What are Keywords and Why Do They Matter?


Keywords would make for chapter two in any SEO 101 book. Just after chapter one, all about how Google works and what the heck an algorithm is. If you skipped chapter one, don’t worry. We’ll cover that. But first, let us explain (in a technobabble-free way) just what keywords are and why they are important.

 What Are Keywords?

Keywords are:

Single words or a string of words (known as key phrases) that appear within the content and structure (Meta Data) of any web page.

To the Searcher they are the words typed into a Search Engine.

To the Website they are the critical terms to guide both human reader and search engine to the main focus of the page.

Keywords and key phrases are (or should be) selected as part of a strategy to hone in on what people are searching for and providing that content.

Meta Data is the most technical thing you’ll read in this blog.

Keywords and key phrases are not only used within the content of a page but also within the Meta information about the page. Meta may sound confusing, but it simply means ‘data about data’. In the case of your pages, it is short amounts of text for a page title and page description. This tells Google what your page is all about. And, as these Meta descriptions are now displayed as snippets in the search results, it helps the searcher identify if the page is helpful or relevant to their search.

Why Do Keywords Matter?

Keywords and key phrases are important because they influence how Google’s algorithm ranks your web pages. The Google Algorithm is just techno talk for the long mathematical sum Google has for working out the worth of a web page. It will weigh up on-site factors such as whether a website is mobile-friendly and what content and media are included. It also weighs up off-site factors such as social media activity and other websites referencing your website.

The phrase ‘Content is King’ comes from the fact that Google places content (the text on your web pages) over other factors.  We don’t quite know how they break down the importance of various elements against content. That’s their little secret. But what we do know is that content, and the keywords within it, are vitally important. If you’re to harness even a slight slice of the Google traffic pie you will need to use content effectively.

That’s why you must have well-researched keywords. Taking a blind approach may produce the odd winner, but analysing what your potential audience is searching for and why, gives you the competitive edge. It will help you, help the search engines, help your audience to find you.

So That’s It Then, Just Add More Keywords

Back in the early days, Google had a far less sophisticated algorithm. It was simpler, less comprehensive and, consequently, more easily manipulated.

These were dark days where digital cowboys would run amok with plenty of ‘Black Hat SEO’ techniques to trick, blag and cheat their way up through the lofty heights of Google first page.

A common underhand technique was keyword stuffing. People would mislead Google into thinking there’s more value and relevance to the content than there really was. They’d do this by aggressively repeating a given word or phrase.

Keywords aren’t a vehicle for ‘cheating a system’ they are an integral part of that system. They serve the reader, they support Content Marketing Strategies and they help you serve useful information. Abuse them at your peril.

Today Google is far more advanced. It is all-seeing and all-knowing and will give you serious black marks for keyword stuffing. Which leads us on nicely to our next point.

Keyword Density: How Much Is Too Much?

There are many hotly debated topics within the realm of SEO, not least of which is the matter of something known as keyword density. Otherwise known as “just how many times does my keyword need to be in my text to get me to Google page one, rather than confined to the Google sin bin?”.

Some argue that 3% of the total word count is the magic figure. No more, no less. Others argue that the nature of differing topics will require different densities.

Our stance on the subject? There are lots of great SEO tools out there which will alert you to your keyword density. This is usually within a given tolerance rather than a static %. We would recommend staying away from aiming at a set number of keyword appearances. This creates artificial writing. Above all else – be natural. No one likes a fraud. Not Google, who wants to serve up only great results to their searchers, and not your readers, who are people after all, and can spot awkward writing. They may not know why it feels ‘off’ but they will trust you less anyway.

If you are struggling to repeatedly use your chosen keyword on a web page or in a blog post, then don’t force it.  Even question why you are using it at all. Change your focus by all means, but write organically.

My top ‘keyword’ for this article has been (I’m sure you can guess) ‘Keywords’ amongst others. It’s the topic and naturally crops up repeatedly. At final tally, my keyword density is 1.6% and in the case of this article that is 16 times.  But that is specifically for the plural form ‘keywords’ the singular ‘keyword’ occurs about 12 times or 1.2% – add them together and I’m closing in on 3% but honestly, 1.6% is good.

Size Doesn’t Matter? It Does If You’re An SEO Expert

One thing SEOs do generally agree on is that more is definitely better when it comes to content. Both in publishing frequency and word count. Where once blog posts and pages of around 300 words were sufficient for ranking, today experts generally recommend 500 words+.

That isn’t to say you should just use more words for the sake of it. Write to be read. People’s time is limited, so say what you have to say. Don’t try and fill a fictitious word limit, like a school essay.

Feeling inspired by all that a solid keyword strategy could deliver? Or perhaps you remain frustrated at just how to get to grips with keywords for your business? Whatever it is, we love talking keywords, ranking and every Googly term in-between – so get in touch.

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