Do Keywords Matter?

Recently, I received an email with the following question about whether keywords mattered.  With her permission, I am posting A'ra's question about the Value of Keywords, along with my response.  Hope it helps you, as well.  Here's A'ra's question:

“Are keywords still useful? What is the latest on website optimization. Talked with someone lately who told me that using keywords was so overdone that google doesn't look for them any more. I know you're always up on these things, so I was wondering what's new with the latest and greatest in website land.”– A'ra Lippitt Blair

Here is my response about whether Google thinks keywords are relevant.

Hi A’ra:

Your friend was almost correct (if they were referring to the Meta Keyword field, not keywords themselves). It is a confusing thing, and without being there, I am not sure if they explained it incorrectly or if they understand it incorrectly, themselves.

Using appropriate keywords (on your page and in your code) are still very important for optimizing your site. What an appropriate keyword is, is a whole different conversation. So, let’s stay on their comment about keywords for the time being.

There are sections within the site’s code called Meta Title, Meta Description and Meta Keyword Tags. These 3 sections use keywords (words that are ‘key' to helping people find your site).

These sections aren't visible to the site visitor, but are important to be filled out to help the search engines rank you better. However, the Meta Keyword Tags are currently believed to be ‘less important’ to fill out than the other two sections.

Which is where your friend’s comment comes from. What your friend was most likely referring to is: Google has publicly stated they are currently not looking at the Meta Keyword Tags, because folks were ‘stuffing this field with inappropriate keywords’ (in these cases people were using words or phrases that get searched a lot, but are irrelevant to the specific site’s content).

NOTE: Here is a video of Matt Cutt's from Google talking about this subject (Sept. 2009):

Yet, “keywords” (appropriate words to describe your services, or better yet your potential client/customer’s current problem) are what these 3 Meta sections consist of, so ‘keywords' are still relevant.

And, each page/post may have its own set of ‘key’ words or phrases, which may be more relevant to the actual content on that specific page.

See why it gets confusing?

But, again, going back to your friend’s comment, they were (or should have been) merely talking about the Meta Keyword section not being relevant, not the ‘concept' of using keywords.

AND, now, this is where it gets even trickier: just because Google isn’t using the Meta Keyword section does not mean it isn’t being used by other search engines NOR does it mean Google won’t decide to use it again in the future.

So, I recommend you do fill out the Meta sections, per page, with the appropriate keywords to describe the content on each specific page.

And, since you (A'ra) are using WordPress, you can get a plugin to help do just that! There are many to consider, but I tend to use the free version of All in One SEO Pack.

SEO is a big subject, and we’re just tapping into it a bit here. What I suggest, if you are interested in learning more, is to consider hiring someone to either teach you or do the appropriate work for you (make sure it is a reputable company that keeps up on the latest info).  As an online marketing consultant, not an SEO specialist, I  do what I call SEO Lite, which sets you up with the best practices and latest info, to help you optimize your site for the visitors, as well as the search engines.  I prefer to teach these SEO basics (while focusing on other ways to generate traffic to the site, since most of my clients don't have huge budgets for SEO).  The SEO Lite sets you up with a foundation, because SEO is an ongoing thing. And, it is better for you to understand the basics, so you can continue to optimize each page and post for its individual content.

If you don’t have funds for one on one consultations, I suggest (if you don't mind taking the trip up to Boulder) taking Dave Taylor’s SEO workshops at Boulder Digital Arts – use coupon code Bethany2011, to get 10% OFF!

And, you can also read the blog posts I have written on the subject, here are links to them:

What I tell folks is: You will probably have to read each of these posts a couple of times. Then start with some small steps.

Let me know if that answers your question.

Focusing on the many possibilities…

So, this was the response to A'ra's question.  But what about you?  Are you hearing confusing, concerning or even conflicting information on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Keyword Research?  If so, comment below and I'll try to answer it or find someone who can.  Who knows, maybe your question may lead to a full blog post response (I'll always ask permission first, if I reference you by name)!  Or maybe you have some insights to share on the subject.
Feel free to comment below (with constructive suggestions, please):

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