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Do Keywords Matter Anymore?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Goepps keywords blog

With all the changes Google constantly makes to its algorithm, you may be wondering: Do keywords matter anymore?

The answer may surprise you!


Keywords, also referred to as SEO keywords, keyphrases, search terms, and search queries are words or phrases that users type into Google and other search engines to find information about a topic they’re interested in or get connected with something they want to buy.

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), keywords are included in webpage content to signal to Google what the page is about so it will rank high in Google’s results for the keyword.

Any term that could be searched for in Google, whether a single word, phrase, sentence, or question, is considered a keyword.

Example: Sky, sky blue, and why is the sky blue are all keywords.


Keywords are the foundation of SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns.

Ranking at — or near — the top of a Google search results page (SRP) for the keywords that matter to you can bring in a lot of high-quality, targeted website traffic. In an ideal world, your Google PPC ads get your site advertised right above your organic results. Ranking for — and purchasing — keywords that signal someone is ready to buy something from you are the ultimate winning combined SEO and paid search strategy.

Keywords are also the foundation of your website and play a considerable role in most of your marketing efforts. So, the short answer, keywords matter.


The keywords you choose are critical to the success of your SEO and PPC efforts. Pick the right ones, and you can attract a lot of high-quality traffic and bring in business. Select the wrong ones, and you’ll spend a lot of money and get very little for it.

If you choose keywords that are too competitive (i.e., too many other companies also want to rank for them), you’ll have a hard time earning a top place in Google results, and your PPC costs will be prohibitively high. And if you focus on readily available keywords that your customers aren’t searching for, you may end up with no organic traffic to your website or with many visitors that don’t convert to actual sales.

If your site or business is a relatively new one, focusing your efforts on long-tail keywords could be a smart strategy for you. Long-tail keywords are search terms with a relatively low number of searches. However, they’re particular to your business, so they usually convert at very high rates. People using long-tail keywords are searching for something very specific to their needs. That means they’re probably farther along in the purchase journey and are more likely to purchase something or become clients.

An example of a long-tail keyword is Honda dealership in Toledo. The search volume is relatively low, but it’s pretty certain that someone searching for it on Google is ready to purchase a Honda in Toledo. The owner of the local dealership will likely make a sale if her website registers for the term and they earn the top spot (likely) in Google paid ads.


Keyword Research Strategy

When doing keyword research to decide which keywords to rank for, here are the factors to look out for:

  • Search volume is the number of times a keyword is searched for on Google each month. This metric is critical because it helps you figure out how much traffic you could get by ranking for that keyword. Selecting keywords with a great deal of search volume can attract more visitors to your website. However, keywords with lots of searches are more competitive to rank for and cost more in PPC.
  • Competition reflects how many other businesses are trying to rank for a keyword. The more in demand a keyword is, the more likely there will already be many websites trying to earn the top spot for organic and paid results. Most keyword tools provide ways to measure keyword competition. Two key metrics to track are:
    • Keyword difficulty: This metric tells you the effort it will take to rank in the top ten organic results in Google for a keyword.
    • Competitive density: This metric tells you how competitive, usually based on cost per click, it is to earn a top Google search ad ranking. It’s based on how many businesses are bidding on a keyword.
  • Price (cost-per-click) is how much it costs to earn a top PPC position. This is related to your competition research but is more one-dimensional. You have to decide whether you can afford the cost of a click-based on its potential to result in a sale.
  • Word count refers to the number of words that make up a single keyword. For example, the term loans has a word count of one, while where can I get a loan in Chicago has seven. Why is this important? The higher the word count, the more specific the search. When a search query is relatively long, the competition is typically relatively low. And the person searching is usually much closer to making a purchase.
  • Keyword search intent is the “why” a search is being conducted. Ask yourself the following questions to determine keyword intent:
    • Are they searching to buy something?
    • Are they looking for a definition?
    • Do they want to read or watch something?
    • Are they shopping around to gather information?
    • Are they looking to find a website or webpage they already know about?

Based on the answers to these five questions, search intent generally falls into five categories:

  • Purchase intent means someone wants to buy something.
  • Informational intent reflects a desire to learn something.
  • News or entertainment intent reflects someone who wants to read or watch something.
  • Browsing intent shows that someone is searching for something to buy.
  • Navigational intent means someone is looking for something they already know about.

Doing keyword research, and refining your strategies over time, will help you find the right keywords for your business and website.


There are a few different keyword types worth knowing about.

  • Branded keywords are keywords that include a specific brand name. They’re typically valuable if people already know about your business or if you want to make a defensive play against a company that’s trying to steal your prospective clients or customers.
  • Geo-targeted keywords include a geographic location such as dentist in Detroit or coffee shop in Boston. These are great keywords for local businesses that serve a specific geographical area.
  • Negative keywords are terms you don’t want to be included in Google Ads campaign results.


You’ll usually select many of the same keywords for SEO and PPC. But that’s not always the case.

Here are the characteristics of keywords that are right for each strategy.

Keywords Ideal for SEO

  • Informational keywords, for example, how to and what is terms
  • Keywords with limited competition
  • Terms that demonstrate high interest in buying and low competition
  • Keywords used by prospective clients and customers when they’re searching for things similar to what you sell
  • Keywords related to a popular blog post that demonstrates your value to prospective customers.

Keywords Ideal for PPC

  • Keywords that indicate interest in purchasing the types of things you sell.
  • Keywords that reflect the exact products you sell.
  • Keywords that include your brand name. Keywords that include your competitors’ brand terms.


Here are some tips on how to optimize your use of keywords:

  • Never use keyword packing. If you’re still doing this antiquated tactic, it could result in severe Google penalties. The search engine really frowns on excessive keyword use.
  • Use keywords naturally. Odd constructions will likely drive away website visitors, sending bad signals to Google.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords with limited competition. This is the low-hanging fruit of SEO.
  • Use keywords strategically. Place them in headlines, subheads, and opening paragraphs, and sprinkle them throughout your copy. Also include your keywords in page titles, title tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags.

So, do keywords matter anymore? It would certainly seem so! Now go out and use your keywords correctly.

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