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Why Keyword Optimization Will Fail (And What To Do Instead)

Why Keyword Optimization Will Fail (And What To Do Instead)

The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry has gone through a lot of changes in recent times and as we speak, something new is being prepared.

Core activities like keyword optimization and backlinking have all been shifted to a more strict position making it tough for the average marketer.

Keyword optimization is getting our attention in this post because of the erring position of many digital entrepreneurs. We apparently still haven’t understood the evolution and sophistication of Google’s algorithms.

By sticking to our old keyword tricks, we somewhat endorse our failures and lack of natural visibility. I believe by the end of this post, you are seriously going to consider repositioning and revamping your SEO campaign strategies for the sake of improved results.

Keyword research

The most crucial phase of any SEO campaign is when you have to decide which keywords you will target to drive targeted traffic from search engines. If you don’t have keyword research done before a campaign, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Whether you are using a paid or free SEO Tool for this purpose, two main factors you should focus on are:

  1. Search Volume – The traffic potential of the keyword
  2. Competition – Who are the competitors targeting the same keyword and how many and how strong are they?

Popular SEO and Keyword Tools we have in the market today have metrics to guide your decision whether or not to reject a keyword.

Keyword optimization Neil Patel website SEO keyword overview
Keyword optimization Neil Patel website SEO keyword difficulty level

They may have some minor differences but these will all drive you toward a common direction.

One of the biggest errors at this point of keyword optimization is trying to compete with the big guns. You must be able to measure your strength properly before engaging in the fight. Once the keyword difficulty is above 30, you should be thinking of digging deeper to find more easy-to-rank keywords.

On-page SEO and keyword optimization

Keyword placement and density used to be key ranking factors. In the early days of Google and other search engines, the occurrences of specific keywords at strategic areas in your content would help them measure the relevance of your content.

Your on-page SEO needed the keyword positioned in:

  • Your article titles
  • Post URLs
  • Meta description
  • Content introduction (within the first 100 words)
  • Heading tags (<h1> to <h6>)
  • Image tags
  • Content conclusion

But this was a big weak point because marketers were able to manipulate and push junk articles to the top position on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page). Even without any keyword stuffing, search engines were still finding it hard to filter out bad content from their pages.

Does this mean on-page keyword optimization is dead?

No!

In those early days, keywords in your content was going to play two major roles:

  1. Help search engines know the topic of your content
  2. Enable them to know how relevant your content was to the key term and where to rank it on the SERPs

In today’s SEO, however, keywords on your page play very little role in determining the position of your content on the SERP and search engines don’t even need the keyword to understand your topic.

Here is proof:

Keyword optimization Google search how to rank on google results SERP

For the search term “how to rank on Google ”, none of the first five natural listings on the SERP contains the keyword in the Title, Permalink or Meta Description. Going further, none of the articles even has the exact keyword mentioned somewhere in the content body.

That means Google did not even need this ‘keyword string’ to understand that these writers are talking about “ranking on Google.”

Therefore, if you are following traditional keyword optimization practice, trying to rank for this particular term, you may be disappointed.

According to Devesh Sharma of WPkube, “On-page keyword optimization is still important but don’t count on it to rank except where competition is very weak.”

In Neil Patel’s words, “Keyword research is still important, but the way we should be implementing it has changed… Google’s algorithm has become more sophisticated. It no longer has to rely on simple keywords to tell it what your content is about.”

In a study conducted by SEMrush, 18% of domains ranking for high-volume keywords don’t have the keyword in the body. We just saw some proof of this above.

Keyword optimization percentage high ranking site don't have keywords 18%

What should you do instead to rank?

In today’s SEO, one web page can rank for multiple keywords. So why not optimize content to target hundreds of related keywords?

This brings me to semantic SEO where topical relevance is the answer. Rather than targeting and optimizing for the keyword “How to rank on Google”, create an in-depth article that will give readers the tools and techniques to get indexed and ranked by the search engine.

Take a look at these results:

Keyword optimization Google search tips to rank on google with results

Here are the same entries on the SERP for a different related keyword. You should note that none of these entries had any of these keywords as a focus. So why is Google thinking they are the best options?

The answer to this question is that these articles have been written for the market/topic, not the keyword. These are high-quality well-researched content targeting users’ demand.

In the days of single-keyword SEO, this tiny variation would have meant two separate pages, one for each keyword string. But Google’s search algorithm is now smarter.

How do you write for the user’s demands?

The first step to write for the user’s demands is to identify keyword intent. By breaking the keyword into terms, it may help your understanding. Let’s continue with our example above:

“How to rank on Google”

  1. How to
  2. Rank
  3. Google

The first part of the string “How to…”  raises the three questions you must answer in your article:

  1. What are the steps to take?
  2. Are there things to avoid?
  3. What are the tools needed for the task?

The second part “Rank” tells you exactly what the searcher wants. But we still don’t understand their position. What type of content do they want to rank (Blog post, news article, eCommerce site, etc)

If the searcher was looking for “how to rank an eCommerce website”, this would have been much easier. But in this case, we are left with no choice than to go in-depth, giving all the tips necessary to help the searcher rank different types of content.

And the third term in the phrase tells us which search engine the searcher wants to optimize for. So we must be able to give out specific instructions tied to ranking on Google.

For the sake of semantic relevance, underlining some unique ranking requirements on other search engines in the post may go a long way to pull your content out of the noise.

Now, this is just a brief guide to help you create in-depth content for search intent.

How does keyword clustering help?

When you run your focus keyword through a keyword research tool, you’ll probably come up with a long list of longtail alternatives which will make your head spin. You are not going to optimize your content for all those phrases.

Using a keyword grouping tool, segment your list into groups (clusters). Each group can be a subheading to help you create a more comprehensive guide to rank higher and drive traffic from a long list of different keywords.

Note that you may cluster keywords and create separate pages from the clusters. It’s up to you to figure out what to do based on your list size and number of clusters.

Wrapping up

For improved search results, move from optimizing for keywords to topical optimization. Writing for keywords is outdated. Create content for the keyword topic, going in-depth to give your content a chance to rank for more phrases.

Guest author: Enstine Muki is a full-time blogger and blogging coach with over 7 years of experience in blogging and digital marketing. Follow him on Twitter

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