In the prehistoric days of search engine optimization (SEO), keywords were, well, the keyword. Writers scrambled to make their content fit with a predetermined set of words.
When used right, keywords were an excellent tool to help guide content. When used badly, the content was an obvious afterthought and keywords looked like puzzle pieces, with obvious seams.
Fortunately, keywords don’t have quite the same hold over writers that they did in the past. Google, being Google, is always a step or six ahead of us, so that could change, but for now, Google’s bots search far more comprehensively and they look for good content, not just a cheap attempt to fill in all the keywords.
That being said, Google isn’t psychic. Your site still needs to tell it and your customers what you do, you just don’t have to repeat it. In fact, Google frowns on repetition.
Google’s first focus is going to be on the body of your homepage. If you own a furniture store, “furniture store” should be in the body of the homepage, but you already knew that. If furniture delivery is a big part of your business, your delivery area might be important as might the main lines of furniture that you carry. Don’t save those crucial bits of information for the subpages.
You should also mention other search terms. You might, for example, mention “sofas” or “tables” but you can do that on subpages.
Google also does something these days called “semantic search,” which basically means that Google’s gotten a lot smarter. With semantic search, instead of searching for keywords, it’s searching for meaning within your website. For example, if you own a Subaru repair shop and a user searches “oil change Outback” your shop should show up, even if your website doesn’t mention oil changes.
The site is just as important
Google ranks sites that are good and popular higher than sites that are bad and unpopular. A quick loading site will rank higher than a slow one. Easy navigation is key. Run your site by a 3rd party or two before releasing it to the public. Does the layout make sense? Is the navigation bar intuitive? Take advantage of headers, footers and sidebars.
Fortunately, though, gone are the days when writers are slaves to keywords. Google can pretty much figure out that if you’re an art supply store, you probably sell stencils. If your content is accurate and relevant and your site offers a positive user experience, you will see your ranking climb.