How keywords in SEO have changed

By Tim Priebe on May 16, 2018

By Tim Priebe on May 16, 2018

Have you heard of keywords and key phrases as it relates to being found on search engines like Google? Keywords and key phrases are what search engine users enter into sites like Google, that businesses and nonprofits want to show up for. Well, a lot has changed over the years, and they don’t play the same role they used to.

Let’s take a look at how you shouldn’t be using keywords and key phrases the same way now that you did several years ago.


Before Google came into being, you would put words and phrases into hidden tags known as meta tags. The search engines that were around back then would not scan your entire website, they would just check those meta tags on each page.

Then, trusting what you put in there was accurate, they would rank your site appropriately.

The Old Google

When Google first launched, that changed. Google took into account the words and phrases that were actually on your site. They also took into account the words people used when they actually linked to a page on your website.

The actual words and phrases in your site and in the links were compared with what someone entered into Google when searching, and Google would rank your site appropriately.

Search Intent

Today, we’ve entered an age of what’s known as search intent. Google is much smarter than it used to be. Instead of matching exact words and phrases, Google tries to understand what the person is actually looking for, regardless of what they actually typed in, and ranks websites appropriately.

Sound confusing? Well, have you ever searched for something on Google and misspelled it? Did Google correct your spelling, showing results for the correct spelling instead, and tell you right on the top of the results?

That’s a very transparent, obvious way that search intent comes into play. In reality, it’s way more nuanced than that, and usually going on behind the scenes.

Are keywords still relevant?

So what role do keywords and key phrases play? Do they even still play a role?

They do, but not in the same way they used to. Keyword research is still valuable, because it tells you what people are searching for. While you don’t have to worry as much about matching the exact phrases, if you can give people the information they’re looking for, you’ll rank better in search engines.

So instead of trying to match the words and phrases exactly, think of them as topics you should cover on your website. Maybe you address them in static pages, maybe you blog about them. But use the keywords and key phrases as a jumping off point, rather than a strict set of rules.

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  1. Avatar Matt McNeil on May 17, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Highly informative and extremely helpful article here, Tim!

    • Tim Priebe Tim Priebe on May 31, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Happy to help, Matt!

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