Keywords: use them the wrong way and Google will slap you

In my last post I mentioned that Google’s algorithms use over 200 different indicators that determine how your webpages are indexed and shown. Today we’ll have a look at keywords and how important they are relative to other elements. In general, Google values the factors that are difficult to manipulate by website owners (or search engine optimizers) more than what can easily be manipulated. All the stuff that you can do on your end. On your website. The difficult part is getting other sites to link to you and validate you. So in short: The ranking factors that are outside your realm of influence are the most valuable to Google. But that does not mean that what you can do isn’t important. It is very important, but Google looks at it very carefully. They don’t want you to game the system. Keywords are of relativly modest importance. Keywords are the words or combinations of words that people enter in google when they are looking for something. So a keyword is a search term. As with everything that we will discuss, with keywords you have to take the approach that makes sense from Google’s perspective: use them only where and when it is appropriate to help Google find RELEVANT content for it’s users. No more, no less. You see, it is very easy for anyone to stuff a webpage with a bunch of keywords. And Google knows that. And in the past, that has been abused by internet marketeers a lot. So, Google has evolved it’s algorithms to the point where they can very accurately measure and weigh if someone is trying to stuff a lot of keywords in a page in an unnatural way or if someone is creating valuable and relevant content. Over-doing the keyword thing is dangerous and can harm the position of your page in the rankings.
More becomes less very quickly when it comes to keyword stuffing
More becomes less very quickly when it comes to keyword stuffing
It’s like the law of diminishing returns displayed in this graph. At a certain point, more of the same becomes less effective or even harmful. Having said that, you should definitely use keywords in the title tag because that is by far the most important place for you to put one or two good keywords. But also use them in headlines, image names and body text of the pages or blog posts you write. But only if they are really relevant. And don’t worry too much about synonyms and variations. Google is smart. They know. Having a keyword in your domain name isn’t as valuable as it used to be. In the old days, Google reasoned that if the keyword was in the domain name, the whole site would be centered around that topic. And though that might be true, that does not necessarily mean that it’s the most relevant website for Google’s users. So lately they don’t place as much value on it as they used to, but it won’t hurt you of you do. It’s a good idea to use the right keyword(s) in your url’s, but again, only if it makes sense and only to help Google find and serve relevant content for its customers. And don’t overdo it. Basically, Google looks at a URL like this: So this is good: This would not be good: The most important place to have your keywords is… … in the links on other websites that point to your page. And that is also the hardest to influence. And therefore the most valuable in the eyes of Google. If only the Huffington post would have this text with a link to our page, that would be worth way more than what we could do ourselves: Check out this awesome WordPress plugin that makes it easy for you to manage the pages of your WordPress site. Some quick and important points on keywords to recap:
  • Keywords are not as important as they used to be. Still use them, but do it in a natural way and not in an artificial way
  • Google does not use the keyword meta tag. At all.
  • Google does not like keyword stuffing or a high keyword density (law of diminishing returns)
  • Having a keyword in your domain name can help and it won’t hurt.
  • Put keywords in your URLs in the right place and each keyword only once
  • Use keywords in the title tag, headline, body text and image names on your page, but only when it makes sense.
I hope this has helped you to put the value and use of keywords in to perspective. Let me know your thoughts.
August 10, 2014
Chris Vermeulen
Stuff Google Likes, Website Improvement, keywords, SEO