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Pat Marcello

Are Keywords Singing Their Swan Song?

Pat Marcello
Are Keywords Singing Their Swan Song?

For a couple of years now, I’ve been watching Google’s activity in terms of Web spam. Of course, their actions to stop Web spam started a long time ago. Some of us noticed it (mostly SEOs), but everyone started really noticing about the time “Panda-guin” devastated many well-known websites.

No longer would link wheels, blog networks, sidebar anchor text links or duplicate content be tolerated. But even before Panda-guin, before the paid link penalty, the first time I learned the term “LSI” or “latent semantic indexing,” I saw the day when keywords would become irrelevant.

I wrote about that several times in my own blog, even once here.  And lots of people told me I was nuts. They couldn’t see the day that keywords wouldn’t be important. How would search bots know what the page was about? And I would politely shake my head and say, “Time will tell.”

Guess what, my friends?

The day has come. In fact, if you go too crazy and use keywords too much, you’re going to find yourself slapped with a penalty, and NObody wants to spend time in the penalty box.

Using too many keywords falls under the umbrella of “over-optimization” in Google’s eyes, and well… Just don’t do it.

Google’s Hidden Agenda?

Way back in March 2012, Google’s Matt Cutts told an audience at SXSW that Google’s purpose in all of this was to “level the playing field,” with the aim of sites with great content coming out in the same white light as pages that were heavily SEO’d.

But it’s more than that, my friends. If you listen to what Cutts said, you see this little nugget:

“…we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO.”


They send out so many mixed messages, just like an enemy telling you everything will be all right before they start lobbing bombs at you. Down deep, Google knows better. To make things look even more as if they want us to work at making things easier for their search bots, Google has their own SEO Guide, and yet, they don’t want us doing SEO? (Sorry… My paranoia insisted I digress.)

Matt Cutts quoteIf you’ve been in this industry for 10 years like I have, you have seen A LOT of change in SEO. And we have all felt things we used to use that were considered to be OK slip away, sometimes in huge fell swoops and other times, the loss has been rather insidious. Take this last blow, for example.

Google Takes Away Our Playthings

Another flag went up when Google stopped providing keyword data for users using Google secure search. (To use it, you had to be logged into any Google property.) Of course, they still provided the data to AdWords users, which to me was a little like blackmail.  Pay or die, you know? But they told us it was because they wanted to provide better privacy for their users. Again I say, “Hmmm…”

A couple of weeks back, Google decided that this private data security would apply across the board, logged in or not. And this “not provided” data that they have been feeding AdWords non-users has slowly grown over the past two years. In fact, NotProvidedCount.com tells us that some 79.77% of reported data is “not provided” today and they predict it will hit 100% on December 3, 2013, based on its current rate of growth.

Is SEO Dead... Again?

From what I’ve written above, you might be thinking that, like keyword stuffing or footer links, that SEO is dead — again. Well, it’s not. We just have to change our thinking.

Pretty much everyone knows now that quality content is what it’s ALL about. I’ve been preaching this for a couple of years now, and I’m not talking about generic, crappy content that describes nothing. I’m talking about researched, well-written pieces with links out to relevant sites and very little in the way of specific keywords being targeted.

I’ve been using a system like that for my clients over the past two years and it’s still getting amazing results. Placing content in sites around the Web is killer, especially if the sites are highly esteemed. Writing for Joe Blogger with no reputation or social media Klout online won’t get you where you want to go. Writing for sites like The Huffington Post or Fox News (I’m fair and balanced) will.

Plus, you MUST establish your authority through authorship. If you haven’t set your website up as a publisher or yourself as an author for Google, you’re not even in the race. It’s a little technical, but if you have WordPress, a simple plugin called “AuthorSure,” from DIY Webmastery will do the work for you with some just simple bits of information added. (The plugin is free, and there are great video tutorials to help you.)

Google (and where the Big Dog goes, the little dogs follow) wants to see your authority on the Web:

  • Can you write well?
  • Are you writing about important topics that are relevant to your niche?
  • Are other people deriving benefit from what you write?
  • Do people comment on your work?
  • Are people sharing your content?
  • Are you working in several media verticals — articles and blog posts, video, podcasts, slideshows, images?

In other words: Are YOU adding value to the Web?

That’s what it’s all about. Simple?

Google Analytics Filter

If you’re still stuck in 2007, there is a way to get some data back that you might find useful. It will provide landing page URLs for those “not provided” terms. I told people how to set up the Analytics filter in 2011 in my SEONewsBlog called the Analytics “Not Provided” Data Hack, which I got from a Dan Barker post over at EConsultancy.  It will help you to see trends in what landing pages people are finding through Google search.

But I’ll say this one more time, as I’ve said so many times in the past couple of years: Keywords are becoming irrelevant. In fact, if you’re going out of your way to optimize for them, you’re wasting valuable time and could be achieving nothing more than a penalty, rather than search traffic. Instead, just produce great stuff. That’s it! Forget keywords. Forget over-optimizing.

The only thing you should worry about are great titles and good Meta descriptions. Using a keyword in those can’t hurt. Make sure you use a keyword in the body of your content, but don’t over-do. (As in, do NOT use it in every paragraph, for example, as I know some people still do.) If you write what you’re passionate about, naturally those words will appear. It’s how our brains work — a little like Google. It’s making things happen that you don’t yet understand.

So how do you feel about it? Are you anxious because your keyword data is missing?  Let us know in the comments below. And don't forget to like this article on Facebook, Google+, and wherever else suits your fancy.

 Author bio:

Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager for her digital marketing company, MagnaSites.com, which handles everything from site construction to mobile marketing and SEO. Her last article for SEMrush was "Social Media: Its Impact on SEO and Your Business."

Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager at MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company that serves small- to medium-sized businesses. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Google+. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was "Google's Fetch and Render: Why It's Important."

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