…and Why They Don’t
Ha! I’m sure we got some click-throughs from irate SEOs, frothing at the mouth thinking that this was going to be yet another backwards-thinking wannabe-SEO-expert selling outdated strategies and other nonsense claims on how to increase search engine rankings.
The truth is a bit more complex than that. But first:
Why Keywords Don’t Matter
A lot of web design and SEO companies still propagate the myth that keywords are the be-all and end all of your search engine rankings. That spending hours upon hours researching niche or unexploited keywords for every page on your website will somehow give you the edge in Google’s rankings. The fact of the matter is that this is patently untrue.
Check out this video from Google themselves, dated back in 2009:
Now, as our own little disclaimer, other items mentioned in this video (such as the meta description), and their use in search rankings may also have changed since 2009. Google is constantly rolling out updates to its search algorithm in an attempt to block out bad practices in SEO and give end users (i.e. your customers) the best results for their search terms.
So Why DO Keywords Matter?
Despite everything stated here, keywords still play an important role in developing your content strategy. Lets take a quick example:
Say you were running some events for a small, unsigned band. You’ve spent some time researching keywords for them based on the type of music they play, their key demographic (the most common types of people listening to their tracks). You’ve worked out that people are searching for ‘indie bands in Nottingham’. Bad SEO people will tell you to drop this into the keywords for the band’s site. Worse SEO people will tell you to drop it into the keywords for all pages on the band’s site.
Its a waste of research to do that, because as we discovered earlier, Google don’t use keywords for ranking. Its also a waste of research not to use it. So what should you do?
A good start is to revise the content of the page to include those sorts of terms. You’ll want to mention in some headings on the page that the band is indie, and based in Nottingham, and you’ll want to include similar information in the body text of the page as well.
Another thing to consider is the meta description – mention your keyword phrase in there as well. You can make the meta description as long as you like (within reason), but keep in mind that only the first 156 characters will show up as snippets under the search results in Google. If you mentioned your keyword phrase after the 156 character limit, it will still confer the right rankings assistance that you want, but you’ll not be giving that visual reinforcement that users crave, and your click-throughs may suffer as a result.
But What’s the Point?
The point is to make use of research into what will give you the most benefit for your search rankings. Keywords may not directly have an impact on that anymore, but they are still an integral part of your content strategy, and indirectly they are a very powerful tool to help you gain the edge over your competitors.
If you run AdWords campaigns for your business/website, you’ll also see the benefits come into play there as well, but that’s a whole other topic…