Ever since Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update (2018), exact-matching for keywords or search strings has become less important to promoting a business website. In fact, we’ve reached a point where you have to be careful about having too many precise matches on your website, since going above a certain keyword density could cause you to disappear from the search results altogether.
At the same time, searchers are using longer strings (often because of voice search apps) and Google is using artificial intelligence to deduce context from content throughout a website. All of this has left forward-thinking marketers to wonder: has Google killed exact keyword matching altogether?
The short answer, from our perspective, is “not exactly.” However, exact keyword matches simply don’t matter in search engine optimization the same way they use to. Let’s look at what you have to know to stay ahead of your competition.
Keyword Matching Still Matters, But…
All things being equal, it still helps you to have an exact phrase match for popular customer searches on your website. However, your search engine optimization plan shouldn’t stop there, and you shouldn’t overdo it with specific keywords.
You are much better off having lots of relevant and unique content on your website that just happens to have a few exact match phrases in titles or headings then you are to repeat the same term more than twice on a page. Keyword density is something of an obscure topic these days, with very few firm figures that can be reliably quoted from one month to the next. Still, one thing we are learning is that it’s better to err on the side of fluidity than it is to overdo things.
We are a long way from seeing an internet that’s free of traditional search engine optimization, but we have also come a long way from the algorithms that placed a lot of weight on exact keyword matches.
Context and Engagement are Bigger Search Signals
It isn’t enough to have a great deal of content on your site; to really make a splash in search engine optimization in 2018, you need high-quality posts and videos.
This is partly because you want to impress potential customers, of course, but also because keyword and search phrase matching are only an initial goal. To have buyers flock to your website again and again, you need to build up a content profile that shows you are a reliable source of industry information and encourages user engagement – preferably in the form of comments, shares, and followed links.
As artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms get better at separating search results that users like from ones that are simply well-optimized, these engagement signals carry a lot of weight.
The Takeaway for SEO in 2018
Web designers and search engine optimization consultants who tell you that keywords and exact matches mean nothing are getting a little bit ahead of themselves. Still, you could do very well in Google’s listings by ignoring exact matching altogether, particularly if you focused on producing quality content that’s interesting and engaging to your customers.
If you were to follow that approach, a lot of your keyword matching needs would take care of themselves. We still advise our clients to know search trends and do some light optimization, but the focus really is on spreading a brand and message rather than shoehorning obscure phrases into every paragraph.
Need Smart SEO Advice?
If you’re tired of getting generic search engine optimization advice, or feel like your web design team is still using tactics that were relevant five years ago but aren’t effective today, now is a good time to set your business on a new course.
Contact us today to schedule a website audit and search engine optimization review. We can give you a report that shows what is and isn’t working on your pages, and a plan that helps you to find more customers quickly and affordably.
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