When keywords ruled the Earth


Since first working in the SEO industry a few years ago, the keyword has been somewhat of an oddity to me. From day one, this was because I considered its name to be incorrect. I mean, call it a keyword when it’s actually a term? In fact, that’s the reason why we typically refer to keywords of three-to-five words as being long tail keywords. Going with key term instead would have cleared up all of that. Anyhow, I soon focused on how they actually function…

Keywords used to have real power in 2012

When I got my start in SEO and content marketing, I had previously worked for a couple of years in report writing and analysis for an international investment consultancy.

In all of the writing I produced, never once was there an editorial comment relating to the online search-ability of the content, and much of it was published online. After moving on from that position, I was somewhat surprised by the awakening I had when discovering the power of keywords.

Looking back to spring 2012, keywords still had considerable power in content marketing. For instance, I wrote the website copy for one of the largest facilities management recruitment agencies in the UK.

By integrating a relevant blend of keywords in the copy, the agency was soon propelled to the top-three of Google search results for several keywords – and that was without any hint of keyword stuffing. However, all of that was to change…

Irrelevant searches block superior content

As 2012 aged, multiple versions of the Google Panda algorithm were rolled out during the year (click here to discover how Google algorithms work). To my dismay, I noticed how adding keywords to your content slowly became less and less effective. Unless, of course, your website had a boatload of backlinks.

All of a sudden, Google search results were skewed in favour of the largest websites on the face of the planet. In my opinion, this is the year that the web began to ignore the relevance of smaller-profile webmasters. Consequently, developing a successful website has now become infinitely more expensive and tougher than ever before.

Nowadays, when you input a long tail keyword to Google, it seems that the world’s largest search engine will prefer to find vague articles loosely related to your keyword, just because they comes from a hugely successful website.

This is insanely annoying because it means lots of incredible content is not getting the attention it deserves because of Google’s obsession with a linking system that favours stature. I mean, it’s not as if they punish sites for over-advertising. No, that would affect Google’s profitability.

Keywords should be more important

When I think about the current state of the keyword, I think back to the scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is angrily roaring in the visitor centre as a banner bearing ‘When dinosaurs ruled the earth’ slowly flutters to the ground. In my mind, keywords are relegated to an island lying off the coast of a larger continent. They’re still reachable, but Google is not doing enough with them. Websites with outstanding on-page optimisation should stand a chance without having to gather hundreds of backlinks.

Ideally, Google would tweak its various algorithms to consider the relevance of search results to long tail keywords. After all, there’s no way that you should have basic articles appearing for complex searches, but they all too often will.

Now, I’m not trying to argue against the backlink system. I just think that keywords need to have a more prominent place in Google’s thinking, but not quite like they used to be in 2012, because it was too easy to rank in search results back then. Quite simply, intelligent use of keywords should be rewarded.

By Mike Porter