Keywords: Are they still relevant for SEO?

Written by Jen on October 20, 2016

Back in the old days, when SEO was just starting out, the use of keywords was very important and contributed a lot to how your website would rank in different search engines. People would put keywords and tags on everything, as many as they could think of and back in the good old days, it would matter if you were over-doing it.

 

Fast forward to the present day, and all of that has changed. SEO has advanced a lot and many search engines have complex algorithms in place to sort the rankings and penalise those who abuse it. This is all done so that websites have better content.

 

So, with the new algorithms not picking up keywords as much as it used to, is there any point? The straight and simple answer to that is, yes, keywords are still important when it comes to SEO but you just need to have a different approach in how you use them.

 

Once upon a time, as mentioned, keywords were the main factor when it came to how a website ranked in search engines. The more there were, the higher the website would rank. Content was normally disregarded as it was filled with keywords instead, and web pages and links were also named after keywords to help rankings.

 

Things have changed a lot though since and a websites can actually be penalised if there are too many irrelevant keywords.

 

So, how has it changed? Rather than looking at specific keywords, most search engines look at the meaning behind the keywords and quality content. This is so that search engines give their user the most relevant search results with high quality content. For example, a lot of Google’s updates mean that websites with low quality content (i.e. repetitive content, links that are not relevant) do not show up in results.

 

The way people search has changed as well, rather than searching very specific words, people tend to be more conversational and may type a question or phrase instead. A lot of search engines have picked up on this which is why they look for quality content.

 

As such, keywords are still important, however rather than using specific keywords, long-tail keywords are better to use. This is touched upon in our previous blog about Voice Search and SEO.

 

A good place to start when thinking about keywords in the present day is differentiating between explicit and implicit intent. If a user searches “LG washing machine manual” the explicit intent is that the person searching is looking for a manual, however the implicit intent could mean that the washing machine is broken and needs fixing, so really the individual means “how can I fix my LG washing machine”. By understanding this, you can then create the right content that fits both the implicit and explicit intent.

 

A lot of search engines are becoming smarter and can predict what a user is searching from what they have previously searched. For example, I just typed in “what to eat in Hong Kong”, the next search I did was “Bakery” and Google gave “Bakery Hong Kong” as an option – clever right?!

 

As search engines are moving towards implicit intent, it is important for companies to really thing about who they want to target and their audience, and anticipate their actions when searching, and then producing high quality content that links to that. Keywords are definitely still important however it is important to go beyond just one word and tie in other aspects of that.

 

If you are looking for other ways to help your rankings, why not check out our previous blogs on how to optimise your SEO:

Get Popular! Reviews to Boost Local SEO

SEO Your Social Media

Improve SEO with Your On-Page Content

A DIY SEO Guide

Optimising Images for Search Engines