine rankings were to stuff as many keywords as possible into every sentence that you could. If you were hanging with the cool kids on the SEO scene, then you knew you needed to reach a certain “keyword to word count” ratio to be a star in Google’s eyes. And really, who doesn’t want to be a star in every search engine’s eyes?? Of course you tried this technique and it probably worked, and you watched your rankings soar – until all of sudden it stopped working and it left you, the former king, in the dust.
Wait, what happened? What exactly ruined your perfect little plan to do nothing but speak in keyword riddles and soar in the rankings? Well… Google went and got more intelligent and then made changes to their algorithms.
In 2011, Google Panda came along and made keyword stuffing an ineffective tool. Not only did it heavily penalized the sites that used this practice, but actually could put that site at risk for Google taking action against the whole site. This left your website, and many others, seeing a huge drop in the rankings that you had been accustomed to. So, what now? What do we, as SEO experts, need to do today in terms of keywords to get back in the good graces of Google?
Long Tailed Keywords
Today, instead of just using keywords, we recommend using properly placed long tailed keywords. Hold on a minute – you are probably wondering what in the world a long tail keyword is (if you already know, you get bonus points!) According to Word Tracker, the answer to that question is:
“Long tailed keywords are those three and four keyword phrases which are very, very specific to whatever you are selling. You see, whenever a customer uses a highly specific search phrase, they tend to be looking for exactly what they are actually going to buy.”
Basically, humans search in similar ways that we speak. We don’t search in keywords; we search in more of a conversational tone. For example, if I was getting ready to cook dinner and I wanted to make salmon, I would probably search “simple spicy baked salmon recipes” as opposed to broader keywords like “salmon” or “salmon recipes.”
Is Hummingbird Reading Your Mind?
In 2013, Hummingbird was unleashed by Google and if you feel like Google just “gets you,” that is their intent. With this update, even more emphasis was placed on conversational content. Google now has the ability to take your search phrase and apply meaning to it, and then serves up results based on that, instead of the exact words that were used.
Location, Location, Location
Now that you understand what a long term keyword is, the next step is knowing what to do with them. As is true for so many things, what matters most is location, location, location. In the previous example, the recipe site would want to use “spicy baked salmon recipes” in the URL, the H1, the meta tag, the meta description and on any image tags. For SEO, the meta tag is the most important place for your keywords phrase.
Tip – If possible, you want to place the keyword phrases at the beginning of the meta tag. This helps to get the maximum effectiveness from the meta tag.
Also, there is no need to repeat the keywords over and over in the text. Google, much like your significant other, prefers that you do not repeat yourself.
Just Say What You Mean…
To effectively optimize your on page content, you still need keywords. We imagine that you will always need keywords. Today, the trick is to put some thought behind them. You want to favor keyword phrases that really target your ideal customer. Talk to them in their language and serve them the product or information that they are looking for. If the users who click through to your site are happy, if they spend time on your site and visit several pages, then Google sees that they found what they are looking for and will happily reward you… making you king once again!
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