Exposing the lore 05: “You must use keywords”

EIL 05A newer blogger asked about keywords on a forum I follow, which is kind of a pet peeve of mine in content writing, along with that frightening, rapidly becoming an acronym, SEO, so I figured it was time to expose myself and share some thoughts about those two content nightmares.

Keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) seem to go hand in hand, though the latter involves more than keywords. But let us start with how keywords contribute to SEO.

In the olden days of Internet, long ago when there was much more text, fewer eye-catching photos (which took forever to download at 26kps) and even less entertaining videos, early search engines would need to look for information based upon words being used. It was probably easy to whip up an algorithm that could scan simple text and find common words used when writing about this or that subject. As far as I know, the search for words continues to lead the activity of search engines. After all, we mostly type some words into the search box when trying to find something we’re interested in.

Those words, then, became “keywords”, words that would attract the attention of Google and Bing and Yahoo and the rest, so that users could find the content they wanted to read. Writing about fly fishing? Then “fly fishing” will probably be necessary words to use in your content, since the user will probably type those two words into the search box. Somewhere along the search engine line, though, it became “important” the number of times “fly fishing” was used in the content in order for the text to get “indexed”.

From this added line of code in the search engine algorithm came a terrible habit of “stuffing keywords”, that is, using a particular word or combination of words over and over again so that the search engine would think you were talking a lot about the subject and thus move you up in ranks. Now, engines like Google are way to clever to allow something as simple as repetition of a word or phrase to lead to front page landing. And that’s where worrying about keywords is silly second guessing.

Because, if you think about it, any topic you choose to write about will include a set of words that are common to that topic. If you are talking about fly fishing, first you’ll probably use “fly fishing” a couple of times: it’s what you’re talking about, after all! Then there will be words like “feathers” and “thread” and “fishing pole” and “casting” that will be in your content. If you are well-versed in your theme, you’ll already know the kinds of vocabulary to use, the keywords will come naturally.

And that’s much more important than trying to get keywords into your text in the hopes that Google will notice you. You will never, never, never outguess Google. Their code is super secret and changes often. I personally don’t think even Google knows how Google works, but I’m biased.

When you take an assignment to write 200 words about a new foam mattress and the instructions tell you that you have to use “foam” and “mattress” and “comfortable” 5 to 7 times each, well, in the best of cases, 7% of your content will be keywords; in the worst, 10% will be repeating those three words. Who wants to have their content controlled up to 10% by words that might get you a hit?

And, please remember, Google is really smart. If Google notices that you’ve got 10% or more of your content made up of those keywords, you’ll get the Google hatch. You’ll get punished in the next round of indexing. You’ll end up on page 25 of hits, and everyone knows that no one clicks past the first three pages of a Google search, come on!

What am I suggesting then? Forget keywords! They are going to happen naturally. The only people who should be worried about keywords are those who are trying to sell something fast. If you’re writing a blog in a particular niche, you’ll already have done your own searches, you’ll already be using keywords to talk about your theme.

Of course you’ll want to use the “jargon” that belongs to your subject, and using it naturally will not only add to your quality but will also relieve you from this silly preoccupation with finding the magic word to repeat in every post and every header and every title that will catch Google’s attention. It just doesn’t work that way.

Want a magic word?


Works just about as well as worrying about keywords. Just write your best. There are much better things to spend your time on that will also lead to traffic.

Okay, I’m ready, whose going to jump in a defend all this keyword lore? ha.


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