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How important are keywords to SEO and how do you measure their success?

Keywords remain an essential part of a successful organic search strategy; they are how Google understands the content on your website and its relevance for a user’s search query.

To quote Google’s ‘How Google Search Works‘, there are three distinct phases:

1) Crawling: Google downloads text, images, and videos from pages it found on the internet with automated programs called crawlers.

2) Indexing: Google analyses the text, images, and video files on the page, and stores the information in the Google index, which is a large database.

3) Serving search results: When a user searches on Google, Google returns information that’s relevant to the user’s query.

So, using keywords (or text) is an important part of helping Google understand what your website should rank for. To understand what your customer is searching for on Google you need to conduct keyword research. Some phrases or sentences will be searched for more than others resulting in a higher search volume. Typically, the higher the search volume, the more competitive the keyword i.e., more brands who are also looking to rank on the first page of Google. Looking to rank for lower volume and less competitive, but still relevant, keywords can be a great starting point to obtaining organic traffic visibility.

As Google’s algorithms have adapted, they’re able to understand more nuanced and semantic keywords. Meaning the algorithm understands a user’s intent and related keywords. This also means that since the introduction of Hummingbird in 2013, Google places less emphasis on the frequency of keywords in website copy or ‘keyword stuffing’ to determine rankings. It’s more about creating great, relevant content!

To measure success, Google Analytics will help you track your end goals of traffic and conversions, but you won’t have visibility of keywords you rank for, this will show up as (not provided). To do this, you need to look at Google Search Console for keyword click and impression data as well as monitoring keyword rankings through third-party tools such as Ahrefs, Advanced Web Ranking, and SEMrush.

Simply adding keywords to your website won’t make you instantly rank for your desired keywords – you need to combine this with great content, a technically-sound website, and strong links from external websites.

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