We have been seeing the decline of the keyword over the past couple of years. With successive Google updates and changes to their search philosophy, it simply isn’t as easy as putting keywords you want to rank for in your website content.

Google’s algorithms are growing ever more sophisticated as they move towards making sure users are getting the results they want. In light of this, the importance of onsite optimisation for your search rankings continues to grow.

Placement over prevalence

Keywords still have some importance for Google. Without words, Google can’t actually determine what your website is about when it crawls your page. But it’s not about how often keywords occur anymore.

Now, where you place your keywords matters more than frequency. The way Google analyses your pages involves breaking them down into components, with factors like the header and meta information of the highest priority in informing Google of what you do.

Thus, placing keywords in these high-priority areas will help your SEO efforts far more than stuffing keywords into your copy.

Optimise for meaning

Google is getting scarily smart. It isn’t just pulling keywords from your site anymore – it’s actually attempting to interpret them and use that interpretation to understand what your business does.

That means it doesn’t really matter what specific words you use on your website – if phrases mean the same thing Google will rank you for that meaning rather than the words.

The key takeaway here is that you should be thinking about optimising your site for a meaning – not for keywords.

Google search is semantic

Here’s another aspect of Google’s growing intelligence. When you make a search on Google, it’s no longer breaking down the keywords you use. Rather, it’s looking at the overall meaning of your search query.

So when you search for “cheap salsa classes in Sydney,” Google doesn’t consider the individual keywords “cheap,” “salsa,” “classes,” and “Sydney,” and give you results about spicy condiments. Rather, it gives you results for cheap dance classes in Sydney – because it’s interpreted the meaning behind your entire query, and what it means together, rather than individual keywords.

Your structure has to be up to scratch

The overall structure of your site has to be strong. Google rewards good structure with better rankings for two reasons – it aids in the user experience when they visit your page, and because it makes it easier for Google to find what it’s looking for when it analyses it. So adhering to the traditional website structure preferred by Google – with page headers, body, footers, as well as overall website features like a sitemap – is good practice for SEO (and for your user experience).

Speed and security are key

Aside from matters of content, speed and security play a part in your ranking. Sites that lag aren’t ranked as highly by Google, but if you have SSL encryption you’ll receive a rankings boost.

It’s important to understand that keywords do still matter, and you should have some idea of the keywords you want to target. But increasingly, the way they’re interpreted by Google is organic and meaning-based, rather than simply taking the keywords you use at face value.