Understanding the content on the page, the meaning behind the content (its intent), and how the page fits into the broader context of the overall website is part of the responsibility of each and every web search engine, chief among them, Google.
Current Limitations of Computers over the Human Brain
Whilst the human brain is capable of looking at a title of an article (like this one), reading each section heading and then digesting the full content of the article, computers are not as good as this. It is one of their current limitations. Google has their GoogleBot, which scours the internet, roaming from site to site, looking for new pages, updated content and trying to determine its true meaning and purpose. Keywords help in this regard.
Searchers Use Keywords Every Day
While people converse with other people by asking long form questions and explaining why they need the information, when looking up items on internet search engines, searches become much shorter and more uniform.
Depending whether the searcher is using a computer keyboard but is a poor typist or they’re using a small Android phone for the first time and trying to type correctly on a tiny virtual keyboard, it is not always easy to type in a search request accurately. As a result, searches tend to be focused around a few key words that convey the most important things(s) that the searcher is most interested in finding out about.
Search Engines Try to Discern Meaning
Search engines like Google are currently trying to go beyond the limitation of relying on pure keyword searches to look for other indicators that better indicate what the searcher is really look to find.
For instance, with local searchers, when someone searches in Google on their mobile phone for “best dog vet” they’ll be presented with a list of local veterinary offices in their local area. Google tries to use what they know about the searcher’s home address to provide more useful information. Information on locality can be discerned from their local IP address or on GPS data offered up by a mobile device when searching Google.
Discerning meaning is a hit and miss affair. As Google and other search engines learn more and more about each person, they often get better results when trying to not only understand what was being searched, but what’s really behind the search request. What does the searcher really want to know?
Keywords on the Page
Keywords are the main subject pointers on a given page. For instance, with this post, we will want to include words like keywords and SEO to indicate that those are important and relevant.
It can be a good idea to include relevant keywords in the title and also in some of the headings to make them stand out more. This is natural as well, because if the subject is being covered properly then we should be talking about that topic anyway. It makes sense and search engines like Google understand that.
Anchor Links Often Have Keywords Too
While this needs to be done sparingly these days, it is also pretty reasonable to include the most opportunistic keywords in links between pages within the same site and also when linking out to external websites.
Go Natural, Avoid Keyword Stuffing
It is important not to try stuffing keywords into pages of content, titles, headings and anchor links. Whilst it makes sense to mention the topic here and there, for the purposes of SEO, Google now looks for websites that are trying to game the system by stuffing the keywords all over the page. It looks obvious and they have been catching that weak attempt at ranking higher using this method for a couple of years now.
Writing naturally about the subject matter, using a spread of words and phrases that is relevant to the topic being discussed, is the way to go. If it feels forced, then a good rule of thumb is that it is.
Keyword Selection Tools
Some website owners prefer not to leave things to chance. They opt to use keyword search tools, such as the Google Keyword Planner Tool, that picks up on which keywords are the most popular for related terms.
For instance, a search for “ice cream” may bring up keyword choices like “ice cream sundae”, “vanilla ice cream”, “ice cream float”, and other alternatives.
Along with the keyword list is an indication of the amount of people who search for that keyword every month. This can often also be broken down into searches that include only those terms (called an exact match search) or searches that included the keyword and other keywords besides. Google doesn’t provide as much searcher data is it used to, but there are still some useful nuggets to be found.
Whilst this can prove useful to some people, other website owners prefer simply to write naturally and trust that they’ll end up haphazardly using a selection of keywords that just happen to be the most searched for in that niche. This tends to be a bad idea as it leaves far too much to mere chance.
Good Keyword Selection Leads To Results
The benefit of searching for keywords and including the most relevant ones intentionally in the content on a site is that it gives Google the best chance to understand that those keywords relate to your content, products or services. This can help Google to index the page for the most relevant keywords.
Searchers for that keyword can bring up the page in the search results, which in turn can lead to an increase in web traffic. However, this traffic is more targeted because visitors searched for a related term before being directed to the site by Google. That relevance can lead to a longer time spent on the site for each visitor and a higher conversion rate where they found what they were looking for, and made a purchase.
Keywords still matter enormously to SEO. Off The Peg Design can help select the most appropriate keywords for your website and ensure they are used well to help individual pages rank better.