The simple answer is that like many things, they are good for you in moderation!
There was a time when keywords were the be all and end all of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is still true to an extent. Many write of how keywords have become meaningless, usually drawing this conclusion following Google’s Hummingbird update and the masking of search traffic keyword referral data (not provided) within Google analytics.
Keyword data is still extremely important for SEO but also for many other marketing disciplines such as Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing and most definitely Pay per Click Marketing. Keyword focus has just evolved to best fit the latest SEO techniques, online marketing methods and most importantly technology.
Keyword research has always provided a foundation for successful SEO as it provides a valuable link back to the user. Fundamentally, if we are to stay true to any guideline, algorithm or latest trend, then we should always remember that our efforts to secure top rankings across the search engines is to raise our brand profile online and ultimately attract our target customers/visitors.
Our target visitors use ‘keywords’ to start their search journey, so it makes sense that this too should be the starting point for SEO. How visitors search has evolved though and with the growth of the mobile market, keywords are transforming into queries to suit the difference in search behaviour associated with using a smart phone or mobile device as people are on the go, as according to IAB research ‘more than 50% of the UK population now use Smartphones… due to their very nature of being portable, users will typically search at different time to desktops or laptops’.
Keywords - social media signposts
Underpinned by the ongoing quest for high quality, relevant and meaningful content; bloggers, copywriters, website owners, social media and search marketing experts all need the perfect starting point. By conducting in-depth keyword and competitor analysis, we can begin to build a profile of our target consumer/users.
With keyword research, we cannot take a ‘one size does fit all’ approach. Marketing to your target audience via the search engines requires a very different technique than when marketing to Facebook users. i.e. long tail location based phrases are key for SEO and the emergence of mobile search but the value of broader more generic terms within social media can expand your reach and help to build authority within the right social media networks. For PPC; the perfect balance of both often holds the key to success.
A recent Blog from Moz ‘Keywords to Concepts: The Lazy Web Marketer's Guide to Smart Keyword Research’ provides a really useful insight into how keywords have evolved and how we should channel our research into producing clusters of themed, concept based key phrases for 2014. The blog also provides a quick guide as to the most common mistakes made when researching keywords, including:
- Choosing keywords that are too broad
- Keywords with too much competition
- Keywords without enough traffic
- Keywords that don't convert
- Trying to rank for one keyword at a time
The post states that we should build our content around ideas instead of individual keywords, opening up the opportunity to rank for thousands of keywords at any one time.
So to round up, I am a strong believer in that keywords, whatever their format, provide the direction needed to tailor your online marketing efforts to your target audience. More importantly, it is the keyword research, adapted to suit each marketing medium that in turn helps provide the focus for your high quality, relevant and meaningful content - the holy grail for SEO and Social Media Marketing in 2014.