Lately you may have been hearing a lot about the supposed Death of Keywords. It’s been a long journey to this point starting with some major updates Google made to their Analytics around this time in 2011.
In 2011 Google added some additional security measures to their search engine which caused around 30% of organic keywords in Google Analytics to appear as “not provided”. At the time, a lot of SEOs said it was clearly a calculated move by Google to get people to spend more money on their ads.
Fast forward to this same time last year and we found that the “not provided” keywords percentages had skyrocketed to nearly 80% of organic keywords in Analytics. This realization was coming on the heels of the Hummingbird Update, the biggest update that no one said anything about. Hummingbird basically reworked the whole language engine in Google at a level that hadn’t been seen since the Caffeine update in 2009. Search queries were being analyzed for intent, not for keywords, which allowed for plain language searching — that is, searching with human language, the way your customers do — to be much more effective. It was like putting an Audi TFSI in a Model T.
We hear you, fellow content marketers. It has been a scary ride. I think, though, that calling this the Death of Keywords is really overdramatic.
It’s an end to useless, blind keyword “optimization” that doesn’t actually optimize anything. It’s an end to mind-numbing compilations of keyword spreadsheet deliverables that ignore the real value of providing thoughtful content for visitors.
It’s not the end of keyword use. At Haden Interactive, it has always been our goal to write content that is measured not for its keyword density but for its quality and its value to your visitors. But we also know that keywords are central to search and therefore to content strategy. We use keywords; we don’t try to manipulate them.
So, with apologies to Mark Twain, we’ll have to say that the reports of the death of keywords have been exaggerated.
I think part of the problem is that “keywords” really means “the words people type into search boxes” and so many people imagine it means “magic beans” or something like that.