Are Keywords a Thing of The Past?


When it comes to SEO, keyword research has always been a valuable strategy. However, as websites and search engines evolve, so does SEO. In order to stay up to date, it’s important to determine the best strategies for optimization. With the adoption of natural language search and AI, how do the search engines determine relevancy? Google’s SEO guru has said user intent plays the primary role in organic search but how does Google determine which text best matches user intent? Stay with me as we take a closer look at keywords and keyword optimization for modern times.

Are keywords still important, or are they a thing of the past?

In order to answer this question, you’ll need to understand the idea of co-occurrence. Neil Patel defines co-occurrence as the “presence, frequency, and proximity of similar keywords across various websites. Co-occurrence logically includes keywords that are topically relevant, but not exactly the same”. This concept of co-occurrence is important because it shows how search engines have evolved. Whereas it used to be that you could type keywords into a search engine and see pages containing those keywords, now you will be presented pages relating to your key ideas.

Understanding Co-Occurrence

For example, If you search “beach vacation to Hawaii” and then search “surfing in Hawaii” the search engine takes note. If enough people search those two terms concurrently, then the search engine begins to assume that when people vacation to Hawaii, it’s because they want to surf. This may affect the results of a search so when someone searches “beach vacation to Hawaii” they are met with a page on “Hawaii’s best surfing beaches”.

Co-occurrence identifies related searches and groups that information together to give better results based on what is intended in the search, and not just the words.

Here is another example:

1st Search: Best pie recipe

2nd Search: best coffee to drink with pie

3rd Search: best ice cream to eat with pie

If these three searches are searched together enough times, then search engines such as Google will start relating these topics with each other. As an SEO writer, it’s then in your best interest to mention pie, coffee, and ice cream all in the same article.

Understanding co-occurrence and how it affects SEO is crucial and strategizing its use may require quite a bit of data research.  Today’s SEO professional must have technical writing skills and be able to look at facts, draw inferences, and then communicate solutions that satisfy the user’s needs, just short of reading their minds.

Utilize Key Ideas Not Keywords

Search engines have evolved to be able to get past specific words and analyze the intent of those words. It is then in your best interest to identify not only keywords but core ideas and related search terms and phrases. Once identified, include them in your writing.

An article on uberflip suggested these tips:

  • Continue to do your keyword research, but go one step further. Take each keyword you plan to use and then create a list of modifiers and try to incorporate those modifiers into your content.
  • Try using similar words in your h1 and h2 tags, titles, and descriptions.
  • Use a tool to help get creative and generate new ideas.
  • Talk to your writers. They will need insight into your clients’ needs and pain points if they are going to write for user intent.

However, it is important to remember that while co-occurrence is the new “keyword strategy,” don’t neglect your keyword research. You still need those search terms so you can build a database of related ideas.

Effect Web Agency builds high-performance sites that are mobile-friendly and FAST. We can also work within an existing site to improve performance and resolve mobile issues. Contact us for more information on what you can do to rank higher in the search results.

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