With the recent changes made to Google’s algorithms, the nature of keyword research and optimization is changing. But keywords still matter and will always play an important role in building a strong web presence.
Why? Because if there is anything that keywords show us it is how people search for what we offer. Put aside for a second the need to optimize pages for ranking purposes. Assume there are no such thing as search engines or their algorithms. Would we still do keyword research and optimization?
Keyword research tells us the language our visitors are speaking. Did you know that, in different parts of the country, “soda” is called “pop?” And that in other parts “pop” is called “soda?” You probably did know that, but keyword research tells us what you may not know, that “pop” is searched approximately 500% more than “soda.”
(Note: “pop” has a lot of different connotations, including noise, fathers, a brand of tart, etc. Assume for a second that none of this is true so I can make my case.)
Why is that important?
If I was optimizing my site for soda pop, I’d make sure that, for the most part, I call my product “pop” rather than “soda.” The vast majority of my visitors will recognize that terminology rather than any others.
That’s not to say that other terminology isn’t important, but we know which is most important!
Of course, algorithms are getting smarter about determining that two different words actually mean the same thing. But even if algorithms determined that any two words are completely interchangeable, your visitors still matter. Your content needs to be written so it uses the same terminology as your visitors, i.e. their language.
Keywords help us to create content that is not only better positioned for rankings but also better positioned to meet your customer’s needs. While nobody argues that we want to deliver searchers to the page most relevant to their search, it’s generally not a good idea to deliver them to a page that uses different terminology than they are used to–even if they mean the same thing.
Google might know the words are one and the same, but your audience may not. And even for those that do, it still takes time for the brain to make the correlation. That can be precious seconds of “thinking” which violates the whole “don’t make me think” principle. The more you make people think about what you do, the more “work” being on your website becomes. Which means the more bounces you have.
If you want to keep visitors on your site and/or doing business with you, speak their language. Don’t worry about the algorithms, just do what your visitors want.