Online marketing is alive and well; but it is in a state of constant change. Semantic search has just changed everything once again and it has many marketers and SEO professionals scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do with the once important keywords. There are two schools of belief; one which feels that keywords are dead and will remain a thing of the past and another that believes keywords are still valuable and just as important as they have always been.
How keyword usage has Changed
Google is always making updates in an attempt to make search results more relevant to what users are really searching for and the latest change is no different. Before the emergence of semantic search, users typed in a query and the search engines provided pages of results based largely on the specific keywords used. This meant that marketers and SEO specialists only had to use keywords relevant to what a consumer might search for. Keywords were used in every strategic location including site content. But that no longer matters with the new search algorithms which are geared to what the user intends to find by asking their question. Search engines are looking for answers to the actual question and sites which contain these specific answers; and it’s not solely based on keywords. Which is why many are of the school of thought that they are no longer relevant and SEO is dead as well. As search engines evolve into providing entity based search results, the role of the SEO professional is making adjustments. Some even suggest that SEO become “Semantic search optimization” since sites are now being optimized for semantics rather than keywords.
Those Who think Keywords are Dead
Many are correct in assuming that search is no longer solely about the keyword, but more about what the words on a page make reference. Search engines take a look at WebPages as a whole to determine the overall theme or purpose without regard to the keyword(s). The argument is that when Google receives a query from a user it no longer tries to find a match for the keywords, as this can be deceptive when inside site content; but it looks for the meaning or intent of the query and returns results based on the underlying information being sought. Some experts suggest that many of the changes occurring in the world of search are due to the vastly growing mobile users. Queries are not necessarily entered to find a specific keyword, but rather to find a location, a person or simply an answer.
Those who think Keywords still Matter
While there is a whole world of experts who think keywords are dead, there are plenty of people who feel that the strategies surrounding keywords are changing, but they are still very important when you are talking about search. Perhaps the keywords are no longer the center of attention, but they are no less valuable according to this school of thought. Keywords tell the reader and the search engine a lot about the intent of a search as well as the content being searched. Many feel that the keyword will never die and will always bear some importance. However, it is necessary to align a site along with its content with what the user is looking for. Now we are back to optimizing a site for users rather than search engines – just like it was always supposed to be with SEO best practices and strategies.
What’s an SEO to do?
SEO can be confusing no matter which school of thought you relate to. But Google is simply trying to provide users with the most relevant results for their query. So how does the SEO specialist adapt to these changes and value the keywords while not focusing so much on them at the same time? It’s pretty easy and back to basics for the savvy SEO specialist. Create sites and pages that are informative and useful for the user; remember to design with the user in mind, not the search engines. Make sites that offer consumers what they need, or what they are looking for. Content should be of high quality, informative and well written. Content is still king – create a website with exceptional content that engages the audience and follow Google Webmaster best practices along with SEO best practices and it will seem like nothing changed, even though – everything changed.