Industry Update
Opinion Article 2 October 2013

Bye, keyword data… you won’t be missed as much as people think

By Bill Jefferson, Senior Analyst, Natural Search

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By: Billy Jefferson, Senior Natural Search Analyst

Google said goodbye to Keyword Centered SEO many moons ago. I would say this started with LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) when Google began using Singular Value Decomposition. In layman's terms, that was an attempt to deliver results relevant to the user's intent, rather than just the exact phrase the user typed in the search bar.

So, what exactly has changed now? Well, we can no longer track a conversion backwards to the exact keyword or keyword phrase that delivered a user to a particular website via Google (we can still do this for Bing and Yahoo! – at least for now). For many, this will mean a big change in research, indeed; all this will be a change on some level. Live site data collection is a very important part of ongoing optimization efforts, but this has not killed data collection at all, nor the actions taken because of said data.

Keywords will always be important in SEO but, exact match keywordsare less and less what we find ourselves focusing on. What do I mean by this? Well, there just isn't any reason to go after single keyword phrases anymore – there hasn't been for quite a while actually. You shoot yourself in the foot by doing so. Sure, you can rank for that all important phrase, but what about dozens of other phrases that you just couldn't optimize for because you completely stuffed your page with your all important single phrase? By setting a themed focus for each page, and not worrying about single phrases, you allow Google's algorithms to do their job as they are intended. You will also find yourself ranking for far more relevant phrases than if you just concentrate on one or two exact phrases.

This is not all new. This did not happen because Google is not going to allow keyword data to flow any longer. This will simply force every SEO expert to track conversions back to a theme rather than a keyword. You will still know what page the visitor entered on. You will still know the theme of that page. And you can still optimize a website.

Keyword data seems to be unaffected in Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), at least at the time of this writing. So you will have your themes and, with GWT, you will know terms driving traffic (as well as the terms not driving traffic) and still have ranking reports. This change, in my opinion, will not hurt on page SEO at all. Some think that Google is positioning itself to sell this data. Others think that this has something to do with PRISM. I believe the most popular theory is that they are trying to force companies into buying AdWords. I think they are sick of spammed out websites and want to deliver better results. Nice move, Google. And hotels and resorts – no need to worry as long as you're prepared to adapt.

A Quick Note on Hummingbird – Google's Newest Algorithm

Hummingbird focuses on consumers' entire queries, or all the words working together (themes), rather than individual keywords. This doesn't mean that keywords are unimportant (SEO is obviously still based on keywords and keyword phrases), but that themes have moved to the forefront. So instead of stuffing a webpage with the same keyword phrase numerous times, you write the page naturally, with your theme in mind. Sure, the keyword phrase may be included, but the quality of the copy will improve. Those are the pages Google prefers to display in their results.

It seems like much of the industry—and entire business world—tends to panic when Google announces a new algorithm. But the bottom line is this. If you or your online marketing provider keeps up with Google's search marketing recommendations, and evolves as the search engine giant evolves (at Vizergy, we've been optimizing websites by themes for user intent for over a year now), you're likely to have zero issues. And since each algorithm update is designed to provide consumers the exact information they're seeking, you're likely to benefit.

For more on Hummingbird, check out Search Engine Land's article: "Google's Hummingbird Takes Flight: SEOs Give Insight On Google's New Algorithm"

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Bill Jefferson

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