We all know keywords are an important aspect of an SEO strategy. They can be useful in identifying topics and providing search engines and users with quick, contextual clues about the subject matter of a page.
Historically, search engines relied heavily on keywords to match users with relevant content. “Keyword density” was once a valued metric to help marketers determine if they were incorporating a targeted term frequently enough into their pages. Many wrongfully believed there was a golden formula to achieve regarding the number of times a keyword was repeated, divided by the total word count of the page.
But where’s the creativity in such a simple, arbitrary exercise? Where’s the thought leadership?
This metric was so easy to inflate that search engines quickly became flooded with websites which simply crammed keywords into every nook and cranny of their pages. Copy read like it was written by robots. Metadata turned into spam. Some even went as far as to type a keyword hundreds of times in a page’s footer, then match the font with the background so it was invisible to users (but accessible to web crawlers). Pretty clever, right?
To a limited degree, search engines still rely on keywords to help them crawl, index and rank content. However, they are evolving rapidly to look beyond keywords and instead decipher the meanings of sentences. Establishing context and identifying your audience’s wants, needs and intentions are therefore much higher priorities for SEO success than any keyword insertion tactic.
Always remember to read your pages back to yourself. As a general rule of thumb, if it feels like you’re attempting to cram keywords into a page, you probably are. If it seems unnatural, it probably is. If either of these are the case, go back to the drawing board and focus on improving your page’s quality.