SEO, Keywords and Relevancy
Are Keywords Still Relevant in SEO? What about Meta Keywords? How and when keywords helps SEO.
The simple answer to this question is “yes.” Keywords do still play a role in determining whether or not a page appears high up on a Google search or other search engine results page. However, keywords are only one of many different factors that control how well a page does in the search engines. Because there are many different search engines, each with different algorithms and processes, the importance of keywords can vary quite a bit. However, nearly across the board, keywords are far less important than they once were. There was a time when keywords were essentially the only factor that search engines used to gather results. Now, the general consensus is that keywords are among the least important.
This does not mean it is a good idea to discard keywords altogether. While other factors, such as backlinks, visits, and content length, play a bigger role, keywords are still one of the most accessible ways to improve page viewership. Many of the other factors are completely out of your control. For example, if a page is getting visited a lot, Google values it higher. Clearly there is no way to manipulate that. As another example, having many other pages link to a particular page increases its value. It is possible to manipulate this to an extent, by creating multiple pages with interconnected links. For the most part however, these links need to come from unrelated sources. So keywords are still relevant as a controllable part of search engine optimization, but it should not be your only strategy. Some other very important factors include:
- Direct website visits
- Time and clicks per session
- Bounce rate
- Website security
- Content length
Using a rank tracker is a good way to see how your SEO strategies are paying off.
Are Meta Keywords Important and relevant for SEO?
You may have heard of Meta keywords as well. These are similar to keywords, but differ in some very important ways. The biggest distinction is the Meta keywords do not appear in any form that the consumer is exposed to. Most keywords appear in the content of a page, or possibly in the title or anchor. Meta keywords instead appear in the Meta tag of a page. This means it is written into the code of the page itself. Meta tags are composed of three pieces of information:
- Meta Title
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
The Meta title is what appears on a search engine results page. Similarly, the Meta description is the text that appears below the Meta title in a search engine. Unlike these other two types of Meta data, the Meta keywords do not appear on the search engine. Instead, it is information set aside for the search engine specifically. Google will look through your content for keywords, but including Meta keywords is like telling Google what the keywords for the page are.
So, are Meta keywords important? For the most part, the answer is no. Similar to regular keywords, their importance has faded over time. However, the value of Meta keywords has diminished much more than other kinds of keywords. Today, there is only one common use for them, which is to make certain words you do not want to appear in your content into keywords. For example, you can make a common misspelling into a Meta keyword so it may still appear in search engines without having to include a misspelling on your page. This can also work for some negative or unpleasant phrases that could hurt your reputation if included on the page itself.
Can SEO Keywords Be Phrases?
The phrase “keyword” may be a bit misleading. In reality, keywords can be phrases as well as single words. In fact, many sources seem to indicate that keywords in the form of a phrase are actually more effective than shorter keywords. Of course, as with anything else related to search engine optimization, things vary slightly from one search engine to the next. However, it is almost certainly a good idea to include short phrases alongside single-word keywords.
There is a specific name for this as well. Keywords that are phrases are called “long tail keywords” and keywords that are a single word are called “short tail keywords.” The most optimal length for a keyword is three or four words. If a keyword is only one or two words long, there is going to be an abundance of noise in search engines. Many different companies similar to yours from all over the world are likely to use the identical short tail keyword. If a keyword phrase is five or more words, it starts to become very unlikely that anyone will use that exact combinations of words when searching. This is why three or four words have been proven to be the most effective. It is both likely that someone will search for it, and there will be very little competition when they do.
Good long tail keywords are things like, “affordable quality mattresses” or “sun-resistant patio furniture.” You can already tell why having simply “mattress” as a keyword would be problematic. In addition to the natural effectiveness of these longer keyword phrases, Google and other search engines actually give higher priority to long tail keywords.
Do Keywords Matter in SEO?
While the importance of keywords has diminished over the years, they remain an important part of search engine optimization. Additionally, there is one factor that is a bit misleading about this. It is true that Google values keywords lower than it once did, but keywords actually account for many different SEO factors. When someone mentions “keywords,” most people probably think of keywords that appear in the body of content. Yes, this is the most common and straightforward kind of keyword, but it is actually only one of many different kinds of keywords and keyword-related SEO strategies:
- Keywords in body text
- Keyword anchor
- Keyword density
- Keywords in title
- Meta Keywords
- Keyword placement
- LSI Keywords
Each of these aspects may contribute to search engine optimization less than page visits. However, you need to consider all of them together. The whole of your page’s keywords is actually a sizable chunk of what Google uses to rank it. This is the reason why it is so important to focus on every unique type of keyword. Keyword density means having the right amount of keywords and avoiding oversaturation. Keyword anchors are keywords appearing in the anchor text of links. Meta keywords appear in the Meta data of your page. A keyword placement refers to distributing keywords throughout the page, rather than bunching them up. LSI keywords, or Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords, give context to other keyword. For example, an LSI keyword of “pickup truck mechanic” lets Google know that the word bed refers to the bed of a truck, rather than a piece of furniture. By using all of these different kinds of keywords together, it really does make a tangible difference in search engine ranking.
Do Keywords Help SEO?
Studies show that getting a high rank with a search engine has an incredible impact on page visitation. In 2011, nearly 90 percent of clicks following a search were a link on the first page. Nearly 60 percent of clicks were one of the top three links and 40 percent were the number one result. That means that almost half of the time someone searched for something with Google, they simply clicked on the first link. More recent studies report that this is not only still true, but the results are more extreme than they were in 2011. Having the top spot on Google really does give your page an enormous advantage over all the others.
However, the internet is a large place and there is always going to be a lot of competition. This is why keywords help so much. All SEO practices are important and you cannot afford to ignore any one of them. If you hope to achieve the number one spot in the search results, you need to pack your page with as much content as possible to push its search engine value as far as it can go. This includes having good links, a web of connected pages, content that keeps visitors engaged, and, of course, all different kinds of keywords.
Does Google Use Keywords for SEO?
You may be wondering how exactly Google treats keywords. Why and how do keywords actually improve search engine results? There are essentially three steps in the process.
- Crawling – At all times, Google and other search engines set out crawlers into the internet. These pieces of software are sometimes called spiders. These crawlers analyze different pages, as well as all the pages connected to it. This is why having a strong web of interconnected pages strengthens your search engine results so much. During this phase of the process, Google’s crawlers find the keywords on all the pages they investigate.
- Indexing – Google assigns a series of keywords to a page based on the content of the page. This essentially puts the page and all the connected pages into an index. Having the best search engine optimization essentially means getting the right keywords associated with your index. After this step is complete, Google has finished interacting with your page, although it is always updating. Your index may get stronger if new content is created at regular intervals and people visit the pages often, or your index may deteriorate if nothing new changes over a long period of time.
- Processing – When a user makes a search, the keywords associated with the indexes are used to pull appropriate pages. The specific way this is done depends on the search engine that is used. Each search engine has unique algorithms. Google’s algorithms in particular are secret so no one can abuse them. The results of the process are displayed for the searcher.
This explains how pages are categorized, stored, and retrieved, but it is important to realize that all the indexes that are pulled during a search are then ranked. So, in a way, it is keywords that ensure your page gets on the results page, but other SEO strategies are needed to ensure it appears as close to the top as possible.
Where To Put SEO Keywords?
Not all keywords are created equal. In fact, the place a keyword appears affects how strong it is. Some keywords help your search engine ranking quite a lot, while others make little difference. Additionally, well distributed keywords do a better job than keywords that are clumped together. As a general rule of thumb, you want to have about 100 words between your keywords. But that only refers to keywords that appear in the body of your content. There are other places you should be placing keywords as well. Some of the most valuable places include:
- Titles – Keywords that appear in the title of a page are weighed more heavily. This applies to the Meta title tag as well, which is the name of the page as it appears in the Google results page.
- Meta keywords – The Meta tag of every page has a place to put keywords as well. These are among the least important keywords and page viewers will never see them.
- Meta description – The Meta tag also has a Meta description, which appears on the Google results page. Google values these keywords differently than the Meta keywords.
- Links – If a keyword is also the anchor text to a link, it usually affects a Google rank more than keywords that appear in regular body text. Even links on other pages that lead to your page help your SEO.
- Images – While keywords that appear in an image do not contribute, the name and address of images are part of the page and Google can read this information.
- URL – It may not surprise you that Google analyzes the URL for your page as well. Including keywords in the address can actually help your SEO. Generally it is better to include them in the path, which appears after the host site name and “.com.”