Are Keywords Still Relevant to SEO in 2016?
For years, the majority of SEO experts focused their attention towards keyword research as a central component in every campaign. In the early days of SEO, the practice of keyword stuffing allowed even the spammiest sites to somehow earn top rankings. However, as Google and other search engines have advanced their algorithms to be more efficient at detecting quality content, the practice of forced and excessive keyword insertion has become less common and less effective. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where many in the SEO community are abandoning the keyword-oriented approach altogether. So, are keywords still a factor in SEO in 2016? The answer is a combination of yes and no:
Information Quantity/Quality is Surpassing Keyword Placement/Density
Five years ago, we were all concerned with the placement and frequency of keywords within on-page content. It seemed everyone had a theory on where the keywords should be placed and how many times they should be used on each page to achieve optimal results. In the past 3 years, that practice has been gradually fading out as rankings are being affected more by the quality and quantity of information within the content. Google tends to rank keyword-filled pages lower than those that use natural language and contain lots of info. The purpose of the search engine has always been to return the most natural and informative results, so it makes sense that online authors are now striving to adapt to those standards.
Branching Out with Related Keywords for More Organic Traffic
Naturally, when you comprehensively cover a specific topic you’re inevitably going to be using a number of related keywords. For example, if you were talking about “content management systems,” you might also mention the words “WordPress” or “Joomla.” The key is to cover every area of a topic as much as possible to maximize your chances of including relevant keywords that could result in additional search traffic. There are tools that can recommend related keywords, but they should be used with discretion to prevent unnatural writing.
Using Keywords in Tags for Better Indexing
Another way purposeful keyword usage is still effective is through the use of header, title, and blog post tags. For example, most blogging platforms (i.e. WordPress) will let you assign a tag to each post. Using these tags will make it easier for Google to categorize your pages within the search engine results pages (SERPS). The advent of HTML5 has lessened the importance of header tags, but most SEOs still use them for good measure. Title tags can help improve click-through rates by giving the user an accurate preview of what kind of content they should expect to see on the page before clicking on the search result link in Google.
Keywords Still Have an Effect on Search Engine Rankings
Overall, keywords still play an obvious role in search engine rankings because, as you know, when you search for a phrase or term, Google is still looking for exact or semi-exact matches first. For example, searching for the phrase “how to build a birdhouse” will probably return results that contain that exact phrase in the page title, so there is a fundamental, inherent benefit that keywords provide and that will likely remain true even as algorithms advance into being able to read and comprehend language via artificial intelligence.