The days of stuffing content with targeted keywords just to appeal to search engines is over. Let’s be honest, that approach never really appealed to readers – when you’re reading a piece of content, coming across the same key terms over and over again can be frustratingly disruptive.
Google caught on to this tactic quickly, and have since adopted a more selective approach to displaying content on its results pages.
There’s no doubt that this has made an SEO’s job more challenging, but it’s good to up your game, and you shouldn’t be deceiving your users in the first place. Users expect quality, not content that has been over-stuffed with keywords to comical effect.
But that’s not to say that there’s no place for keywords in SEO – quite the opposite, actually.
So how do you balance it?
Explore the bigger picture
Ask yourself: are you giving users what they want? If you search for your organisation, what are you hoping to find?
Once you understand your own search behaviour, you can empathise with your audience.
Remember, people don’t tend to search using keywords. They search for answers to questions, you just happen to use keywords in your content to make those answers easier to find.
Where publishers tend to get confused is by thinking that keywords are more important than intent.
In order to give searchers what they want, search engines are now looking to showcase content that matches user desire.
Whatever the reason for their visit, your content (and keywords) needs to be tailored for intent.
As a result, not only will you find search engines giving preference to your site, you’ll also find the users are converting better.
Whether that means an increase in sales or adding to your subscriber list, if your audience is finding your site with intent, they will be more likely to engage with it in the way you want them to.
One of the best things you can do for your content strategy is make sure you invest in unique, relevant content that your audience can look forward to.
Forget about ‘what’, think about ‘where’
Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to keywords.
Your post could be filled with the keyword you’re currently targeting, but it won’t matter to search engines if they’re stuffed into the page’s footer.
Knowing where to place keywords is the most important thing. Your slug, header, H2 tag, and alt text will all have more of an impact than just randomly injecting keywords into body text.
Take advantage of these places, and only use keywords where they fit and don’t muddy the user experience.
The final verdict
Do keywords matter in modern SEO? Yes, but not as much as they used to.
The legacy mindset of “the more the merrier” didn’t make content any better in days gone by, and it certainly doesn’t now.
Techniques have evolved, and so have search engines. It’s all about appealing to users now, not machines.
And that’s a good thing: an engaged, satisfied user isn’t just another click. They’re likely to engage, share and even convert.
By carefully assessing user intent, writing precise, relevant content, and applying keywords in the right places, you can make your content as appealing to search engines as it is to your audience.