While Google uses over 200 factors to rank websites, at least 40 of these relate to content and keywords, with the majority at the top of the list, denoting their high level of importance. By no means is this an indication that you should focus all of your attention on content and keywords — especially not at the expense of the many critically important on-page elements — but it’s vital to understand the importance of content and keywords in organic search rankings.

And while the majority of factors relating to content and keywords are at the page and domain level, content and keywords are still important ranking factors at a backlink level, as you can see from these screenshots from this Backlinko article on Google ranking factors:

Conducting keyword research to identify the most relevant keywords and creating quality content which leverages the keywords identified, are two of the most critical success factors in getting your web pages to rank on the first page of Google’s SERPs.

Keyword Research

According to industry experts Moz, “Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market’s keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.”

Keywords determine what people know your business for, so view keyword research as a blueprint for your digital marketing efforts, one which drives the majority of the decisions you make. Basically, identifying the right keywords now makes your future digital marketing efforts easier and more efficient. That means optimising your website with keywords isn’t about getting as many visitors to your website as possible, it’s about getting the right visitors to your site.

Keywords are incredibly valuable because they are the words potential customers are searching for when they look for businesses like yours. If you are familiar with Google’s Keyword Planner, you can use this tool to look for high-value keywords in any industry and get an idea of just how much businesses are willing to pay to show for their most valuable keywords in paid search (Pay-Per-Click).

In some industries, like insurance and legal practice, for example, businesses are willing to pay top dollar to show for the keywords they know will target the right customers, as you can see by ‘injury lawyer near me’…

… and ‘life insurance quotes’…

As AdWords ads, that’s the suggested bid price per click. That means every time someone clicks on that ad the business can pay as much as that bid amount — this is the keyword’s maximum cost-per-click. So, identifying the right keywords to use in your on-page content, along with your meta descriptions and titles, H1s, H2s and URLs, is a critical ranking factor that you don’t want to overlook.

And although you’re not bidding and paying for each click in SEO, you’re still competing against your competitors for the attention of potential customers using those search terms. Essentially, keyword selection is the cornerstone of online visibility.

Content Quality

There has long been a trend in SEO to focus on keyword usage at the expense of content quality. When search engines were in their infancy stages and rankings were determined by the presence of keywords more than other factors, it made sense to include as many instances of a keyword as possible. Today, however, this is known as keyword stuffing which is a black hat SEO technique, that if you’re penalised for using, can see your rankings drop significantly and your organic traffic dry up altogether.

Keywords will always be among the most important ranking factors, but now that Google places far more emphasis on user experiences than ever before, it’s vital to write for people and not strictly for search engines. Quality content attracts visitors which in turn leads to higher rankings and conversions, so it’s safe to say that SEO and well-written, user-focused content go hand.

This may go against everything you’ve heard or read, as many people are still of the mind that SEO and content marketing are two distinctly different things, but that isn’t the case at all — especially not in 2018. Sure, there are several critical points of differentiation between the two, but they complement each other — and are inextricably linked and intertwined — in many ways.

A good way of viewing the relationship between SEO and content marketing is that SEO makes certain demands that content marketing fulfils, after all, SEO requires keywords and content marketing provides the keywords it requires to provide visibility in SERPs. Here are a few more examples of how content marketing meets the demands of SEO:

  • SEO demands backlinking. Quality content gives web pages high DA (Domain Authority) that increases the link juice passed back to the site.
  • SEO demands fresh content. Content marketing delivers a consistent output of up-to-date content.
  • SEO demands topnotch UX (User Experience). Well-written, relevant content enhances the UX that web pages deliver.

Without quality content, the demands of SEO in terms of healthy SERP rankings can’t be met. That means web pages without relevant, well-written content (optimised with the right keywords) won’t rank and, therefore, won’t be found by potential customers searching for them.

Creating Quality Content

To create quality content that improves your SEO rankings, you need to think like Google. Google’s ongoing efforts to enhance and improve their search results is the reason why quality content is a must for local search engine optimisation in 2018. Ask yourself whether the content produced for your website is in line with what they’re insisting on, which is user-focused, well-written, relevant, unique, informative content that answers the searcher’s query. And don’t forget to include the appropriate keywords that you have identified, though don’t use them excessively at the expense of the user experience.

That may seem like a lot to aim for but it is achievable. If you research what your target audience wants to know and take cues from the top-performing websites for relevant search queries — this is another example of how keyword research comes into play — creating high-quality content that’s good for your target audience and for Google is likely to be easier than you think.

This is part three of four in our four-part search engine optimisation tutorial which looks at the importance of local search engine optimisation in 2018, the Google-friendly techniques we use to improve your SEO ranking and answers questions like “Why does SEO take so long?”.

Bambrick Media is an SEO company in Brisbane that’s helped over 500 local and national get the best results from their SEO campaigns and is committed to providing insightful resources to help non-marketers better understand SEO. To speak with a team member about your SEO goals and our SEO services, please get in contact with us us here.