“Our friend, Mr. SEO Keyword Phrase, was a great man. Well, not really a man, but a nebulous term used to describe the words people typed into tiny search bars to find what they needed. Somewhere around September 23rd, 2013, our dear friend, Mr. Keyword, was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident by the mighty Google search delivery truck. Farewell, Mr. SEO Keyword Phrase.”
When our Director of Marketing came to me and asked me to write a eulogy for the SEO Keyword, I’ll have to admit, my feelings were mixed. “I don’t really believe in that, though,” I said.
“Have you heard the news? Google is going 100 percent not provided,” he replied, to which I nodded, acknowledging that I too had heard (had just finished watching Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Tuesday on the subject, in fact). We chatted about what it meant for us, for marketers and SEOs, for customers, for all. I agreed to write the eulogy.
But you see, the trouble is that while we may not be able to get much organic search traffic data from our keywords now, I still don’t believe that the “keyword” is dead. Check out the definitions of keyword:
1. A word that serves as a key to a code or cipher.
2. A significant or descriptive word.
3. A word used as a reference point for finding other words or information.
These three definitions make my content strategist’s heart accelerate. They fill me with excitement. They promise the thrill of the hunt.
True, one of our tools—a major tool for SEOs and marketers alike—has been stolen from us. But a keyword always was a key to a code or cipher. Whereas before we had a nifty little box where we could plug in words and see what was most popular, now we’re left with… the hunt.
Take away my information, Google. Hide it. Call it “not provided,” and blame it on something other than what it really is: an attempt to hold the data, for he who has the data has the power. You’re a business, and you have a right to run your business the way you want to.
But, until users stop typing WORDS into a search bar in order to find information, I refuse to call the “keyword” dead. It is still a “significant or descriptive word.” It is still a “reference point for finding other words or information.” Most importantly to my gleeful, optimistic heart, it’s still the “key to a code or cipher.”
You see, I approach keywords differently. I tend to think audience first… language second… and traffic an important third. So you’ve taken away one of my qualifiers. Guess what that means for me, for the rest of us marketers? It’s time to find another way to solve the puzzle, to find the key – or, in our case, to rely on methods we’ve had all along.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you do something with your business – sell a product, provide a service, etc?
- Do you have customers?
- Do you and your customers use words to talk and write about your products and services?
Sorry for the snarky list, but let’s get real: people still type words into a search engine. As long as there are people, then there is a source that any marketer or SEO can speak to and research in order to collect data about how people describe our products and services.
In other words, as long as people use language, then we have a way to get information on what language is used in search. Does it make our jobs harder? Hell yes, it does. But interviews, customer surveys, and other means of getting to know our audience better will not only give us a better understanding of how they use search to find information and solve problems, but also who they really are – they’re emotional triggers, the jobs they’re using our products for, the Zero Moment of Truth moments that start their journeys to use before they ever type in a “keyword.”
The keyword isn’t dead. The audience lives on. Long live the power of communication.
Image credit: Furzepig Festival