Are Synonyms the New SEO?

Until recently, keyword research had been about what DIFFERENTIATES the meaning of words.  Hence the SEO obsession with targeting long-tail keywords.  In the wake of Google’s algorithm updates – Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird – a new and more subtle approach may be needed to accommodate more clearly what UNITES the meaning of words… and thereby extend the DEPTH OF REACH of SEO copy. For more effective SEO copywriting, we should be looking at using keywords or phrases that are broadly synonymous – as semantic ‘alternatives’ rather than ‘options’.  This observation was prompted by a recent article on Wordtracker’s blog – but also by my own vast experience as a website and SEO copywriter. The difference between ‘alternative’ and ‘optional’ may not be immediately apparent, but consider this nugget from a 2011 Google patent (that was also quoted in the Wordtracker article): ‘A search query for a search engine may be improved by incorporating alternate terms … that are semantically similar to the terms of the search query.’ Now this can obviously be open to interpretation – especially what looks like the mis-use of the word ‘alternate’ – but here’s how I see it from a copywriting perspective… The best copywriting response to a ‘search query’ (as Google describes it) is obviously a keyword-based solution.  If Google then says that a specific search approach can be ‘improved’ by including ‘alternate terms’, it obviously places a totally different onus on the copywriting response! Setting language free… Long before Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird, I had often felt that optimising web pages for a narrow keyword range was somehow missing the point in... Read more...

SEO Climate Change – When Penguins Might Fly

We all know that Google has been frantically trying to improve the validity and value of its search results through a sequence of recent ‘Updates’ including Panda and Penguin.  We also know that Google includes elements of semantic search in its algorithms. What very few people discuss is how the physical practice of making an online search could be improved.  Given that search engines are beginning to understand the meaning of text on website pages when its ‘bots do a crawl, it’s logical to ask whether keywords are really up to the job of best interpreting and reflecting the semantic possibilities? This article is intended as a discussion point only.  In no way does it set out to prove a point or claim any great revelation.   A lot of academic work has been done on search methodologies – including semantic search – so there’s nothing new under the sun (as they say!).  The search engines themselves are continually claiming breakthroughs in this field, with more accurate search results being their ultimate aim. One perspective they do not and cannot bring to the table is that of a coal-face creative in the shape of a website or SEO copywriter.  Having been involved in website and SEO copywriting for a number of years, I’ve witnessed the rise and fall in the importance of keywords and the ways in which they have been aggrandised and devalued in turn. At a practical level, I’ve never heard what mainstream or online marketing professionals think about the current keyword search system.  Whilst it’s true that keywords have been demoted in the SEO stakes (even to... Read more...

Do Keywords Have a Future?

With SEO taking a dramatic change of direction over the past year (Panda, Venice and Penguin), we’ve seen endless articles ruminating over just about everything under the sun – except the impact the updates have had on keywords!  The apparent significance of keywords has slipped dramatically, which begs the obvious question: what is the future for keywords? In the past I’m sure you can remember some of the simplistic keyword techniques that were used to boost web page rankings. It was simply a matter of doing some keyword research, following the keyword density rule, inserting the magic words in the meta tags, title tags etc – and job done! Things have changed.  In a post-Penguin world, it looks like keywords may have slipped down the pecking order (if you’ll pardon the pun!). For a while now, it’s been clear that keywords are less of a ranking factor with Google.   The search engine has in fact stated that they no longer require keyword indicators. This has led many industry experts to believe context is now king. Another example of this can be seen in the recent Penguin update which has resulted in  penalising the over-optimisation of anchor text links. In other words, anchor text links using blatant, unnatural keywords have been made void and many sites have seen a dip in rankings because of this.     With ‘context’ now taking precedence, what are the alternatives? Put simply, all the copy on your site needs to be ‘natural’.    You really shouldn’t try to tailor your copy to suit Google’s algorithms.  It should be written in a ‘natural’ style where your carefully-researched... Read more...

Website Copywriting, Keyword Shuffling and the Visible, Video Future

It’s not that long ago when clients would say they wanted a ‘keyword density’ of three, four or five per cent in their website copywriting.  That gradually changed into a preference for ‘making the copy flow – and don’t worry about the keywords’.  That has changed yet again to placing the emphasis on ‘quality content’, and the improved link building that results from it. Keywords are still important – even if not at densities of five per cent!  Attractive, flowing copy will always be important to the user experience, irrespective of keywords.  Similarly, making sure that the user experience is maximised by providing quality content is nothing new – and link building itself has always been a pillar which supported SEO efforts.   What HAS changed is the emphasis on certain aspects of website copywriting.  Look a little deeper and you will notice that Google’s preference for ‘quality content’ has extended to the more visual aspects of the web such as videos, charts and so on.  In addition, by rewarding original content – including research results or the various strands of   ‘thought leadership’ – we are seeing a move towards a new kind of search reality.  For long enough, we’ve seen web content that simply re-cycles the status quo.  As long as it read well and included the necessary keywords, a web page would rank.  To its credit, Google is trying to change that.   Linking Thinking Issues…   The issue of ‘links’ and link building is more contentious.  Current thinking has it that it’s only ‘high authority’, relevant links that will cut the mustard.  Links in themselves lend... Read more...