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A long long time ago, web creators used “keywords” as invisible metadata to tell search engines what their websites were about. Google stopped referencing metadata keywords over a decade ago, but the name has lived on in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

First up I want to state the obvious: there is no secret sauce which will lift a website to the top of search results. If there was then the second website that used this secret sauce would cause some sort of reality inversion because you can’t have two websites at the top of search results at the same time. Any “SEO expert” selling you this dream should be treated with caution.

Back to “keywords”, in SEO talk this term is often used for search phrases or terms that people will use to try & find what they are looking for.

So far so good, using the same words/ phrases/ terms our target audience does is very important for both user experience & search engines.

Let’s say I have a bicycle shop but want to stand out from the crowd:

At Tama’s Velocipede Emporium we peddle an ample collection of foot actuated transportation. Sojourn to our abode to bathe in the beauty of dual wheel ingot crafted steeds for all your perambulating requirements.

I’ve certainly stood out from the crowd & but it does a terrible job communicating what my company does to the average person or search engine bot.

A common response in SEO circles is to add “keywords”. So let’s try this again:

Tama’s Velocipede Emporium is a bike shop & bike workshop in Nelson, New Zealand. We sell bicycles, repair bicycles and rent bicycles. We offer a wide range of bicycles including mountain bikes, enduro bikes, trail bikes, cross country bikes, downhill bikes, road bikes, race bikes, time trial bikes, triathlon bikes, multisport bikes, track bikes, commuter bikes, urban bikes, comfort bikes, cycle trail bikes, cargo bikes, utility bikes, touring bikes, cyclocross bikes, gravel bikes, electric bikes, e-bikes, ebikes, tandems, unicycles, bmx bikes, jump bikes, stunt bikes, kids bikes, youth bikes, children bikes, runner bikes, kick bikes, toddler bikes & tricycles.

There we go, that certainly covers a lot of keywords…

…but let’s be honest, it’s a horrible user experience. So, how about this:

Tama’s Velocipede Emporium is a bike shop in Nelson, New Zealand. We sell, service, repair & love all types of bicycles. Give us a call to see how we can help you, or browse our website for more information on what we offer.

Which brings me to the main point of this post:

Always write your content for your human audience.

Your content should be for people first & foremost, if it works well for people it will work for search engines for two reasons:

  1. Modern search engines are designed to interpret human-facing content.

  2. Google uses visitor engagement as a way of ranking websites.

This last point is very important. The idea is that Google can measure visitor engagement a number of ways - including tracking time spent on the site, the number of pages visited & in some cases even actions like purchases/ contact form submissions.

As an example if someone searches for “bike shop” clicks through to a confusing website & spends 20 seconds trying to make sense of things before fleeing to another search result where they spend 5 minutes browsing a number of pages - the second website will rank better.

To summarise:

Well presented, well written human friendly content is always going to perform better than jamming your website full of “keywords”. Write for people, not bots & your website should flourish.

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