Do Keywords Still Matter?


Back in the mists of time, by SEO standards, keywords were the biggest big deal for SEO. You sold hair care products, you’d make sure your homepage said “hair care products” and you eagerly watched your results for a search on “hair care products.”

Actually, it hasn’t been quite that simple since the 20th century. Here are some of the complicating factors:

  • Long tail searches: “hair care products” might still be your top keyword (as far as you can tell through the Queries report at Google Analytics), but it will bring only a small fraction of your traffic. Most people won’t type in “hair care products.” They’ll type in something like “hair care for swimmers” or “natural hair care products for curly hair.” A good website will get visits from thousands of keywords, and you can’t put them all on your home page.
  • A related factor is the improvement in Google’s search function. Google’s bots are getting better and better at understanding web pages, which is great news for websites with rich content, but bad news for anyone trying to focus on  specific words. Google now takes into account the semantic connections throughout your content, not just a specific keyword.
  • Lack of keyword data: Google no longer gives us all that lovely keyword information, so we can’t target terms the way we used to.
  • Personalized search: the whole idea of being #1 on Google has changed. While there was a time when people typed in “hair care products” and all saw the same web pages in the same order, those days are long gone. You can’t tell what all your customers and potential customers see.

Does that mean that we should ignore keywords?

Not at all. We’ve just prepared an SEO strategy document for a client who had a recent website redesign, and we could clearly see that their resulting drop in search traffic was at least in part because their homepage no longer features the phrases people use to search for their products.

How can you tell what keywords you need to use? We used three tools:

  • Google Analytics, which still shows some keyword information, and also shows which pages get more organic search traffic and which get less
  • Google Search Console, which shows which keywords Google associates with your website, as well as your click through rate and average placement.
  • Google Trends, which shows what people are searching for most.

We saw a number of opportunities:

  • Terms that were rising at Google Trends which the client could leverage
  • Terms that were falling at Google Trends which the client might not be able to rely on as much in future
  • Terms with good rankings for the client, but which had low click through rates
  • Terms with good placement and good click through rates that Google didn’t show the client for often
  • Terms that had good metrics all around, but which the client wasn’t using

The result was a terrific set of actionable items with the client’s content. Have a look at your keywords and see if the same potential exists — and if you need help sorting it all out, give us a call at 479.966.9761 or email Rebecca at and we’ll be glad to help.

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