When it comes to search engine optimization ( SEO ), keywords are still very important. Here's why you should put and enrich your site's content with keywords to improve engines and meet the needs of searchers.
Are keywords still important for search engine optimization (SEO)?
Are keywords important to Google?
The short answer: Absolutely.
Keywords or SEO keywords range from single words to complex phrases and are used to tell search engines and people what the content is about and to get more visitors.
Your audience uses it when searching for something related to your brand, website or blog.
When researching and optimizing effectively, keywords act as a channel to connect your target audience to your website.
But aren't keywords "dead" for a long time?
Whether you've heard this a few times already or your first words haven't come through yet, "keywords are dead" is a phrase that keeps making its way into SEO circles.
Instead of tiptoeing about this repetitive, binary affirmation that is often driven bait, let's face it head on.
Several developments in the SEO world have raised this claim from hibernation, but four major developments come to mind.
. “Keywords (not available)”.
If you are completely new to SEO, you may be surprised to learn that organic keywords in Google Analytics, Adobe Omniture, or any other analytics platform have been so easy to come by.
However, things started to change in 2010 when Google began taking steps to quietly remove keyword data. In late 2011 and into the following year, much of the visibility of organic keywords will be stripped away, in short, as keywords depreciate.
It won't take long for the 'best keyword driver' to be '(not available)'.
Once we lost sight of SEO keywords and looked blind, many rushed to write keyword obituaries.
But what was really different?
After all, people were still searching for the same thing and Google hasn't changed how it interprets and analyzes our content.
We've all heard, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one can hear it, does it make a sound?"
It's the same.
There was nothing different. We were not around.
“AI and NLP made keywords unimportant.”
The validity of the keywords was once again challenged when Google rebuilt its algorithm in 2013
Hummingbird helped Google to be fast and accurate, and also helped it better understand its search intent, especially with complex searches, searches on conversations, Q&A, and more.
In 2015, Google included an AI-driven ranking factor, RankBrain, into the mix to further improve the interpretation capabilities of search and query requests.
Previously, the search was for “What pizza places are near me?” Google will send out a search for content that matches these terms.
After RankBrain, Google will use these keywords as contextual cues to learn what we really want and often paraphrase our query behind the scenes (eg, “66062 pizza delivery”), i.e. using information about a restaurant or pizzeria near you.
Knowing that Google reviews our search queries may make its usefulness seem completely outdated.
But really, Google is getting smarter about what we've offered.
In fact, as Google understands the larger nuances and is better equipped to associate the language we use with our real search intent, one could argue that keywords become more important.
This is certainly true with BERT .
BERT was baked and integrated into Google's search algorithms in late 2019.
During the year before its introduction, BERT had become the NLP industry standard due to its ability to effectively perform a wide range of language calculations.
Gone are the days when Google ignores "stopwords".
Now, every word in your search (and the exact order you use for each word) matters.
And because it's important to Google, shouldn't it be important to us?
With voice search growing from being an occasional novelty to a staple of search behaviour, many have wondered what that means for keywords.
We all knew that voice search affected keywords, but did it kill them?
Between us (subconsciously) by acquiring Google's simultaneous translation skills and our communication trends when speaking versus writing, we have more conversations and become very detailed.
In the past, if we wanted to know who Brad Pitt's first wife was, we would translate our thoughts into an easy-to-search query, like "Brad Pitt's wives".
Now, we simply tell Google what we want: "Who was Brad Pitt's first wife?"
This is one of the main reasons why 15 percent of searches have never been heard by Google every day.
So, although it was a huge win for researchers and web surfers, it presents challenges for SEO and SEO professionals .
For example, it is difficult to know which keywords to pay attention to if there is a large number of traffic driven by those that were rarely searched for before.
But this goes back to the “(not available)” argument.
Just because our tracking is incomplete does not mean that the importance of keywords is diminished in any way.
We ignore important keywords
Did you know with voice search that you can tell when Scarlett Johansson's first album was released from a query that doesn't include her name or album name? (Side note: Did you know Scarlett Johansson has an album?)
Google understands the importance of context, not only within a search, but also between its strings.
So, do keywords really matter if you can cut out the important parts and still get what you want?
Of course, of course!
This forces us to step back and look at the bigger picture, rather than examining each individual search in a vacuum.
"Keyword Planner has proven that keywords aren't all that different."
Starting in 2014 and upping things a bit two years later, Google's Keyword Planner tool started grouping folders for similar terms.
Instead of keyword A being searched 100 times per month and keyword A1 being searched 50 times per month, they will both appear 150 times.
Google said the reason for this is to make sure you "don't miss out on any potential customers" and "increase the likelihood of your ads being shown in relevant searches".
This interpretation certainly indicates that the researcher's intent does not differ much between closely related terms.
This move seems to reinforce the idea that topics, not keywords, are all SEO experts should worry about.
However, this doesn't explain why Google Search often shakes its results so dramatically for keywords that Google Keyword Planner considers synonymous enough to group them together.
In the end, Keyword Planner is a PPC tool.
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand how forcing PPC providers to expand keyword targeting can be a financially motivated decision.
Keywords are not dead. But Google's keyword metrics might as well.