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Are Keywords Still Relevant to SEO in 2020?

By Cameron Taggart on

Things change, and if you don’t change along with them, you can become very outdated, very fast. When was the last time you wrote a personal check? Does your company even own a fax machine anymore? Our point is, things that were once integral to your operations and messaging – or life – not so long ago can quickly lose their relevance. Keywords in your content strategy aren’t quite on the endangered species list yet, but it’s definitely time to reevaluate the importance you place in them.

It’s Evolution, Not Extinction

We’re not trying to imply that keywords are on the verge of extinction, because that’s just not the case. However, the good ol’ days of stuffing your content with a secret blend of 11 words and spices won’t cut the content mustard these days. And what makes us say that? Well, as it turns out, a content strategy overly dependent on keywords doesn’t necessarily result in content that the reader actually wants to read. Go figure.

That said, we’re not going to link to any questionable content to demonstrate our point because that’s not such a cool thing to do. Still, we’re pretty sure you’re well-acquainted with what we’re talking about. Everyone has seen content ranked on the first page of a search in the past that provided about the same amount of value as a hole in your shoe. That content sounded formulaic, sometimes robotic, and often awkward and unnatural.

Google’s gotten much better at finding content that matters to your B2B audience rather than letting keywords lead the way.

But Google being Google, that simplistic SEO strategy of throwing the perfect keywords into a blog, no matter the actual value provided, was always on borrowed time. Google’s gotten much better at finding content that matters to your B2B audience rather than letting keywords lead the way. Therefore, while keywords are still an important part of your SEO, it’s not the end-all-be-all. In other words, your strategy must evolve to keep pace, or your customers aren’t going to find you and your awesome content.

Make Your Content Matter

“Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but what exactly do you suggest I do?” you ask. That’s a darn good question, dear reader. Really what it comes down to is this – make your content matter. Don’t completely abandon the keyword strategy you know so well, just integrate it into something more comprehensive and compelling. And that’s exactly what we’re going to show you how to do.

Think Like Your Audience

Through technologies like machine learning, Google is getting better by the day at inferring your audience’s intent. Put another way, when your customer types a word or two into the search box, Google wants to deliver the most relevant possible results for that individual. For instance, if you were to search “inbound marketing in Dallas,” Google is going to provide some local job listings in the space as well as DFW agencies. It infers that you are looking for particular solutions rather than general information about inbound marketing as a practice or concept.

Alternatively, simply searching “inbound marketing” has the opposite effect. You’ll get a handful of agency results within an embedded Google map but the vast majority of results are informative guides and educational blog posts. It infers that you, as the reader/searcher, want to know more about inbound marketing rather than local agencies. Yes, the difference between those two examples seems obvious and rudimentary at first glance, but it represents a quantum shift in what makes an SEO strategy effective in today’s digital environment.

SEO Strategy Best Practices

Telling you to think like your audience is an excellent place to start, at least in establishing the right mindset for your content, but we have some roll-up-your-sleeves best practices to help flesh out your SEO strategy as well.

Use a Pillar/Cluster Strategy

We’ve discussed pillar strategies before in the context of an overall inbound strategy, so we won’t completely rehash the concept here. However, when looking at an SEO approach that doesn’t wholly revolve around keywords, clustering your content around central topics is critical in convincing Google that you’re an authority on the subject and, thus, getting your content to rank well.

Clustering your content around central topics is critical in convincing Google that you’re an authority on the subject

Since we’re focusing more on SEO here and not your overarching inbound strategy, the only specific bit of advice we have to add concerns links within your clustered content. Treat each pillar topic as a self-contained unit rather than a component of your overall content library, making sure you link to other content within the same cluster rather than outside of it. That way, you’re not diluting your efforts and keeping everything concentrated within the cluster.

Keep It Lean & Mean

Your B2B customers are busy people. They want relevant information, and they want it quickly. From a design perspective, that means you have to walk the line between compelling, immersive creative and fast pages that load smoothly and efficiently. From a conversion standpoint, a one-second delay in page response can mean as much as 7% lower sales. Just as importantly, Google now uses page speed as a factor in its mobile search algorithm, meaning a slower page hurts your rankings Therefore, find that balance between appealing design and raw speed for that SEO and lead generation sweet spot.

Keywords!

As we said, keywords are in no way irrelevant, but now occupy a smaller portion of your SEO strategy. Keyword placement is still particularly important, especially when it comes to your page title, subheaders, and meta descriptions, amongst other things. What’s not important, however, is your keyword frequency. Trying to stuff 15 variations of a word or two in a blog post will accomplish three things these days:

  1. Make you look silly
  2. Serve as a customer repellant
  3. Tell Google to keep on truckin’ when crawling your site

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Long Story Short

What’s most important in your content is delivering value to your customers. They want information that will help them solve a problem, and it’s that content that informs crucial choices in their buying process. Of course, that’s not to say that doing everything you can to help your customers find your content is suddenly a waste of time. But times have changed and so must how you approach your SEO efforts. Be smart and calculated about it, think like your audience, and use keywords appropriately in conjunction with pillar topics and other useful content strategies. And if you find yourself lost in the inbound woods, Creative Cave will help you find your way out. It’s what we do.

topicIcon SEO, Marketing Tips