In my last article, SEO Basics: How Long Should My Blog Articles Be?, I discussed how longer articles are often showing up closer to the top in search results and getting more engagement. I also talked about how quality content always comes first, and you need to write for your audience and give them what they’re looking for to resonate with as many of your target readers as possible.
Today’s article goes hand in hand with this philosophy. We’ll discuss the relevance of keywords and how our keyword strategy needs to be different today than it has been in the past. As search engines continue to better understand how a user thinks and searches for answers, writers and content marketers need to alter the way they create new content so it can perform as powerfully as possible and work toward reaching long-term goals.
Keywords Today vs. in the Past
In the past, we pushed hard to rank for specific keywords, and that was a priority, if not the most important factor content marketers considered to rank well on search engines. Take a look at Google’s 200 Ranking Factors from 2013. The particular integration of keywords throughout different parts of your website, in addition to their density and specific placement, were very important.
Many of those factors are still significant, but search has evolved in two major ways—search behavior has changed, and search engine technology has improved.
Voice Search Is Impacting How Search Engines “Think”
People today, especially younger generations and individuals with poor eyesight, literally talk to their mobile devices to search for nearby restaurants or how-to guides for DIY projects. Search queries are becoming less robotic and more conversational. Search engines are beginning to understand how to better answer questions and provide relevant answers based on ideas and concepts rather than only being able to read keywords typed into the search bar and provide results that incorporate the wording verbatim.
Keywords certainly aren’t irrelevant, but we need to start thinking about how we write, what we write, and how we incorporate keywords differently. Google is pushing content creators to shift their focus to better meet consumers’ needs and deliver the best possible results. According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, Google is continuously trying to better understand how natural language works and how to interpret meanings behind search queries.
The key is to create relevant content that understands the user's intent.
Know who your target audience is, and understand how they think. When they go to Google with questions, you want to be at the other end with the answers. To do this, your content should answer as many questions as it can on a specific topic.
Let’s look at Blue Frog for an example. We’re an inbound marketing firm in Des Moines, Iowa, that provides writing, website design, SEO strategy, and other marketing services for our clients. We know that blogging is an integral part of a successful website, and we want our clients to understand this. They often come to us with questions regarding the importance of blogging, how often they should blog, and how to set up a blog post.
I could take these questions and write a comprehensive article that talks about how important blogging is and list reasons why, including various statistics for evidence and sources linking to industry leaders to back them up. If someone goes to Google and asks, “Why should my business be blogging?” my article will be more likely to appear in search results if it answers this question and other closely related questions than if the article covered a broad range of information that only lightly touches on blogging.
- Clear focus: 5 Reasons Your Business Needs to Blog
- Unclear focus: Are Blogging, Social Media, and Graphic Design Right for Your Des Moines Small Business?
While the second example clearly includes several keywords Blue Frog wants to rank highly for in the results pages, the article would cover a very broad range of topics. It has no clear, singular focus, and the reader wouldn't find in-depth or complete answers to any of their questions. The first example is a much better solution to the problem a user would want to solve.
Providing relevant answers to as many questions as you can about a specific topic that matches the user’s intention is an importnat strategy for online marketing today. The exact length of your article or webpage will depend on how many words it takes you to effectively cover the topic. Be aware, however, that content pieces holding the top positions on Google are, on average, over 1000 words long.
Your Future Keyword Strategy
You should no longer pick a keyword and write a set number of words centered around it every time you write; this strategy is outdated and becoming less relevant every year. In 2016, only 53% of the top 20 URLs contained a keyword in the title; in 2015, it was closer to 75%. The importance of individual keywords included in meta descriptions and H1 tags of landing pages is also declining.
The bottom line is that it’s no longer as much about the particular word you’re trying to rank for. It's more about context—how your keywords fit in with the rest of the content and other elements on the page.
In my next article, I’ll talk about how to effectively incorporate relevant keywords into different parts of your website today and moving forward, including in the page title, meta description, headers, content body, URL, and images.
If you’d like help developing quality and focused content for your website or blog, Blue Frog Marketing can help. We have professional content writers on staff as well as inbound marketing strategists to help you determine how best to meet your marketing goals.