Archaeology of Websites: Keyword Evolution and How it Impacts You

keyword evolution 1

One of the factors that makes SEO complicated for many marketers is the rate at which the industry seems to changes. Between talks about penguins and pandas, it seems as though every few weeks there is some latest and greatest SEO technique and a freelance writer saying that old methods are now obsolete.

Yes and no.

On the continuous quest to better understand how the secret search engine algorithms rank websites, professionals do regularly come up with new ideas, but things are not really all that much, they are just becoming more. Looking back over the history of the keyword can be a very helpful way to understand what this means.

In the beginning…. of SEO

When companies first began realizing that they could make subtle changes to their websites to rank higher in search results, they were the only players in the game. It was not all that complicated. When they set out to find keywords, they wanted ones that fit the following criteria:

  • highly relevant to their industry
  • did not have much competition
  • had plenty of search volume

This to people overusing keywords in an effort to rank higher and even trying to get ranked for broad keywords like ‘lawyer’ or ‘plumber’. People then realized that it did not do much good to pick up all the traffic related to an industry keyword, particularly if they were a local business. Instead, they wanted to pick up traffic related to their local area, so they might instead try to optimize for ‘Washington, D.C. plumber’ instead.

The beginning of change

Google does not really care about your site’s performance. They care about remaining on top as the most popular and useful search engine. This means that they want to provide the best possible experience for their users. When their users put a specific keyword into the search engine, they want to receive results that provide them with the information they seek. Google understood this and began instituting changes that worked to place a higher emphasis on quality, valuable content.

At the same time, competition increased considerably for websites. There was an estimated increase in websites from 57,000,000 to 915,780,262 in just 10 years. That meant that every keyword had that much more competition.

Search engine users began changing their search habits. Searches that said, “Utah plumber” were becoming less common and searches like, “where can I find someone to fix my toilet?” were becoming more common.

This led to the introduction of the so-called “long tail keyword”, which is really just a phrase that companies would optimize for.

Where we stand now and what marketers should do

The world of keywords is not likely to remain stagnant: Google will figure out better ways to read their customers’ minds and people will adapt how they use search engines. That does not mean that marketers should give up. When you consider that all these external factors have the same goal: to pair users up with the content and information they seek, it becomes easier to implement a strategy of value.

  • focus on keyword phrases that address common questions and concerns of customers
  • focus on keyword phrases that have decent search volume, but place a larger emphasis on phrases that high value targets use
  • focus on keyword phrases that best represent the value of your product and services
  • above all, focus on using keywords in content that adds value

When you keep these rules in mind, you should be able to whether changes to SEO strategy well. You will use strategy that plays to the heart of what search engines and users alike seek: value.

Jessica B spends her days writing content for her customers and laughing with her children. She loves learning about the latest in marketing and how it intersects with her background in psychology.


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