Anyone who’s been following developments in the SEO world may be quick to say things like “keywords are dead.” Well, that’s just ludicrous. How can content be king and keywords not matter? Keywords are, in fact, words. Is content not made from words?
You know what is dead? Keyword stuffing and gaming search engines. Search engines surpassed human intelligence like… two years ago. SEO’s don’t game the system anymore. Those that do are beheaded by Google. And then Bing comes along afterwards and gives their beheaded corpses a kick in the bum.
There’s a fundamental difference between keywords for search engines’ sake, and keywords for users’ sake. But there shouldn’t be. Content should be created for users first, there’s no doubt. But there’s also no reason that content can’t also perform well from a search engine ranking standpoint.
Keyword Optimization: The Modern Filing System
Here’s an extremely basic explanation. Think of a search engine as a database, and your website as a file within that database. If your website doesn’t contain the words that someone is searching for, how will it ever be found?
Even more basic: what do you do when you file papers into folders and put them in a filing cabinet? You’d organize the papers by topic, and then label the folders with that topic, right? Think of including keywords and optimizing your webpage somewhat like labeling the topic so that it’s easier to find. On the other hand, if you’re like me you just stack everything together and dump it into the filing cabinet in a huge papery mass. If I need that piece of paper later, I simply try to forget the reason I needed it in the first place, and then move on with my life.
Don’t be Stuffy: Write for User’s Sake
Back in the day, SEOs used to beat the keyword/labeling concept to death. They’d repeat a select keyword numerous times on a page — to the point of annoyance — rendering the page text unreadable. Well, this doesn’t cut it anymore. Actually, it didn’t cut it in 2011.
So what can you do? Luckily, there are still some tried and true tactics to content building that you can employ to help with search engine visibility. Search engines still pay attention to your META page title. They still pay attention to headings and on-page content that is relevant to your topic. They still pay attention to the intended visibility of your webpage; that is, whether you have it prominently displayed and/or linked from a site-wide menu. They pay attention to whether that page is distributed on social media, and whether people click on it and read it. They care about how many other websites are linked to your content, and whether those websites are relevant to the topic. Search engines also care about relevance, and user engagement. Actually they care about this last one most of all.
You need to also keep competition in mind. For example, do your competitors have a page on their website that is ranking well for the topic you’re planning to write? Are those competitor pages written well? Do your competitors have a large social media presence? If so, then it will be much more difficult for your content to rank. It’s not that your content isn’t as good or better, it’s just that your competitors may have been at the game longer.
“Play the Long Game: Think Like the Mighty Tortoise”
Will your new webpage take a long time to start performing well? Sure it will. In some cases, it will take six months or longer. You can jump-start the page’s visibility by sharing it on social media. If you have a client e-mail list (people who have opted-in, of course!) then throw a teaser blurb about your content in there and link to it. Link to it from other pages on your website, and make the anchor text in-line with the topic heading.
All of the above tactics can be factored into your content, and you’ve not had to stuff one keyword. You’ve simply selected a relevant topic to write about, and you’ve done all the right things to make sure it will eventually rank well when someone researches that topic. The fact that the topic contains what could be defined as a “keyword” is merely coincidental.
So, do keywords still matter? They certainly do, if they are used for the right reason. Keep in mind: users first. Organizing the keywords and optimizing the page is really only making the job of the search engine less difficult. But the whole reason you’re doing this is to get more eyes on your content, and then get those eyes to convert into sales.
Actually, you want the people to convert into sales. Actually, you want the people to remain people, and buy stuff from you willingly. You get the idea.