What's the Deal With SEO and Keywords?
Back in the olden days Meta Tags were the cat's meow in SEO. Web designers spent excruciatingly ridiculous amounts of time cramming sites with keywords and all the best tags research could buy in the hopes that millions of people would flock to their site and buy their crap. Entire forums were dedicated to “black hat SEO”, whose entire goal was to trick search engines into presenting their site in results for particular keywords. As a result, a search for something like "baseball cards" would return multiple unrelated sites in the results. While Meta Tags are still, to a degree relevant, the question remains is, do they matter?
The short answer is: yes, but not in the way they used to. Meta tags still play a significant role for search engines to understand the main topic or subject of a website. As search engine algorithms get smarter they still depend on human direction in terms of content. The human direction helps the algorithm to rank pages based on relevancy and uses these tags and content on the page.
One key tag is the Title Tag. Just like the headline in a newspaper or blog post, the title helps readers and Google figure out what the article or site is about.
The Description tag is also important as this is what guides Google to the relevancy and description of the content. If you have a good description with the right keywords (in the description) readers will be more likely to click on your listing and Google will track that and be more likely to rank your site and the relevance to the search. Write the most relevant and enticing description you can – for people, not just Google.
Watch the video below for information about Meta Tags presented by Matt Cutts from Google. That’s right, Google’s own search engine guru.
So do keywords matter? The answer, simply, is “no”. Straight from Matt Cutts.
Google, or for that matter, any major search engine, pays no attention to the keyword tag. While it may have been relevant before, this was a sleazy way for SEO companies and webmasters to game the algorithm and use it as a spam tactic.
While it may have helped before, the engines have moved beyond this tag as any measure or guidance for relevancy.
The fact of the matter is, that good SEO is work and good content. When you think of a search engine “getting smarter” you need to think in terms that they are getting more human. And by human, I mean better at determining good content from crap.
Here’s another video from Matt Cutts about recent SEO misinformation in which he reiterates the “keywords don’t matter” theme:
I tend to go with what Google has to say about search engines and SEO. In my opinion, they have no reason or incentive to lie or mislead people about the way search works. On the other hand, there are many companies charging tens of thousands of dollars to “help you rank” and beat your competitor when all this can be done on your own with a little work. Many of the sites I've worked with have seen results in relatively short periods of time. They’ve seen their page rank go up and their listing on search engines appear closer to the top because of relevant and informative content that people (not Google) want to read.
My favorite Matt Cutts quote is, “There are a lot of people out there trying to appear cool and awesome, when all you really have to do it be cool and awesome.”
Want to know more about SEO? You can read Search Engine Optimization at Google Webmaster Tools.
The fact that I put “SEO” and “keyword” in the title of this blog post, and mentioned both of those in this article will already increase my chances of being found by someone searching for those terms. Will this article be on the first page of Google? Probably not, but if enough people read it, find in interesting, and think it’s relevant, Google will too.