Is the time of Key Words over?

Lets talk about what the Google I/O means for how we approach content and keywords.

Off the back of I/O- Googles annual conference – last week, many in the industry have quiet rightly started to question the long standing prevalence of keywords and the tools surrounding them.

Key words have always been an incredibly useful tool, and somewhat of a pillar in the SEO world. The bedrock for the practice of optimising for them has always been that the search engines were judging pages and sites by how they used them. It stands to reason that the more a site talk using specific words on a topic, and words surrounding it, the more valuable it would be to the user who was searching using matching words.

This is of course an over simplification, and only one factor in the ranking algorithm that search engines use, but it is one that has an extremely strong correlation between how you rank and the number of appropriate keywords (with demerits for using them to often, having them hidden and other methods used to game the system)

In Google I/O however, a significant part of the conference was dedicated to talking about how machine learning is helping to surface pages where the user may not be typing the specific words, or may not even know the words they are looking for.

The example used was a user searching “Why does my TV look funny?” Google using its AI computing will now surface results for “The soap opera effect” which is a common issue that many people are currently searching, even though the user was unaware of the need to search for this term. This aspect of Google’s new algorithm has impacts when a user is searching for non help items as well. Users will no longer be required to use specific words like ‘Fairs’ ‘Tariffs’ or ‘cost’ when looking for air travel. If they type “who much is a flight to LA” then google will understand what they are trying to find out, and match them with the most appropriate sites.

Where does this Google change leave me?

This is undoubtedly a useful change for your potential customers, but where does this leave you as a business trying put yourself out there? The short answer is that you should be refocusing. Google has always tried to show customers the best site for there needs. In that the site should be accessible, quick to load and full of content that answers the immediate question as well as more content that the customer can read to find out more should they wish.

Not having to focus on specific wording, but on the question that the customer is trying to get an answer to is the best journey for the customer and offers much more flexability for good writing. This chance to write better more engaging article will make the viewer more engaged and you will see the associated metrics that google sees off the back of it (better linking, better time on page, lower bounce rate.)


You now have the opportunity to write more flexibly, without having to artificially inject words for ranking. You should absolutely still be focusing on writing content that answers the key questions your customers are answering in and around your topic though.

Post next week

– What does this mean with regards to the tool-sets I’m using?

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