Writing SEO copy: do search engines still matter?

There was a time in the past when it was easy to spot pages that targeted search engines first and users second. These pages used keyword-based approaches (aka keyword stuffing) to indicate a page’s relevancy for a query. But today, search engines use such complex algorithms that if you simply repeat a keyword throughout a page, the result will be less than beneficial.

There was a time in the past when it was easy to spot pages that targeted search engines first and users second. These pages used keyword-based approaches (aka keyword stuffing) to indicate a page’s relevancy for a query. But today, search engines use such complex algorithms that if you simply repeat a keyword throughout a page, the result will be less than beneficial.

Over time a great many things have changed online, but the idea that, when you create excellent content for your user the search engines will follow, has remained constant. Only perhaps today is this more accurate than in the past.

So, what’s changed?

Without leaping down the rabbit hole of semantic search, user intent and contextual meaning, it’s probably fair to say that search engines are now able to grasp a concept behind a piece of content using related terms. No longer are we relying on a single keyword to rank content, but a whole vocabulary of related terms, even if the ‘primary’ keyword is not present!

Are keywords still important?

Yes. As you can see above, keywords are still a fundamental aspect of search (because that’s how users look for information) but the vista is widening. As technology, tools and platforms increase, so does our ability to reach customers in a variety of different ways, whether that’s using search engine optimisation or other strategies.

Keywords still matter, however, because adding a focus keyword and related terms, whether you do it consciously or subconsciously helps users and search engines find and understand the purpose of your page.

What’s next?

I love that copywriters can now focus on writing content for users. User experience is becoming an essential part of our marketing mix. Unique, imaginative, awesome content gets rewarded by search engines, imagine that! I still believe that all the elements of an optimised page are important not because they’re a place to stuff keywords but they add clarity about the content, which in turn performs well in search engines.