Keywords in SEO. Are they still relevant?

Back in the day, it was easy to get great rankings on search engines. All it took was an evening of smashing as many keywords onto your page as possible with reckless abandon. Then wait. Nowadays, it’s not that simple.

Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird

Panda was the first of many changes Google has made since 2011. It’s purpose was to force websites to care more about content. Not just keyword stuffing. If your website contained minimal, short, or duplicate content, you were penalized and your pages visibility was limited in results.

Penguin launched a year later and made more changes. It further rewarded high-quality websites and punished those with manipulative schemes, like keyword stuffing. Then Hummingbird came along.

Hummingbird’s main goal was to understand the searcher’s query more thoroughly. It was an effort to figure out user intent, and not just serve up something that may seem to be a perfect match. By using context, it could return what the user was actually looking for even when their search may have not been the best way to look for it. But it doesn’t end with Hummingbird.


RankBrain is a machine-learning and artificial intelligence that helps to process and sort what is returned from searches. It’s main job is to understand keywords and measure user satisfaction. In order to do that it must look at many factors. By order of importance, direct website visits, time on site, pages per session, referring domains, content length, website security (https), and finally, keywords in the anchors, body, title, and meta of your page are all considered.

Google cares much more about behavioral factors than keywords. Do people stay on your site? Do they look at lots of pages? Do other sites send you traffic in their links?

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be using keywords. It’s just important to strike the right balance.

What should you do?

  • Use keywords in strategic places. Don’t just keyword stuff into the content of your body. It’s best to focus on page titles, URLs, descriptions, and image alts.
  • Try variations and synonyms. Google understands variations of words and even synonyms. In many languages. No need to try to use the exact phrase or keyword over and over.
  • Avoid black hat SEO. Don’t hide links or use keyword stuffing. Simple! Even if you rank better in the short term, you’ll quickly be penalized.
  • Write for people. Optimize for search engines. Your content should come first. It should answer the question the user has, give them useful information, and just be structured well and look good.
  • Contact Powerserve! We can help you review your site and give you the best way to move forward with your SEO, SEM, or advertising campaigns. Call us at 706.826.1506, or send us an email at

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