I am not sure what to think when I visit certain webmaster forums like the warrior forum. It seems that the majority of people there must have entirely missed what transpired in the last two years when it comes to search engine marketing and optimization.
There are still people who believe in the importance of keywords and keyword research.
People are still digging into keyword lists they got by using Google’s keyword tool, they are still using software “to find the best keywords” and plan their content marketing/creation or link building campaigns around those keywords.
Google’s Penguin Update: When Keywords Used For Backlinks Became A Problem
Back in 2012 already, with the first revisions of the Google Penguin update, it had already become clear that keywords lost importance when it comes to link building. Not only did keywords lose importance, webmasters and SEOs all of a sudden learned that a backlink profile that used and focused mainly on keywords is actually a bad thing and can actually hurt websites.
This can be easily understood if one realizes that “in the real world” and in the “real” world wide web, linking to other websites, linking which happens as a natural process on the web, hardly ever uses “carefully selected keywords” as anchor texts. Natural linking happens by using URLs or phrases like “Go here”, “See this site here” or it simply uses random terms and phrases which may (or may not) be relevant to a page linked.
SEOs all of a sudden faced that their link profiles were deemed unnatural because they used a high percentage of keywords. The result was that their rankings suffered; their sites disappeared from Google as soon as the Penguin update hit.
Throughout the last one or two years, for me it became clear that keywords not only lost their importance for link building, but likewise so when it comes to content creation.
Are Keywords Still Important For Content Creation?
Content creation, whether it’s article writing or creating web content in the past also (normally) was done by doing keyword research beforehand. You were researching keywords or phrases that had sufficient search volume and “weak competition” to make sure that your article or page would be ranking well in the search engines. But this has changed also.
The latest Hummingbird Google Update is one more step in the ever ongoing series of Google updates that aims to understand natural, “conversational” search patterns. With new technologies on the horizon such as speech recognition, people who search on the web do not enter “keywords” or “search phrases” any more but will increasingly use search engines almost is they would have a conversation with another human being. Say, rather then entering “cheap acne remedy” into Google, people may make queries that are longer and more complex, for instance things like “Where can I buy a cheap natural acne remedy online with free shipping?”
Google’s Hummingbird not only seeks to understand such longer and more complex searches, it’s aim is also to better grasp relevancy of content plus the getting away of thinking in terms of “keywords” or “search phrases”.
One of the best explanations what Hummingbird does I found here:
[Hummingbird now has a] new emphasis on matching the meanings of phrases with concepts rather than just matching the individual words in a query to documents.
Or simply spoken, search engines move away from “thinking” in terms of words and phrases but towards concepts. And for any content creator, writer or someone who makes a website this is extremely relevant!
The Nonsense of “SEO Optimized Content”
These days, I am baffled still seeing content providers offering “SEO optimized content”. Uhm, what is that supposed to be anyway, “SEO optimized content”? Or what is “SEO Content Writing” supposed to be? Is this some “special” form of writing which by some magic catapults itself into high Google ranks as opposed to “normal” writing?
The time where keyword density etc. played a role are long gone, this was at least two years ago.
When I think about optimizing content today, the only form of “optimizing” now I can think of is to make sure that content is not optimized, that content is not written around keywords, that keyword density is actually decreased respective content is written in the most “natural” way as it can even be. (I have seen some webmasters which had to pull old content from their site where content had to be re-made since it violated all those principles.) Content which, say, initially was written and obtained as being “SEO optimized” is now harming site’s rankings. Now webmasters are desperate to get rid of keywords and carefully researched phrases in their articles, afraid to even repeat a keyword twice fearing content may otherwise be over-optimized. In some way, this is certainly ironic.
It’s ironic since those mistakes could have been avoided if they just had written (or obtained) good, “natural” content, content that is not written for the search engine but for real human beings.
In my own content writing efforts, what I do is get a an idea of what a piece is supposed to be about. Keyword research, if made use of at all, is only used to get a rough overview about a general market, related topic etc. On occasion, a keyword may actually go into the title of a post, but that’s where the thinking about search engines stops. The rest is is simply natural writing. I also do not bother about “LSI keywords”, these I see as similar nonsense right there with other outdated concepts like keyword density etc.
The reason is simple: A good piece of content that is “on topic” and relevant will automatically contain LSI keywords, that is those related keywords and phrases Google deems as relevant to a particular topic. But it is not MY job as a content creator to “find” them or to research them, it is Google’s job to determine relevancy based on content. If Google cannot, it isn’t my problem but it would rather be a problem with Google’s algorithm. It’s as simple as that. However, we know that Google is always progressing and tweaking their algorithms, obviously they are getting better at this. There is no reason to write content “for search engines” because I can be relatively confident that Google “sees” when content is good, relevant, on-topic etc…or at last is on the way there.
Bottom line: Keywords and keyword research lost their importance for link building and for content creation.