When I first started in this business, the public internet was brand-new. Few people knew much about the keyword principle back then. A lot has changed in 25+ years. But keywords have not. Keywords are still the #1 priority in the search engine optimization (SEO) game.
It doesn’t matter whether you are choosing to target Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, or any other search engine. It doesn’t matter whether you want to rank well on Amazon or eBay. It all starts with keywords. Subsequently, keyword research is one of the first things a good SEO provider will do when starting with a new client.
Webtek Digital Marketing, a Utah SEO company with offices in Salt Lake City and Austin, TX, makes keyword research a top priority. I wanted to know why, so I asked. Below is pretty much a summary of what they told me.
Algorithms Still Need a Starting Point
Back in the old days of Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves (you are dating yourself if you remember these two search engines) keyword research was pretty straightforward. The algorithms that crawled and indexed pages weren’t very sophisticated. Keywords were the starting and ending point for ranking pages.
Modern search algorithms are light years ahead of their first-generation counterparts. They are highly sophisticated to the point of almost being able to understand context. But algorithms still need a starting point. That starting point is the keyword.
Keywords Are Intrinsically Tied to Relevance
Over the last decade, Google and its counterparts have been working extremely hard on making sure their algorithms can determine relevance. Search engine providers look at relevance in two ways. First, they want the results their algorithms return to be relevant to the people doing the searches. Irrelevant results will not be clicked on.
Second, search engine algorithms look for relevance within individual pages. Does the title match the rest of the content? Do the paragraphs within the page’s body match the headings and subheadings? Is there a cohesiveness of thought and information? All these things go back to the keywords.
Keywords lay the foundation. The rest of the document is built around them. Search engine algorithms are programmed to find keywords, like ‘Utah SEO’ for example, and then figure out if everything else on the page is relevant to those keywords.
Mobil Has Changed the Way People Search
Whenever you are talking SEO and sophisticated algorithms, you cannot discount how mobile technologies have changed the way people search. Running a search on your phone is as easy as asking a question. But when people speak to their phones, they tend to use sentences that are not easily encapsulated in one or two keywords. Thus, the introduction of the longtail keyword.
Longtail keywords or phrases of three or four words all connected around a specific topic. A good example is ‘affordable SEO services in Utah’. The entire phrase is a longtail keyword. Why does it matter? Because mobile search makes heavy use of longtail keywords by default.
A search engine programmed to produce the most relevant results looks for anything and everything that has to do with the long tail keyword utilized in a mobile search. Sites that haven’t been purposely engineered to take advantage of longtail keywords are not going to perform well.
The Heart of the Matter
I guess the best way to summarize all of this is to say that keywords are the heart of the matter. They provide the foundation of everything search algorithms do. That’s why they are still important. That is why they will continue being important as long as search engines exist.