It is no secret that the web is controlled and centred around keywords. For a long time, getting high keywords to rank high was considered to be the end all, be all of SEO. But things are changing smoothly, with the introduction of various updates by Google to personalise search results and an increased focus on user intention over keywords. But does that mean that organic keyword rankings are dead? Well, not exactly.
Google is Using New Tools to Calculate Intention
I can still remember a time not too long ago when keyword density was still king and SEO was all about keyword rich anchor text and PR rank. Boy have things changed. While Google’s countless updates may have been frustrating for many SEO marketers, the goal was ultimately to create a “smarter” search engine, and every effort they have been making since then seems to be heading in that direction.
Social media was still a new technology 10 years ago, and search engines giants still couldn't fathom how powerful they would become. Marketers were just beginning to realise YouTube’s power as a marketing powerhouse and Facebook was just making its transition from a college-based social network to a public one. Blogs were also still in their infancy and somewhat still a marginal phenomenon.
Fast forward to 2016 and sites like Reddit, which have been called “the front page of the internet”, are not only dictating what is hot or not on the internet, but are affecting social change globally. As a matter of fact, it has been said that Reddit has had a direct impact on the recent election in the United States. Facebook is now rivalling Google in terms of monthly visits and users have thousands of social media platforms to choose from. Low authority sites can now use the power of directories such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to gain authority, overpassing the old PageRank system and relying totally on social signals.
Google Local Approach Diminishes the Power of Keyword Rankings
People often forget that Google is a business, and that any attempt to undermine their ranking system directly affects the quality of their product. Providing relevant search results is Google's bread and butter, and they have made it clear that they have no issue penalising sites who use manipulative tactics, even if it means making drastic changes to their algorithms.
Google has also been increasingly moving towards the direction of local, organic results to make their search environment more tailored to the specific experience of the user. Local search results are now occupying spots that used to be occupied by paid advertising and high ranking keywords.
However, ranking high with keywords is still more important than ever since only a few spots are now available.
Businesses are Increasingly Focusing their Efforts on Social Media
Back when the only way a company was able to connect with web users was through search rankings, it made perfect sense for business owners and webmasters to focus solely on keyword rankings. But nowadays, more business owners are exploiting the benefits of social media traffic, especially when it comes to conversions.
With social media, businesses can target their audience where they congregate and get great organic results at the same time. Google is putting more and more emphasis on socially active content, and the importance that high PR backlinks used to have back in the day seems to have been replaced by how socially active a site or piece of content is. However, companies that use sound back linking practices and have solid keyword rankings still get access to a larger portion of natural, organic searches.
So, can we say that keyword rankings are now a thing of the past? Not necessarily. But in the current climate, it is important for business owners to focus on various avenues when trying to gain exposure. The good old days of keyword manipulation are long gone, but keywords are still the backbone of the internet and mastering sound keyword optimisation techniques is still important to this day.
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