SEO has changed considerably since the early days of search engines, but one factor still plays an important role: keywords.
A few years ago, cramming as many keywords into your content as possible was a viable tactic for getting your web pages to rank in the search engine results pages.
Now? Not so much.
So are keywords still important for SEO? And how should you use them in 2019? Here’s a guide to what you need to know.
Why You Don’t Always Need Keywords
Before we begin, here’s one important point to remember:
You can craft a great piece of content with absolutely no focus on keywords, and it can still be incredibly successful and gain lots of visibility.
It could do this by getting a significant number of social shares and generating lots of traffic this way, rather than getting found in search.
So keywords are not always essential.
However, you’re still missing out on free traffic if you don’t incorporate keywords. To generate free search traffic over a long period of time, at least some focus on keywords is needed.
So, by all means, concentrate on creating valuable content that will attract shares, but strongly consider incorporating keywords to boost its visibility.
Keywords Are Dead … Or Are They?
You may have heard that keywords are obsolete. But why? There are a few reasons that can lead to this conclusion, even though it’s the wrong one:
For a start, some people still associate the use of keywords with the practice of ‘keyword stuffing’. However, this has long been dismissed as an ineffective tactic that reduces the quality of the content without boosting the content’s visibility in search.
Developments in Google’s algorithm have also led to changes in how the search engine interprets content. Hummingbird and RankBrain, released in 2013 and 2015 respectively, put more focus on search intent to help analyse more complex searches.
They allowed Google to interpret what was really being searched for without the need to match the exact terms, changing the way that the algorithm interprets searches.
Then there is the arrival of voice search. When people use voice search on their phones, they tend to use longer and more conversational keyword phrases with less focus on specific keywords. Obviously, you cannot incorporate too many long keyword phrases in your content.
However, despite these changes, keywords are not obsolete. In fact, they still play an important role in the creation of SEO content.
Why Keywords Still Matter
Keywords are important because they highlight the things that people care about when they search online. You want to provide answers to your customers’ questions, and a keyword that gets lots of searches means it is important to many people. Keywords are therefore the perfect market-research tool, and they provide you with a good starting point when creating your content.
Keywords give you focus when creating content. When you write on a topic, you will inevitably use synonyms and phrases relating to the topic, and Google is smart enough to connect your content to the long keyword phrases people use in voice search.
Also, by incorporating at least a few keywords that you know people are searching for, you can increase the chances of your content getting found by people what may otherwise not have landed on your website. You cannot incorporate every relevant keyword, but when you have a few keywords that you know are being searched for each month, you know there is a possibility of generating traffic if you incorporate them in your content.
How to Find Keywords
So keywords are still important. But how do you find the right ones to focus on?
The process is usually similar no matter which tool you use. Just type in a seed word (starting word or a phrase) and you will receive suggestions of possible keywords to use along with search volumes and how competitive they are.
The problem is that there may be thousands of related keywords – and you can’t use all of them. It’s therefore a good idea to start by gathering a small selection of short and long keyword phrases.
Some keywords – usually the shorter ones – will be very competitive. Many will have too much competition to ever rank for. If your domain authority is low, start with easier keywords.
You could choose one primary keyword for each piece of content and then look for long-tail keywords around this phrase. Then try to use them in your content without forcing them in to provide your website with natural, free-flowing content with a clear keyword focus.
For example, you could use the long-tail keywords as headings within the content. Where you are writing long-form content, you could break it up into sections using different keywords as the headings. This helps to guide your content at the same time as ensuring you have some relevant keywords in it.
You can also categorise keywords by search intent. Is a particular keyword likely to be used by someone who is ready to buy now or who is looking for information?
Another idea is to search for questions that people are asking related to your niche. Head to Quora and search for questions in your industry, and base your keyword research and your content around these. You will inevitably pack in lots of related keywords even if you don’t realise it.
Where to Use Keywords
If you are writing content for your blog, the first thing to focus on is creating relevant, valuable and engaging content. But how should you actually use the keywords?
Firstly, don’t try to cram them in. Instead, use keywords that naturally fit into the context of the content. A question keyword could make a good heading, for example.
Other good places to include keywords are:
- title tag
- alt text
- meta description (has an impact on CTR)
You don’t have to get keywords into all of these places, but if you can fit them in naturally, then it can help.
Keywords Still Matter
For as long as there is SEO, there will be keywords. Keywords are the way we find what we are looking for in the search engines, and whether they are one-word searches or long phrases spoken into our phones, they connect us with the answers we are seeking.
If you’re tempted to cram in as many keywords as you can into your content to get it found in search, this is not going to work. Instead, carry out keyword research, develop a strategy and use keywords the right way within your content.
If you do this – at the same time as ensuring your content is engaging and valuable – you’ll stand a far better chance of boosting the visibility of your content in search.