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Low Site Traffic? Maybe Your Keywords are Behind the Times

The early 2000's were gut-wrenching years for professional writers. The first Google search algorithms killed any incentive for site builders to present well-written pages. Virtually any copy that was stuffed to the fold with keywords, no matter how much they blew up a sentence, did just fine. If Google found your page and put you on page one, mission accomplished.

From 2002 through most of 2003, search practices were especially deceptive as developers played the infamous “Google dance,” further degrading the web experience. Serious writers cringed at the disappointing web trend away from quality copy and fretted about the future of their craft.

Reversing Direction

Recognizing the ominous trend, Google reasoned that if the web continued to erode into a vast wasteland of useless words and pages, then one day, Google itself would cease to exist. (Survival is such a strong incentive). So Google updated its search algorithms in late 2003 and early 2004 to favor quality over quantity. Suddenly, dubious SEO tactics like invisible text and keyword stuffing were stymied. Indeed, the virtual slap in the face didn’t sit well with many businesses that had spent a good penny keeping up with the “dance.”

But if you peeked inside the writer’s lounge, you’d have seen wordsmiths doing their own versions of the Google dance—on the tables. Good writing was in vogue again. The significance of Google algorithm updates from the mid-2000s to present day cannot be understated. Updates in 2003 and 2004 were turning points that helped legitimize the internet at a time when it really needed some street cred. In 2010, Google renewed its focus on page quality with Instant Previews. With the Panda algorithm update in 2011, Google threw down the gloves on suspect web practices like duplicate copy and content farms. Google’s Penguin update in 2012 was another giant leap for web-kind and further pummeled any notion of keyword stuffing. Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm, with its semantic (or “conversational”) search capability, offers relevant results that may not contain keywords at all.

Where keywords are concerned, algorithms today place more emphasis on finding them in title tags, URLs, alt tags, headlines, and meta descriptions. Lower on the food chain for web crawlers is the page copy itself. By the time a spider gets there, it’s really only looking for a good time.

Enter Content Marketing

The more recent value-driven content marketing trend is a by-product of Google’s algorithmic evolution. That, along with the additional bandwidth and channels within the “series of tubes” that is the internet. And value is experienced not just in good copy, but also in well-produced videos, photos, infographics, and user-friendly interactivity—not to mention social media and blogs—all of which takes further onus off the use of keywords as search marketing’s heavy lifter.

So Where Do the Keywords Go?

For SEO specialists, dialing in the perfectly optimized page may be more complex than ever. But not where keywords are concerned. Keywords are still important, and you do need to spend some time putting them in the right place. Here’s where: