We’re in 2020, and every SEO professional who has been in the industry can attest to how much things have changed in the last decade. In 2020, SEO experts were not dealing with things like Hummingbird, Panda, BERT, OR RankBrain. In fact, most experts thought that SEO content was all about:

  • Adding target keywords, together with its close variations in their content a number of times.
  • Ensuring that the target keyword appears in all the essential places, like the meta description, heading tag, and title tags among others.
  • Creating content with a minimum number of words because the length of content had an impact on its ranking.

However, Google’s algorithm has significantly changed within that period. What you need to understand now is that for your content to be ranked, it’s not all about manipulating Google by stuffing your target keywords in the right places. Today, you must provide a matchless experience to the people searching your content to rank better.

How should you use keywords?

For us to answer this question, we should understand what it means to create content for search.

But first, what’s SEO content?

This is the content that’s written to help websites of web pages to rank in search engine. However, most SEO experts don’t like that term—SEO content. The main reason behind that is, SEO content means content created for search engines, instead of people, which not good at all!

And why is that?

Google’s algorithms are a programmatic representation of searchers. Mostly, the algorithm tries to mirror what human visitors would select as their best result, that’s why the answer of how to rank is doing what’s best of online searchers.

Therefore, if that’s the type of content Google is looking to rank, the best way to write your SEO content is by writing in a manner that searchers will like—right?

Well, that’s not necessarily true—there’s more that’s needed than that.

Creating an SEO friendly content

An SEO friendly content is a content that comprehensively and clearly answers the searcher’s intent, and shows a high-degree of authoritativeness, trustworthiness, and expertise.

Let’s break that down further.

Content that answers the searcher’s intent

The first thing that any SEO friendly content should do is to answer the searcher’s question. That means the topic of the web page is determined by the questions the audience is asking.

What does that mean?

Not every content that’s created is relevant to the search audience. At times, content is created to break news or for thought leadership (new ideas, but there’s no existing demand for that content). Also, content can be created for the purposes of attracting social engagement.

There are several reasons why people create content. Therefore, you should never expect every single piece of content in your web pages to have good rankings in search engines. But, to create an SEO friendly content, you will need to create more audience-focused content, instead of trying to sprinkle keywords throughout your pages, and most of these keywords aren’t meant for your target audience.

Clear and comprehensive content

Whenever you ask someone a question, do you prefer them giving you vague or convoluted answers? Or a specific, direct, and straightforward answer?

Well, that’s a no-brainer—and that’s how Google thinks too!

However, it’s never exciting to discuss diction and grammar, as most SEO professionals prefer discussing a topic like natural language programming. But, what you should understand is, poor content can ruin your well-researched brief—which means GOOD CONTENT matters.

You should never overlook the power of the Grammar and Refinement tools in Microsoft Word’s setting. These tools can assist you in:

  • Finding complex words and replacing them with easier ones
  • Removing passive tone from your content
  • Making your content more clear and concise, and much more

Whenever creating content, it’s important to understand that Google values comprehensive content. The pages with the best ratings have satisfied or had the best quality content.

So, what does it means by a high-quality website? To answer this, the content on the website must provide a comprehensive or complete description of the topic.

Therefore, you should make sure that you are clear and thorough whenever you are answering your audience’s questions.

Do we need keywords in SEO? 

Now, if answering questions clearly and comprehensively the only way for your content to get organic search, what’s the role of keywords? How should you use them—if you have to?

Input vs. output

Let’s go back to the 2010 SEO content rules that we discussed earlier in this post. Everyone did that at that time, and they did it correctly. You can easily ridicule some of the work that people did back then, but content creation hasn’t improved much today.

Now, that happens when you give your writers a certain keyword, and then ask them to optimize the keyword for X. What the writes will do is to think of how they can “fix” that keyword in the content. In fact, most writers take this as a big challenge, rather than thinking of how they can answer the searcher’s query.

Here are two things that you should always remember when creating content:

  • Input: your keywords are the input
  • Output: when creating content for search, you are creating the output

Therefore, rather than asking how you need to add that keyword, you should start your content creation by asking—how can you answer that search query.

Shifting from keywords to queries

Let’s imagine that we’ve shifted away from the term “keywords” and we now refer to them as “searches” or “queries.” This is more likely to make you think of the keywords as something that you need to answer, rather than something that you need to “fix” in your content.

Thinking of these terms as keywords also come with other accidental consequences, like:

  • It preoccupies us on the main terms, thus making us ignore long-tail keywords, which are the most valuable.
  • Taking them as a single word, and forgetting that a keyword is anything that a person speaks or types into the search bar. It can be something from two words to 20 words.
  • It makes people be obsessed with a few useless keywords, and neglect the thousands of other search queries with the best possibility of driving traffic and impressions to their site.

Keywords are not bad—at all. However, how we talk about them is what matters.

Understanding BERT and Google’s history of keywords

If you’ve never heard of BERT, it’s one of the latest Google updates, that’s aimed at understanding the human language better. Even though it’s an Artificial Intelligent (AI) system that assists Google to understand the most complex search queries—you shouldn’t be surprised by its existence.

Back in 2011, Google released Panda, an algorithm update that focused on demoting web pages that offered little or no value and promoting high-quality websites and web pages.

In 2013, we had the Hummingbird, an algorithm that was created to better understand what every search query meant, instead of ranking content that matched these search queries. Here, we can see that Google was trying to assist content creators to focus more on answering search queries, rather than including keywords.

Google released RankBrain back in 2015, which is a machine learning program. RankBrain is part of Google’s search algorithm, and it has significantly boosted Google’s ability to give relevant results to new or confusing search queries.

With the introduction of BERET, Google claims that they aim to assist web searchers to stop relying on keywords when searching, and do their search in a more natural manner. It’s been Google’s objective to give content that answers our questions comprehensively—and they are becoming better every day that passes.

Therefore, you should start expecting more variety in the search terms that people use when performing a search. Also, you will need to monitor your queries in Google Search Console, and then use that information to create your search content.

Keeping both the searcher and your goal in mind

According to John Mueller from Google, the moment you know the methods that your audience uses to search, you should be able to write your answers naturally. And you should never forget to include a part or all of the search query in your answer.