In the ever-evolving landscape of content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO), one question continues to surface: Do keywords still have a role to play in content? With the rise of semantic search, voice assistants, and search engine algorithm updates such as the Helpful Content Update of late 2022, it’s natural to wonder if keywords are starting to lose their relevancy. In this blog post, we’ll explore the role of keywords in today’s content landscape and discuss their importance in driving organic traffic and user engagement.
The super short answer is yes, keywords do still have a massive role to play in content, they just need to be used properly.
A brief evolution of keywords in SEO
We won’t go back to the very beginning, but if we look at the last decade or so (pre the Panda algorithm update of 2011), it was completely acceptable to “stuff” your webpages with keywords. This black hat technique focused on adding as many keywords and their variants as possible to each page. In the early 2000s it worked well for businesses; Google would assume that the content was relevant due to the sheer density of exact match keywords on a webpage.
The Panda update then changed things. Targeting low quality sites and thin content pages with little or no added value, keyword stuffed pages were demoted in search results. The reason being these pages added less value to the web compared those that were written for users instead.
As we move closer to today, the prevalence of voice search and the advancements in AI technologies have meant that keywords and search intent are more important than ever. Content writing for SEO has evolved to become a specialised skill that needs to be honed amongst writers (you can’t rely solely on ChatGPT!). Web content needs to be aligned with natural language queries, and be as helpful as possible to users, whilst still hitting those high-volume queries coming in. With this in mind, it leads nicely to our second section…
The importance of keywords in content
In short, keywords are still imperative to an effective SEO strategy. If you fail to include a number of relevant, high-volume search terms within your content, you’re less likely to be found by potential customers through Google searches. Your website’s content is a huge part of the wheel that helps drive leads to conversion, so even in 2023, it’s important for your organic visibility to ensure you’re including terms that your target market is typing into search engines. Doing thorough keyword research is crucial to finding out exactly what these terms are.
So, when it comes to the content creation side of things, keep these two words in mind: relevancy and user intent. Your content needs to be utilising those keywords that are not only satisfying user search intent but are also relevant to your product or service. This keeps your users happy and helps Google understand your content and rank it appropriately in the search results. When done well, it will only lead to increased organic visibility.
Keep in the forefront of your mind that Google favours user-focused content more than ever, and since the Helpful Content Update in December 2022, there’s even more importance to provide content that’s written for the user, and not the search engines. Although this sounds somewhat counter-productive when you need to ensure keywords are included within your copy, it just means that web content writers need to be savvy about ensuring the content is user-centric, but also includes important keywords.
3 tips for utilising keywords effectively in 2023
- Explore a variety of long-tail and user-centric keywords to use within your copy.
- Keyword variations and related terms are important. Explore keyword variations and related terms to expand content reach, capture a wider audience, and optimise for semantic relevance.
- Analyse competitor keywords. See what your competitors are ranking for to gain insights for your own copy, identify content gaps, and refine your SEO strategy.
While the landscape of SEO and content marketing has undoubtedly developed, keywords still play a crucial role in driving organic traffic, user engagement, and search visibility. However, their usage has shifted from exact-match targeting to a more context-driven and user-centric approach. By conducting thorough keyword research, creating high-quality content, and aligning with user intent, content creators can leverage keywords effectively to improve their SEO performance and connect with their target audience in a meaningful way. So, while the use of keywords may have evolved, their importance in content remains as relevant as ever.