When it comes to SEO, keywords used to be all the thing, and there were plenty of marketers around willing to game the system.

But, Google was eventually onto them and the rules of the game have changed. No longer can you just write a load of meaningless guff and fill it full of niche keywords to make a fortune. In fact, Google just won’t stand for it anymore!

So, are keywords still relevant? Well yes they are, but not in quite the same way as before. Read on to see what’s happened.

Enter the world of semantic search

Some time in 2013 Google released ‘semantic search’ functionality. What this means is that rather than doing an exact keyword match, Google search tries to figure out what the meaning is behind your words when you go online looking for something.

From a user’s point of view, semantic search makes it a lot easier to find information, especially if you are not sure how to word your query.

For example, let’s say you once saw a movie that had Kevin Costner in it and was about wolves, but you can’t remember its name. You want to find out so you type in ‘movie with Costner about wolves’. Within no time you will get your answer because Google worked out what you meant. (That’s probably not the best example but I’m sure you get the drift).

Semantic search makes copy far less keyword-dependent than it used to be. That said you can still use keywords in your content to help with SEO, along with other methods. Here’s how.

How to use keywords in SEO today

Keyword placement

These days how many times you use a keyword throughout your copy is not as important as where you put them. Using keywords in your titles, sub-headers, page URLs, and meta descriptions for example can help search engines get a clearer picture of what your content is all about.

But in any case, the important thing is that whenever you use keywords in written content, they sound natural and not forced. And remember they don’t need to be jammed 25 times into your copy!

Answer user queries

People do not go online entering exact sequences of words. They use online search because they are looking for an answer or solution to their question or problem.

The best way to approach this is holistically rather than narrowing things down to optimising for three-word phrases. This involves understanding what your target audiences need and what their problems and pain points are, and then providing the best solution.

This approach shifts the focus from “how can I make a killing out of this keyword phrase” to “how can I best be of service and assistance to my customers?”.

Make your copy clear and readable

You want people to be able to understand your words right off the bat. You really don’t want them to have to read your sentences four times over or consult an Oxford dictionary every five seconds.

So, don’t try to sound too clever. Instead, make your copy concise, active in voice, and easy to read.

Note: If you need a blog or article writer for your business, get in touch here.

Create content that has high authority

This might sound like it contradicts the last point but it really doesn’t. It just means you should write in a way that indicates you know your stuff.

Marketers often call this E-A-T content – meaning it is high on the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness stakes.

But essentially it boils to this: be truthful, factual, and know what you are talking about!

Read more: 10 SEO trends for 2021 from Search Engine Journal.

What Google says

Google says they have not released all the details of their ranking signals because they don’t want people to game search results.

But, they do say you should “focus on developing high-quality content rather than trying to optimize for any particular Google algorithm” and that you should remove, merge or improve low-quality pages to improve the chance of ranking well.

To sum up – keywords in written content are still relevant to some degree, so by all means use them. Just don’t make them your main goal. Instead, aim principally to engage your audience and add value to their lives.