Gone are the days when keyword stuffing would help your website or blog rank better for your targeted keywords.
Google and other search engines have become much smarter and revamped their algorithms to understand web documents and rank them based on their individual merits and information quality. According to Bill Slawski from seobythesea.com, there are many ways search engines would rerank research results.
In this WBF (White Board Friday) video, Rand is discussing the renewed role of keywords from both algorithm and users standpoint.
Regardless of the change in the SEO field, many webmasters still ask the basic questions on keywords. For example:
- If I’m targeting a particular keyword, where and how often should I use that in the front and back ends of my page?
- How many times should I use my keyword that I’m targeting to rank for in my URL string or my H1 tag or my title?
- How many different pages should I have that target this keyword?
According to Rand, SEOs still need to worry about these three primary considerations.
#1 – Search Result Snippet
For your potential visitors, search result snippets throw a hint about the relevance and utility of your actual pages.
While developing content around a keyword(s), you should put yourself in your visitors shoes and ask yourself if the information you’re about to create will help the target visitors.
Here’s how your visitors think looking at your SERP snippet:
- Is the result informative and useful?
- Can I apply that information?
- Is that going to help me accomplish whatever I’m trying to accomplish?
Accomplishment could depend on the intent of the user. If it’s an information-based query, the user wants to learn something they never knew before.
Moreover, the user may also look at the relevance and trustworthiness of the snippet. They usually look at the domain name to decide if they sould click on it based on their brand awareness or loyalty towards your brand name.
#2 – Keyword Analysis Algorithms
Speaking of keywords, here’s what the SEOs should consider before optimizing their web pages for target keywords.
Use the exact keyword phrase precisely in your title as long as it precisely relates and justifies your content apart from sufficiently answering queries of your target searchers. However, you should think of a compelling title (not a click-bait) that explains your content in an interesting manner with going overboard on the promises. For example,
Noguchi Coffee Table Replica – Is it Really Worth Buying One?
Topic modeling is an advanced technique that helps search engines decide on the most relevant results for queries that are diverse in nature.
The process involves taking the frequently used terms and phrases into account to see understand user intent behind a specific query.
This is important since keywords in isolation can mean a variety of things. So search engines must establish the context before they can deliver the most relevant results that precisely match the user’s needs.
So the web documents that are found to contain those words and phrases commonly cited in a given context are likely to rank higher than the web pages that merely contain the keywords sans the contextually relevant terms and phrase. (Read more about Co-citation)
Since search engines can’t establish the context of particular search query, they rely on topic modeling algorithms to try and figure out the most relevant web documents available within their index.
Rand says, “If you don’t use those words and phrases, the topic modeling algorithm is going to miss you”.
For search engines, understanding user intent (the psychological needs behind a performed query) is critical to delivering accurate results for the user.
To understand the user intent, search engines such as Google heavily rely on the huge store of knowledge around trillions of past queries that people have performed over the decade and a half. This helps them figure out if the intent of a keyword or phrase is informational, transactional or navigational, on the basis of which they serve up results that match the user intent as accurately as possible.
When your website is analyzed for a informational-based query and your website is purely transactional in nature, it’s highly unlikely that it will rank well for the query. It’s true for the other way round too.
For example, website ‘X’ selling Noguchi Coffee Table may not be an ideal match for an information-based query such as “History of Noguchi Coffee Table”.
Google is pretty good at establishing the user intent.
Google can also use algorithm elements such as QDD (Query Deserves Diversity) when they see a variety of intents for a search query. In such a scenario, they try and serve different results for which your website may or may not rank.
Google can also use QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) algorithm if they see some queries need frequently updated information such breaking news stories.
So websites that have a news box or document that’s much fresher can take advantage of the freshness algorithm and rank higher than others.
#3 – Searcher Opinions and Engagement
Unlike the yesteryear, now the user’s engagement with your content plays a huge role in helping search engines decide whether your content should rank for particular keywords.
Searchers may ask themselves the following questions with regards to your content:
- Should I click back?
- Should I reengage?
- Should I share and amplify the content once I reach it?
- Should I remember this brand or this page or bookmark it?
The search engines also consider these questions since they rely on and incorporate user data and usage data to deliver results to their users from time to time.
For example, while you’re logged in to your Google account and performing searches, Google can monitor and measure your search behaviors such as when you click back to the search results or engage with a piece of content. As search engines have become advanced, it’s now much easier for them to use your activity through a search journey and use that data to decide the merit of a particular webpage.
With the massive use of Chrome browser and phones Android phones, Google is now being able to monitor user activities to evaluate the merit of visited web pages far more easily than ever before.
This is where it becomes very important for the SEOs to not only develop content that matches the needs of the user but also consider making the content insanely easy for the user to consume and share. Things like mobile-friendliness and interactive visuals/graphics could play an important role in improving user engagement with your content.
So… how many times should I repeat my keywords?
If want to go after a particular search intent, and build the content accordingly, it makes sense to optimize the webpage for the query based on the search intent. In such a scenario, here’s how Rand says you can optimize the web document:
Meta Title of Web Document: Once in the title element because it defines the web document.
Meta Description of Web Document: Likewise, you use the keyword once in the Meta description, not because it will help you rank higher but because it will help your Click through Rate. Users tend to click on a result that has the query they are using.
Headline of Web Document: Once in the headline. Again it’s not because it’s a H1 tag. You should use it in your headline whether it’s a H1, H2 or H3 tag. The point is users tend to quickly scan the page they land on and if they don’t see the headline containing the query they used, they tend to click back assuming it’s not relevant to what they want to find. You don’t want to lose them.
Body Content of Web Document: There’s no set rules for how many times you should use the keyword in your content, but it makes sense to use it at least a couple of times to describe your page.
There are a few websites or wed documents that don’t have much content on them. For example, if it’s an inforgraphic or interactive page, you might want to optimize it for specific keyword that best defines your visual.
Alt Image: Keyword once in the Al Image Attribute
Image Names: Keyword once in the image file itself. If the image ranks well and people using the image cites the source in their documents, your document will gain authority.
URL: This is not very important from but if you could include the keyword once in the URL if it’s viable. Don’t force it.
Sub-header(s): If you have multiple chucks of content that define your web document, you could use the keyword once in each sub-header as long as it doesn’t sound unnatural to the user. Don’t go for the overkill here.
The SEO best practices are evolving with the change in user behavior and search intent. Therefore, if you want to rank well for a certain query or queries, you need to beat others not in terms of better keyword stuffing but in terms of better understanding of searcher intent, and then putting together a page/pages that matches the intent of your target users better.