Keywords have come a long way from the old days of black-hat SEO, where webmasters stuffed keywords into the background of their sites to help them rank highly.
This would often work even if their content didn’t deserve such prominence in search results.
The window of opportunity for using this approach closed a while ago. Google prides itself on changing its search algorithm very frequently to prevent these kinds of black hat tactics from succeeding. Google rolls out as many as 40 algorithm updates in a single month.
The rapid pace at which Google changes its search ranking factors has lead to plenty of confusion regarding which keyword practices are best, where keywords need to be, and how often they should show up.
To help you cut through the noise, here are three important keyword rules that matter in the world of search optimisation as it stands today.
Keyword Density Doesn’t Matter
Sure, it’s still smart to include the search keywords that you want to rank for within your web copy, but there’s no longer a need to meet an arbitrary density requirement that you heard about from an SEO “guru.”
Today, keyword density is less important thanks to a sophisticated algorithm to connect words known as latent semantic indexing, or LSI. Google uses the principles of LSI to focus on user intent, not keywords or keyword phrases.
For example, let’s say you’re looking for a place to get your Toyota repaired in Melbourne. You might search for a term like “Toyota repair Melbourne.” Google’s algorithm is now smart enough to understand that you want to get your car fixed, not buy a new one from a dealer in the area. Because of the LSI algorithm, your results will include a variety of resources relating to repairing a Toyota or a listing of car mechanics in the Melbourne area.
The lesson here for marketers is not to stress so much over keyword density and focus instead on the function of the content. Spend more time thinking about what someone would be looking for from a search engine in order for them to find your page, and focus on answering the questions that these type of people will probably have.
Link Building and Keyword Links Should be for Value, Not Just for Links
Earlier this year a Google Hangout with John Mueller, the webmaster trends analyst at Google’s Switzerland office, caused a minor stir in the SEO world. Mueller advised participants in the Hangout to avoid link building, because of the potential that it could lead to a decreased ranking penalty.
Mueller is right in the sense that link building purely for the sake of creating links to specific keywords is probably not a good idea: it’s likely that this practice will lead to penalties from Google.
But it’s important to note that in his statement about avoiding link building, he also admits that links are a factor in search algorithms. The truth of the matter is, link building is a fine concept, but it has to add value. For example, Google webspam manager Matt Cutts recently declared that guest blogging is probably not a good idea, because it tends to end up providing only spammy links.
This type of guest blogging is definitely a bad idea. On the other hand, if you can find a guest blogger who has something of value to say to your audience, there’s nothing wrong with forming a mutually beneficial relationship by agreeing to promote each other’s content. As long as this content is helpful for your prospect base and you don’t overdo it, this style of link building is valuable for search engine optimisation.
Also remember that keyword links aren’t of great importance anymore: you can use them once or twice, but don’t overdo it. Major digital marketing blog Moz received a warning from Google last year for focusing too heavily on keywords with their links, instead of making them occur more naturally in the context of their sentences.
Start With Long Tail Keywords, Not Highly-Competitive Ones
Long tail keywords are defined as keywords that are longer in length and have more specific information than shorter keywords. For example, if you are running a cosmetic dental practice in Bondi Beach and have just launched your website, you probably won’t stand a chance at ranking for a keyword like “dentist in Sydney.”
However, if you focus your campaigns around a long tail keyword, such as “cosmetic dentistry in Bondi Beach,” there is a better chance that you can rank highly in the search results. As your site grows in prominence and begins to gain more links and traffic, you can start to go after more competitive search terms in your field and your geographic area.
Keywords are still important, if you know how to use them. By applying these concepts to the way that you use keywords in your larger SEO strategy, you’ll find more success with page optimisation and a better search ranking.