Keywords are Useless – Long Live Keywords!

When it comes to blogging, keywords are the kind of thing that invokes a multitude of cliches: “ya can’t live with ‘em and ya can’t live without ‘em,” “better seen and not heard,” and “it’s a love hate relationship.” All of these axiom apply, plus more.

Meta No More

Keywords are the terms that indicate what you are writing about and they tell a search engine what’s on your web page. Use that keyword a lot and the search engine will thinks it’s really important and give it higher ranking. At least that’s how it used to be, back in the early days of Google, but not anymore.

Google struck back a while ago against “black hat” marketers who dominated the search engine results (SERPs) by stuffing their crappy pages with keywords. Google stopped taking meta keywords into consideration, and by using ever-changing algorithms, they began favoring unique, high-quality content over keywords. In effect, meta keywords became useless.

Last year, Goggle unleased warm and fuzzy-sounding Panda – a new algorithm to act as a web enforcer for worthy web sites – causing many high-ranking sites to unexpectedly go south in the SERPs. This April’s release of the Penquin update has further muddied the Internet waters by actually penalizing sites with less than original content. Bad site, no ranking.

Then, out of the blue came an announcement from Google that they have installed a news_keyword meta tag to “empower news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.”

This new tag allows bona fide news outlets to use keywords the old-fashioned way: separated by commas. That way, Google can search articles “without forcing the editors to water down the creativity of a great headline.”

So instead of loading the headline down with boring names and places, newspapers can be more cleaver with titles and still keep their ranking. Long live Keywords!

That’s nice for newspapers, but what’s a blogger to do?

KeyWord Placement

The rest of us bloggers are limited to using about 8 fields to plug in our keyword:yoast seo,

Article Title


Sub heading

Page URL (or permalink)


Meta description

Photo/Video Alt Text

Photo/Video Description

Yoast will help you place them properly via his WordPress SEO plugin. You gotta love his sense of humor. The Titles and Meta page offers a “use meta keywords” check box followed by, “I don’t know why you’d want to use meta keywords, but if you want to, check this box.”

On the Edit page, Yoast’s SEO gives you a chance to enter one keyword or keyphrase and it analizes the page around that. Yoast SEO will count the number of times your keyword appears, but logically the only place it can be used more than once is in the content.

Even in the contenct, the number of times the keyword should appear depends on the length of the article. The ratio of keywords to word count is called keyword density, but you don’t want it too dense.

Here, I’ve used the word “keyword” 8 times in this 585-word post, and 12 times for “keywords.”  I wonder if the Penguin will penalize me.

Here is more about using keywords in WordPress. Although the Meta Keyword tag is useless, keywords still live large in other places. The trick is to use keywords wisely.

I will be speaking about this and 9 other Things to Know About Using WordPress at WordCamp Vancouver, October 13 at BCIT in Burnaby, BC. Get your tickets now and look for me there.

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