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550,000: the average number of monthly users who Google the term “SEO.” 12,100: the average number of monthly users who Google the term, “keyword research.” To most, these terms and numbers are irrelevant. However, to a small business owner, SEO (search engine optimization) can play a large role in determining your company’s financial success. Although Google helps users understand how often a word is searched for, what they don’t tell us is whether or not keywords actually matter when it comes to SEO.
Search engines use highly complex algorithms to crawl and index webpages to deliver what it thinks the best results you—the user—are looking for. Woah, let’s say that again, but this time so it’s a little easier to understand. Search engines, like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, use complicated math problems to send (fake) spiders to both “crawl” (search and read) and “index” (log and store) what is on your webpage.
In the past, a popular SEO tactic called “keyword stuffing,” or the process of adding a high number of subject keywords throughout a webpage in order to rank higher in search engines, was thought to mean higher search engine results. The amount keywords actually matter in the algorithms of Google, Bing, and Yahoo! is unknown to this day, but studies and industry experts have a pretty good grasp on what holds greater weight in search engine algorithms and what doesn’t.
Before diving deeper into whether or not keyword research is still important to your business’ SEO campaign today, let’s take a brief look into how SEO has evolved.
History 101: SEO
- 1993: Excite – Born in 1993, Excite was the project of six graduate students at Stanford University. The goal of Excite, originally dubbed, “Architext,” was to study the statistical analysis of word relationships to improve search relevancy on the Internet.
- 1994: Yahoo! – Founded in 1994, Yahoo! was a highly regarded as a website directory indexed by human editors. Still one of the industry’s top indexers, Yahoo! switched to a crawler-based listing in 2002.
- 1994: Webcrawler – The product of a University of Washington student, Webcrawler became the first crawler to perform full-text search.
- 1998: Google – Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin launch Google, a search engine based on relevancy ranking. In other words, Google displayed results and rankings based on the amount of times search terms appeared on a webpage. AKA KEYWORDS!
Search Metrics recently released a 2013 study looking at relevant SEO ranking factors and their correlation among search engine results. Let’s take a look at how some SEO ranking factors have changed from Search Metric’s 2012 study.
By the Numbers
To put it simply, the higher the bar, the greater the correlation. A greater correlation means more top-ranked websites contained these metrics. In 2012, Search Metrics ranked seven distinct keyword ranking factors in their study. Search Metrics then ranked the same seven keyword ranking factors in 2013, as well as adding four new elements (results below):
- Ranking Factor
- Percentage of Backlinks with Keyword
- Keyword in URL
- Keyword in Description
- Keyword in Title
- Keyword in H1
- Position of Keyword in Title (Character)
- Position of Keyword in Title (Word)
- Keywords in Body
- Keywords in External Links
- Keywords in Internal Links
- Keywords in Domain Name
- 2012 Correlation
- – 0.02
- – 0.03
- – 0.05
- – 0.05
- Correlation Change
- – 0.04
- – 0.03
- – 0.01
- + 0.02
- + 0.17
- + 0.16
In 2013, the percentage of backlinks with keywords, keywords in URL, and keywords in description all had a negative correlation change from their 2012 numbers, meaning these metrics were less important when ranking SEO factors in 2013 than they were in 2012. However, keywords in title, position of the keyword(s) in the title characters, and position of keywords in the title words all experienced a correlation growth from 2012 to 2013.
The largest change in correlation is seen in two ranking factors: position of keyword in title (character), and position of keyword in title (word). In other words, keyword research is no longer focusing on the number of keywords you use, but rather where you place them. For more information on where to place keywords in your content, check out what my colleague Alanna Potosky had to say in her blog, “On-Page SEO Factors Today: What’s Most Important?”.
What Does This Mean for My SEO Campaign?
Location! Location! Location!
As the SEO industry continues to evolve, your SEO campaign must also evolve. As for keyword research—don’t ignore it! As seen in the Search Metrics studies, keyword research is still important to ranking highly in search engines and earning higher page rankings. Research and understand what keywords your clients will be searching for.
Once selecting the proper keywords, it’s all about proper placement. Don’t overload your keywords in the URL or meta description. Rather, place keywords where they naturally fit in your webpage’s content and linking structure. Although not measured in 2012, the ranking factors of keywords in body, keywords in internal and external links, and keywords in domain name all measured in a positive (and pretty significant!) correlation. Location, location, location!
Viva La Content
Per the 2013 SEO ranking factor results, one of the largest factors in determining a high correlation among search engine results is social sharing. Customers continue to “Like,” comment, tweet, and “pin” valuable, informational content. When implementing, measuring, or tweaking your SEO campaign, be sure to give your customers what they want—authoritative content!
When it comes to keyword research, strategically examine relevant keywords that not only meet your customers’ needs, but also include your business goals. Use your research and findings to create content that includes important keywords and is informational to your clients. Not only will this go a long way towards establishing your company as the authority in your industry, it will help grow your business.
Did you catch all of that? Contact Blue Corona today to learn more about what our content marketing team can do for you!
About The Author: Brandon works in Blue Corona's small business division, Rank First Local. Outside of SEO and analytics, Brandon’s interests include NBA and college basketball, tweeting, and playing with his dogs, Jax and Kona. Twitter: @doylestweet
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