Search engine optimization has been integral to digital marketing over the years. Despite this, many businesses still don’t understand how to use SEO keywords and strategies correctly.

In fact, a lot of people claim that SEO is dead.

The reality, however, is that this ever-evolving aspect of content creation is not only still alive, but it is now more complex and calculated than ever.

While some still think SEO keywords are of utmost importance, there is so much more to consider if you want to achieve the number one goal of SEO – to get your pages to rank higher in search engines than your competition.

Copyblogger claim “what worked even a few years ago will destroy your rankings today.”

Unfortunately, many people haven’t grasped that truth.

Why you’re wasting your time with meta keywords

Google released a statement in 2009 to confirm that the meta keyword tag is absolutely useless. Despite this, people continue to stuff SEO keywords in their source code, thinking it will help their page ranking.

It doesn’t. You can stop now!

On the other hand, the meta description tag does serve a purpose. Although it is not a direct influence on page ranking, it can prove very useful.

People can read these tags in their search results and may be tempted to visit your site simply because of your well-crafted description.

Consider meta tags as your elevator pitch, which hone in on customer problems and offer your solution all in the same breath.

As of December 2017, Google increased the character limit of these meta description tags from 160 to 320, thus allowing us more freedom for creativity.

Use it wisely.

How Google fights low-quality content

Google is considered by many to be the front door of the internet. Unfortunately, it isn’t just honest-to-goodness souls who come knocking.

The more connected we become, the more lucrative digital business gets. There will always be individuals looking to take advantage of this and so Google will always be battling to silence and stifle low-quality content.

As time goes on, it’s proving harder for people to beat Google through bad practices like flooding pages with SEO keywords and using paid link schemes.

In a 2011 interview with Fast Company, Google employee Ben Gomes stated:

“That game continues, and we’ve just gotten very good at it.”

As Gomes has since risen to the role of Vice President of Engineering, it’s safe to say his methods are valued highly.

Make no mistake about it – Google is at war.

3 biggest enemies of Google

Not knowing the best SEO practices is one thing, but to deliberately use bad practices to try and beat the system is quite another.

Google is constantly making improvements to refine their search engine. If your business is involved in any of the following, it’s only a matter of time before the ax falls.

1. Hacking

Should you fall victim to hackers and your site becomes a hotspot for spam, phishing, or malware, it may spell big trouble for you and your business. Your site is likely to be flagged for investigation and could potentially get booted off the internet.

Keep your website updated regularly and make regular backups and security checks. Using long, complex passwords is a smart move, plus no two platforms should have the same password.

2. Thin content

Ten years ago, the most amateur of sites and blogs garnered attention shortly after pressing “Publish” on WordPress.

Since the Panda update in 2011 and the Penguin update in 2013, many sites got hit hard, plummeting down the rankings into oblivion. This site recovered from an 80% traffic loss – enough to wipe most sites out for good.

The changes stopped people from abusing SEO keywords to game the system. With one swift update, everything changed, switching focus from quantity to quality.

Despite that, a new phenomenon has raised its ugly head in recent times…

3. Fake news

This is a scourge for Google today, with a plethora of low-quality websites polluting the internet with blatantly misleading, false or sometimes downright offensive information.

Case in point were the widespread claims that the Holocaust never happened.

As the search engine evolves, low-quality content will have lesser value assigned to it. This will allow authoritative, reputable websites to rise to the top.

How Google rewards high-quality content

SEO keywords certainly play a role in ranking high with Google, but they are no longer the most important consideration.

The search giant has long advocated the importance of high-quality content.

In recent years, businesses who have invested in resources to truly learn what Google meant by that have since reaped the rewards of knowing what else they should be doing.

The key is to focus on the users.

Businesses need to stop worrying about SEO keywords so much and instead put their efforts into creating valuable content and an improved user experience.

In return, Google will reward your pages with higher rankings. This helps prospective customers find you, which is better for your bottom line.

What works best for content

The standard for high-quality content gets higher every year.  This expert roundup on best practices by SEMRush shows how SEO keywords are just a small facet of the bigger picture.

Google outlines four main aspects people should consider to gain their approval:

  • Give people what they want. This is of paramount importance. Businesses who want to be successful online must tailor their content to the needs of their target audience by offering real help and valuable information.
  • Build natural links from reputable sites. Links help search engine crawlers find your content. The more links you have, the more visible your site becomes. Links earned from sites with high domain authority are looked upon favorably.
  • Create a good user experience.  According to 2016 data cited in a ThinkWithGoogle.com article, 40% of consumers left a page that took more than three seconds to load, and 79% of shoppers with poor site experience were not likely to buy from the site again. Users prefer websites that are fast and easy to navigate.
  • Don’t try to cheat. People who use black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, page cloaking, and hidden text or links will incur the wrath of Google, seeing negative ranking results as the battle against these practices rumbles on.

As Google is clearly the undisputable king of search engines, it’s worth paying attention.

But here’s the thing:

Content shouldn’t be just about the search engines.

Renowned digital marketing expert Neil Patel makes the case that “SEO content isn’t complicated once you understand that people come first.”

Which comes first – SEO keywords or expertise?

There are a huge number of businesses who continue to put SEO keywords at the forefront of their marketing strategy.  Keyword research is important, but it alone will not be enough to turn traffic into customers.

Nowadays, keywords are taking a back seat to real expertise.

The evolution of copywriting practices and Google algorithms means it is more important than ever to create genuine expert content.

By using a solid strategy, you can produce truly valuable content for your target audience on a regular basis. This should be your primary goal.

Working harder to create extensive articles that display thorough research and a deep level of analysis and understanding on the topic is worth the effort.

These examples of expert long-form content show how you can win with both Google and your target audience.

The role of SEO keywords in content marketing

So now we know that to rank high in search results these days, it’s essential to have experts write your content.

So where do SEO keywords fit in?

The answer is: right at the beginning. Smart keyword research allows you to create a solid resource that caters specifically to the keywords, topics, and questions people are searching for.

Google provides a free keyword tool in their AdWords program.

But what most people don’t seem to know is this:

Google limit the results. They hide valuable SEO keywords so they can drive up paid advertising.

If you don’t spend on Google AdWords, the restrictions on the data render their keyword tool practically useless.

If you want to make your SEO keyword research truly count, use these tools from the industry’s leaders:

  • Moz’s Keyword Explorer
  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • Google Search Console

Although some of these services aren’t free, you’ll certainly get a lot of bang for your buck and ultimately have a competitive SEO keywords strategy worthy of your expert content.

Finding the balance is key

Content marketing is all about creating the perfect combination of genuine, high-quality writing, and professional optimization practices.

Where many fall down is by focusing too much on one aspect. You shouldn’t worry too much about jamming SEO keywords into your writing. You also shouldn’t be writing freely without considering how search engines will view your content.

It’s a fine balance. It’s also achievable. With SEO tools and real experts on your team, your content can connect with both your audience and the search engines.

SEO isn’t dead. It’s a shape-shifter.

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