Keywords used to be king. They used to be the most important part of your online content. If you wanted to improve your search ranking and visibility, you’d be sure to pack plenty into your content, but now Google’s got wise to this and the focus is on quality content.
Google’s reliance on keywords led to the rise of “keyword stuffing” or packing a piece of content with as many keywords as possible, in order to manipulate search results.
This led to a rise in un-engaging, often spam content, which gained pride of place among Google’s search engine rankings by being overly-peppered with keywords, rather than being pertinent, engaging or, to be blunt, any use whatsoever.
Thankfully, Google took up the issue and set about changing the way it ranks content, and with the help of some super-smart algorithms and human processing, things no longer work like they used to.
Instead of Google’s algorithms counting keywords and elevating content based upon their presence, they now look for more. They now look for high-quality content which actually answers a user’s questions and queries and gives them what they’re looking for.
Content is judged upon different criteria now, including what Searchmetrics calls relevant and proof terms.
Proof terms, refers to words and phrases which are specific to your topic. Their presence shows depth and relevance, and shows Google that you’re actually writing about something. An article where the primary keyword is “football” might include the proof terms, players, goal and match, for example.
Relevant terms, on the other hand, refers to words and phrases which are adjacent to the specific topic, but still connected. So, on our football article these might be words like tickets, referee or stadium. These terms show that your content is holistic and covering your topic from a wide range of perspectives.
Another variable upon which content is considered, and one which has become increasingly important as Google has moved towards being more of a semantic search engine, is User Intent, and for that to benefit in terms of SEO, you need to engage your audience and keep them engaged.
Time on site, click-through rates and bounce rates are taken into consideration by Google, so finding your target demographics’ niche and providing them with relevant, high-quality content is the key to improving your ranking and visibility.
But it’s not completely the end of keywords
While keywords are no longer the be all and end all, they do still matter. They’re the first line of contact with the user, and Google too.
You must have relevant keywords in your content, but there’s no hard and fast rule of how many (although popular WordPress plugin Yoast recommends less than 2.5% of your total page word count). And to complicate matters further, you will find that, while there’s no minimum amount required, too many occurrences could result in your being penalised for the aforementioned keyword stuffing, so finding that magic number is critically important, but how they’re used within a piece of concise, informative content is the real difference.
Or, to cut a long story short, “quality content is king”. So if you’re looking to change things up, improve your site or product’s ranking and increase your visibility, you now know how best to go about it.