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September 25, 2014

Google’s Move Away from Keywords

Everyone says it, everywhere, all the time: “Content is king.” For marketers, the pressure of conveying the appeal and meaning of content has rested on the mighty shoulders of keywords for a decade or more. Keywords became popular because of their impact in the world of search engines, but the readability of web pages began to crumble as a result. In an attempt to be savvy and appeal to Google, marketers stuffed keywords into every conceivable paragraph and piece of metadata, often rendering pages unreadable, but getting a boost thanks to archaic search algorithms.

Those days are officially over. The keyword pendulum went so far into the obsessive camp that Google has had enough. SEO, therefore, is dramatically transforming. A solid keyword strategy is no longer at the forefront of excellent search engine rankings. In order to rank high for your target phrases and categories, it’s no longer about keywords – it’s truly all about content. Relevant, value-adding, well-written, current, delicious content.

Catering to Your Audience, Not Search Engine Algorithms

The formula adopted by marketers across the web that landed us all in hot water is simple: Many started bowing to the mighty search engine, and not to their customers. This created way too many websites and content listings that were essentially useless to actual visitors. Eventually, the search engines had to respond, because if top ranking listings are actually useless to searchers, they won’t return to search again. Google and company have to cater to the masses, and so they need content creators and marketers to follow suit.

The secret sauce in marketing has always been, and always will be, knowing your audience. SEO took many of us on a wild goose chase to be at the top for our chosen keywords, and for a huge gaggle of professionals, that took them farther and farther away from their target demographic.

Keywords, then, are at the heart of this infraction. If you were after top rankings for the phrase “custom made furniture”, your entire content strategy may have been focused on those keywords. But what if your audience was actually looking for affordable sectionals and easy chairs? What if the voice of your customer was miles away from what you assumed they wanted?

That’s been the case for numerous marketers; a realization that what they want and what their customers were looking for were actually miles away from harmonious. If you’re one of those folks who got caught up in SEO for the sake of SEO, it’s time to recalibrate and reconnect with the people you serve.

Rethinking Your SEO Strategy

As Google shifts away from the obsession with keywords, marketers are refocusing too. Thus far, this is proving to be a win-win. It turns out the more you focus on your audience’s needs, the more search engines will take notice now too. Finally, common sense is returning.

Michael Iwasaki, managing partner of 24-7 Press Release (a company that knows oodles about what content is distributed across the web every day), gives us this advice about SEO:

“Well-crafted story telling has always been important and even more so today with Google’s implementation of Penguin 2.0. Tried and true doesn’t necessarily work. Focusing on relevance and creating content that’s accurate, smart, meaningful AND entertaining trumps old boring standards. You need to be empathic with the end reader in mind.”

Effective Marketing Equals Effective SEO

The best advice I have for creating great SEO is to stop obsessing over it. Instead, focus on what we know is most important: Content. Since the web is cluttered with thought leadership pieces, social media, videos, and blogs a-plenty, make everything you create truly count as something meaningful. Every word should have purpose. Every article a clear message. And by all means, make every effort to be entertaining too.

Furthermore, don’t forget to focus on your metrics. If you’re not studying how each content piece is fairing with your audience, you are likely wasting valuable time and resources. Intently study which pieces garner the highest engagement, and attempt to duplicate the secrets to your success. On the flipside, look just as squarely at items that didn’t reach an audience, determining if it’s the content that failed or just a failure to find eyeballs. Metrics are your friends!

Tips on Finding Your Audience

As you pull away from an imbalanced focus on keywords and get back to what matters most, telling the story of your goods or services, finding your audience becomes paramount. Another issue with the obsession with keywords is a sole reliance on search engine rankings for marketing purposes. If you’ve gone down that road, you know it rarely works.

Instead, leverage social media and distribution tools to funnel your audience to your content. By this token, the press release is anything but dead; it’s another form of content that can be a powerful storyteller. Iwasaki puts it this way: “News distribution should be a key component in any marketer’s toolkit. Think in terms of writing an effective story, not a release. How you choose to reach out to journalists and your other contingencies directly correlates between being successful and not.”

In short, SEO is essentially transforming into content marketing. It’s a cart before the horse scenario if you’ve put SEO at the front. Your content tells the world who you are and what you provide. Without it, all the keywords in the world won’t save your business.

How have your SEO and content marketing practices evolved this year?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile