Keywords have always been at the very heart of every search engine marketing strategy. Matching the words that people type into the search field with the words on a web page has been the solid cornerstone on which all online marketing has been built.
However, Google is trying to reduce their dependency on keywords and recent information coming out of the Googleplex in Mountain View suggests they are making some big steps to achieving this goal.
Google have always seen dependency on keywords as a bit of a blunt tool and open to some manipulation by clever marketers. It also means that many relevant pages are not indexed and listed correctly. For example, an article that mentions lava, steam and eruption is clearly about volcanoes, yet if it did not include the word volcano it would be ignored by the search engines, if someone searched for ‘volcano’.
Simple examples would be if someone used the word ‘picture’ instead of ‘photo’, or ‘soccer’ instead of ‘football’.
The truth is matching keywords is a far too simplistic way of accurately finding and indexing content.
Therefore, all the big search engines, and Google in particular, are looking at including synonyms and word association within their search algorithms. This means if someone searches for the word ‘volcano’, the algorithm will also look for other words associated with volcanoes to get a sense of what the whole page is about. Indeed, Google recently revealed that 70% of the searches they undertake across 100 languages now include synonyms. Furthermore, in 90% of those searches websites are listed in the search results that would not have been listed without synonyms and in only 10% of these cases is the synonym-generated result inaccurate.
This insight into Google’s strategy is very important to every website publisher.
Keywords will always be relevant in search, but over the next few years carefully crafting keyword-driven pages, with the repetition of words in the URL, title and body text, will become far less effective. As always with online publishing, the successful sites will be those that regularly create really good content which people want to read and link to.
To read more about how Google is using synonyms read this blog post.