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Why are keywords still important for SEO?

Why are keywords still important for SEO?

Keywords are merely phrases that people use to search for particular products, services, pieces of information, images, or anything on the web.

Keywords are not only for users, but businesses can also target and reach the right audience by optimizing their website for search engines using effectively-researched keywords.

Well, it is not this simple. There is something more to it!

Unlike most people think, SEO is not just about keywords. It may have been that way in the past, but not anymore, as search engine algorithms are evolving to be smarter each passing day.

Let us say, for example, Google algorithm is becoming friendly to natural language. It now interprets the intent behind the user searches and shows the related results to the search queries.

Hence with this increasing intuitiveness of search engine algorithms, the relevance of keywords in Search Engine Optimization has changed significantly. Let us see how:

How has the relevance of Keywords in Search Engine Optimization changed over time?

Before the 2011 – Google Panda update, keyword stuffing was the popular & commonly accepted SEO practice to increase their website ranking. It was also driving the results in terms of increased website ranking and traffic.

But then the Google Panda update changed everything, not everything for those who were posting genuine content on their website, but for those who were producing repetitive or duplicate content with a chunk of keywords on their website to rank high on SERPs.

Since Google Panda gave importance to content quality and user-friendliness, it increased the rate of valuable search results and ultimately the popularity of Google.

Google brought a series of updates after the success of Google Panda to reward the websites publishing high-quality content and penalize those producing duplicate content.

These updates include Google Penguin in 2012, Google Hummingbird in 2013, Google Rank Brain Update in 2015, Google AdWords SERP Update in 2016, Google Fred in 2017, Medic Core Update in 2018, BERT in 2019, and Core Updates in 2020.

Through all these updates over a period, Google has made the classic keyword stuffing trick less relevant. Also, it has started doing SEO on behalf of you for your website.

Since Google search algorithms now use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to decipher the meaning behind the user search and sort the results accordingly.

So, there are high chances that you might show up in the results for the keywords you have not targeted at all if Google thinks your content is helpful to the search query.

These algorithms provide more than just accurate results to the search query. They also measure user satisfaction and content quality based on their interaction in terms of the number of sessions, session time, bounce rate, and as such, with each search result.

Also, Google made search engine updates and search engine algorithms update quite often. Each update changes the SEO game in its own way.

This way, it is getting harder to keep up with all the updates, and that is why they say the relevance of keywords in SEO is fading away.

Well, this is not entirely true as even today, people use keywords to search anything. And as long as people will continue to use the keyword search terms, the importance of keywords in SEO is not going anywhere. However, their utilization will become very decisive.

Let us see how:

Why & how are Keywords still important in SEO now?

Below are the points, which justify the importance of keywords in SEO nowadays.

Keyword placement is still important:

Keyword Placement Importance

As we saw, it does not matter how many times you have used keywords in your content.

But where you have placed your targeted keywords is still important today in SEO, for example, page URL, title, meta title, meta descriptions, header tags, image tags, et cetera.

With updated search engine algorithms, you can say keyword placement has gained more importance in SEO than keyword frequency.

Keywords still help you maintain your authority:

Well, not directly. But indirectly, the calculative usage of keywords helps you maintain the authority of your website. As page rank still is not dead yet.

Unlike before, keywords are one of the many factors that affect page rank. Google determines your page authority based on content quality, relevancy of keywords you targeted, the bounce rate for keywords, inbound links, social media shares, outbound links, site design, and many more.

Although being one of the many, PageRank still weighs more for your website authority, and what better way to rank your page high than the calculative utilization of keywords.

Keyword selection has changed from long-tail & short-tail to semantic search:

Yes, for over a decade, we all tended to target long-tail and short-tail keywords for our website.

However, after the Rank Brain update, Google has enabled semantic search in its search algorithms. It means that it fetches the meaning behind user search. So, no matter what keywords you are using, if your services, content, user reviews, et cetera, do not match the keywords you targeted, Google would not show you to your users.

So, you must carefully choose your keywords (be it long-tail or short-tail) that semantically match with user search.

User Search Intent is at the heart of keyword targeting and content creation:

Well, yes, it is true. Since zero-click searches are getting more popular with the growing popularity of voice assistants, user search intent has gained more importance in keyword target and content creation to get your page ranked on SERPs.

For example, if you are writing something about the largest animal on the planet, try to be more comprehensive in your content and accordingly in the keywords.

As users do not just want the single-word answer that the largest animal on the planet is the Antarctic blue whale. They want to know about the animal more, i.e., its size, weight, characteristics, average life, et cetera.

Hence you must write produce the content accordingly by making it more comprehensive, informative, and user-friendly. And by doing this, you must target the (multiple) keywords accordingly in your content.

When you target the keywords in your page, do not just focus on getting on the top in the SERPs. But also focus on getting featured in the ‘Snippet’ & ‘People Also Ask’ section on Google as you tend to get high traffic from there too.


Well, in the end, Google algorithms likely get tough day by day. So, there are high chances that SEO and Keywords may lose their relevance in the SERPs in the future. But that is in the future.

This Search Engine game is not going to disappear anytime soon. So, for now, you can focus on creating unique content and target relevant keywords to fulfill the user search intent.

It is a healthy SEO practice for now and for the coming days if you want to rank high on SERPs, drive more traffic, and increase your Page Authority.

Also, keywords are not just critical for your website but also for off-site SEO and social media. So, use your keyword wisely to make your digital presence stronger.

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