Do Keywords Still Matter for SEO in 2018?

Salterra Search Engine Optimization Company

Ok, so it’s 2018, and Search Engine Optimization is as important (if not more important) than ever. But do some of the tactics and strategies of yesteryear still work today?

In this article we’ll dig into “keywords” as they relate to ranking for specific phrases and topics, and whether or not things like optimizing for 1-2 keywords per page, keyword densities, and the like are still important.

The Debate about Keywords and SEO Rages On

Among SEO specialists there has been serious debate regarding the rise of natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, and semantic analysis of content, and how this is applied to the various internal ranking algorithms at Google…and yes, there are a bunch of them.

Gone are the days of a single (arguably easy to manipulate) ranking algorithm. Today, Google employs what could be considered microservices of a multitude of ranking algorithms that work in concert with the core algo to make ranking decisions in the SERPS.

Think “Hummingbird”, “Rankbrain” and the like, just to name a couple.

So with all those in mind, where do keywords fall in terms of a ranking signal, and what type of importance do they have in today’s SEO strategy?

Semantic Analysis

What we can tell you from analyzing MILLIONS of websites in Google is that the idea of ranking for 1-2 primary keywords per page/post is an outdated concept.

Google has become increasingly more adept at understanding content and matching that to the topical relevancy of a web searcher’s intent (be that to find an answer, make a purchase, or conduct research).

So what IS Google looking for?

Google wants to see that you have not only provided the web visitor with content relevant to their primary search term but also that you have taken the time to:

  • Cover other topically relevant content
  • Offered relevant recommended links and resources
  • Suggested synergistic content for exploration
  • Provided various viewpoints, context, and more as it relates to the primary search term
  • Uses multi-media and other engagement tools to further cover the topic

As such, at Salterra SEO we advocate for writing articles that focus on:

  • A search phrase that is used to explore a larger topic
  • Answering specific questions
  • Tailoring content to the intent behind the search phrase
  • Various informational formats (images, text, video, user-generated comments, social, etc)

Let’s take a look at an example.

If your primary keyword was “Losing Weight Fast”, you would want to ask yourself what the “intent” was behind that search, as well as what other topics users might also have an interest in.

The obvious intent would be to literally lose weight fast. But, what we don’t know is “how” they want to do this.

So we may offer a paragraph on multiple ways this can be accomplished such as:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Combination of diet and exercise
  • Supplements
  • Surgery

We may also want to consider the “why” as to the reason behind wanting or needing the weight loss:

  • Medical reasons (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc)
  • Aesthetic reasons (getting abs, wanting that beach body, etc)
  • General health

Each of the aforementioned needs to be mentioned in your article to provide a good semantic, LSI, and topical relevancy score that will be highly impactful when it comes to ranking your post on Google.

Keep in mind that each of the aforementioned is their own “sub-topics” and can easily be explored in depth in their own blog posts. What we are looking to do in this scenario is simply mention them, and perhaps explore the topic with a paragraph, ideally linking to a relevant blog post (on or off your website) that explores the topic in depth.

All other things being equal, Google wants to rank the page that provides the most well-rounded and useful article to the end-user.

This includes the use of authoritative and recommended links (both internal to your site and to other external resources), using various multi-media to cover the topic, and providing a broad scope of relevant and useful information for the user to further explore.

But what about the actual “Keyword Density” on the page?

After analyzing millions of websites and billions of data points, we can confidently say a few things about keyword density:

You’ll want to:

  • Mention your primary keyword at least once within the first 150-200 words on the page
  • For a 500-700 word post kw density can reach 2-3% without a high spam penalty
  • For a 1000-2000 word post kw density should be 0.5 – 1.5%
  • Posts over 2000+ words can have a kw density of 0.1 – 0.5%
  • Use your primary kw once in alt image tags
  • Use your primary kw once in the meta description and title tag

Anything outside of those parameters tended to do more harm than good and may result in higher SPAM scoring of your posts, leading to reductions in ranking.

About Salterra Digital Services

Salterra is a collective of multi-diversified developers in web, search, and digital marketing. Founded in 2011, this growth-oriented agency is client-centric and data-driven. Starting from a web design and development background, it has evolved into a comprehensive digital marketing agency with a strong emphasis on technical SEO and analytics. Taking a giving approach to his work, Terry & Elisabeth Samuels has spoken at many conferences to share their knowledge and support others in their industry.

Our core values have always revolved around giving our best to our partners (“clients” sounds more reserved) and diligently working together to create the success they are striving for. The culture at Salterra has always been about positively moving forward, embracing our changing industry, and growing our skills and knowledge throughout the digital space. Let us create your next growth opportunity. You Can Read More About Salterra Here.

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