Keyword Myths

The other day at a forum I saw a “keyword trick.” The writer said that she would look for questions that were frequently asked, and then determine who was “doing SEO” on those questions by finding the number of sites with those words in the title.When she found a common question with little competition, she’d toss up a website with the phrase in the title.

So for example I see that 14,800 people in the world, each month, ask how to walk in high heels, and yet an allinurl search shows that a mere 395 web pages contain these words. I conclude that only 395 websites are “doing SEO” for this question. I make a webpage answering the question, according to the advice in the forum, put some ads on it, and hey presto! thousands of dollars come my way.

Okay, you see strange things in forums — that’s one reason they’re so enjoyable — but this idea demonstrates some common misconceptions about keywords:

  • Myth #1: There are simple, quantifiable rules for keywords that constitute “doing SEO.” For example, I’ve had clients tell me that they want each of their webpages to have a given keyword in the title, main header, in bold in the first paragraph, and in the last sentence. Instructions like these add an interesting creative challenge to writing natural, well-converting web copy, so I always follow them, but they don’t reflect the reality of modern search engines. As Josepha puts it when someone asks her for a particular keyword density, “Sorry, I left my time machine in the shop.” Modern search engines use sophisticated methods to eliminate unnatural content that seeks to game the system. Something as unnatural as putting keywords in identical slots all over the place will probably raise red flags.
  • Myth #2: Keywords are magic substances that should not be treated like words. In fact, they’re the things people type into the search box when they look for what you have to offer. If your customers type in “clothes” and you write “duds,” then you have a problem, because search engines can’t be expected to know that “duds” is the same thing as “clothes.” However, search engines do know that “clothes” is in a semantic group that also includes pants, shirts, and jackets, and the presence of those words at your website along with “clothes” will help demonstrate that your site is in fact about clothing. You should choose your keywords well, and use them as often as you can naturally in your text, along with related words.
  • Myth #3: You can steal your competitors’ keywords.  If your competitors are using meta keywords you can look at them. You can use Google Ads’ Suggestion Tool to find out what Google thinks their keywords are. You can use spy software to find out what keywords they’re paying for. Any of these actions can be part of worthwhile keyword development research — though if they’ve done a good job, you can also just look at their web page. But you probably know, if you’re a tuxedo rental shop, that your competitors are going to be using “tuxedo rental.” Does that knowledge give you any advantage? Nope. You still have to convince search engines that you are a better source of information about tuxedo rentals than your competitor.

I don’t know how the tipster in the forum is doing with her plan for world domination through trickery. I expect it will depend on whether she can make her page on wearing high heels better than the current 216,000,000 results for the question. I have a feeling that YouTube may remain ahead of her.







5 responses to “Keyword Myths”

  1. Josepha Avatar

    That Josepha girl might consider having a little less snark… but perhaps she holds stock in it.


    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar

      It’s part of her charm — on a good day!

  2. Michal Avatar

    Here’s the site so far I’m just waiting for google to discover me


    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar

      Well, getting a link will help. Good luck!

  3. Michal Avatar

    Your link won’t help me – they’re NoDoFollow. I’m not chasing backlinks this time – they make me sick. Of all things, Google must have figured out about those billions of backlinks out there hat are fake. I think google is power hungry and they just love when they say “jump”, the world says “how high?” – that they’re really trying to rank sites by quality is the right way, but there’s nothing wrong with sites that are just trying to advertise products. Sometimes I’m looking for a sale on sneakers, not an education. Unless google is tired of being grounds for free advertising

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