Focus On SEO Fundamentals: Keywords

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No matter how great your backlinks are, they’ll never make an entire SEO marketing package work on their own – you’re going to have to consider some of the factors we outlined in our last post (and, believe me, there are even more than we had time to talk about there!).

One of the major factors you’ll have to consider are keywords – and despite what you’ve heard either way, they’re not totally useless or the most important SEO factor – the truth is, they’re somewhere in between.

Keywords were much more important when SEO was first developing, but have lost a little bit of their clout as Google and its competitors have perfected (well… worked towards perfecting) semantic search and increasing the artificial intelligence of their algorithms. (And if you don’t know anything about semantic search, don’t worry – that may just be what our next post in this series covers!)

However, they are not “dead,” as many SEOs have claimed off and on since, I don’t know, 2005 or earlier. In fact, leading SEO marketing gurus Moz have just released a keyword research tool this year that takes some of the hard work out of keyword research – and believe me, it is hard work.

What exactly does keyword research involve? It sounds simple, but it’s very difficult in practice. Keyword research is the process of trying to guess – educated guesses only, of course – which search terms potential users or customers of your site will use when searching with Google and/or their competitors – terms you want to direct them to your site.

And to make those words more likely to direct those Google users to your site, you use those words on your site. They’re particularly valuable in headers, titles, and urls (and the closer to the beginning of each of these, the better), but can even contribute to your SEO a bit from within the main body paragraphs of a page or post on your site.

This is where the use of keywords gets a little tricky, and why Google and its competitors have sought to devalue them over the past few years.

It used to be easy to “trick” search engine algorithms into thinking a site was much more valuable than it actually was by “keyword stuffing” – using the chosen search terms much more than one would in natural writing, and sometimes even filling entire pages with nothing but keywords. This was a common practice among many black hat SEOs until recently.

However, if you or your SEO marketing professional can first do the massive research involved with finding valuable keywords (and tools like the one Moz put out make it a lot easier, though it’s easier still to hire a professional), using them occasionally and very naturally throughout your site can boost your SEO. You’ll need good links, site organization, etc. – but good keyword usage never hurts, and sometimes can be the factor that tips you over onto Page One!