How are Keywords Less Important in Modern SEO?

When we talk about SEO, what comes to our mind is optimisation of website/webpage for search engines – just literally as the ‘full form’ says. But that is not the case in today’s SEO world where Google is constantly updating its algorithm to make the SERPs more user-friendly. In simple terms, the SERPs have presence of more unique, contextual, relevant results rather than the traditional keyword-specific ones.

In early days, SEO was to stuff website with topic-specific keywords under the META tags (title, description and keywords), in the content or infusing anchor texts of specific targeted words.  SEO has changed, or I will term it as “evolved” in the past 4-5 years with Google’s interest in machine learning and implementation of sophisticated artificial intelligence.

The SEO specialists working on the technical and non-technical parts of search engine optimization should not only keep a track of changes but also try to understand the logic on which it works. This will help them in two most important ways – (i) recognise the hazards of continuing the ‘old school’ practices and (ii) device new strategies.

“OnSite optimization” is much more than Keyword Optimization.

Tags and Content Hold Importance

The meta tags still hold importance for search engines when it comes to ranking your site in results or also while deciding your website authority.The title tag gives an entire gist of your webpage, in about 60 characters, should be smartly optimised. The meta description is another way of communicating with search engines about the content the page holds. The H tags and on-page elements like text content on the webpage, anchor text, image alt tags will always be regarded as indicators or messaging signals for search engines.

Again, they shouldn’t be keyword-stuffed but should have the contextual connection.

Structure Holds Importance

The page structure holds more importance as it is directly proportional to user interactions and user-friendliness. A well thought  site architecture with well connected menu items and relevant inter-linking can boost the rank signals.  A good navigation and user-friendly interface can enhance UX on the website. Implementing structured snippets can further help search engines evaluate the pages for users.

Off-page Holds Importance

After the algorithm updates, search engines keep a strict vigil on where the off-page efforts are heading to. Web spam, relevant link building from niche specific sites, getting referrals for the right purpose, from PR domains for the specific announcements/updates is under the scanner. 

Keywords Holds Importance too, though less

With machine-learning technology getting better, the search has become semantic in nature and not keyword – keyphrase centric. The number of times exact phrase keyword is flashed in your content doesn’t hold importance anymore. They understand the context of the content and how information will be beneficial or worth delivering to the users. Optimising your site for a specific topic will help your SEO rather than working on a  specific phrase. Forget about keywords and post natural content.

What happens when a normal user searches on search engines?

General scenario of what happens when user uses search engine :

Step 1 User enters their search terms
Step 2 Search engines find the relevant pages depending on the words
Step 3 The AI of Search Engine tries to understand the intent of search
Step 4 SERPs are displayed with  pages depending on the words keyed-in
Step 5 User will get pages when search engines understands the search intent

The above table makes it clear that SEOs or search marketers should adapt the intent-based search and optimise accordingly.

Conclusion

Keyword is not dying , it is a bit paralysed. When search engines crawl your site for indexing,  it no longer looks out for keywords  but it breaks down your content with respect to user search query,  points out what the content is about.  It then forms its own conclusions in a way to meet the users intent to search,  giving less importance to actual keywords.