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Google SEO: Time to Retire the Keyword from Site Architecture?

     
12:04 am on Sep 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In another thread someone asked about site architecture constructed around keyword phrases. But the more I think about it the more this tactic the more it resembles spam. The tactic I'm referring to is the one of creating a keyword pyramid with the big traffic keyword at the home page (top of the pyramid) and longer keyword phrases at the base of the pyramid, generally located several clicks away from the home page.

Is it time to retire Keywords as a way of organizing a web site?
2:23 am on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Asking old time SEOs to drop the 26 steps philosophy.... The next thing you'll be telling me is you can stop someone marrying if your job is to grant marriage licences!
2:38 am on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Is it time to retire Keywords as a way of organizing a web site?

I don't think many business sites are built hierarchically around variations of keywords. They are built around products and services, which, in turn, become keywords. The lower levels are simply variations of the products e.g. credit cards > versions of Visa or versions of MasterCard. Your scenario happens more in affiliate sites where you get the multiple pages using different adjective prefixes - cheap, inexpensive, budget, etc. But haven't most of them been whacked already?
4:15 am on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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This old hat SEO "near-myth" (it did work for a short time, about 90 days or so!) has ruined or complicated the commonsense layout of site hierarchy for at least a decade and a half, if not longer.

Those who never bought into that madness did not suffer, nor do they suffer now, for chasing the "keyword".

Site structure should be as commonsense and COMPACT as possible FOR THE WEB OWNER/DEV. Users are looking for content and the SEs will serp that for them, regardless of your hierarchy, though some hierarchies just might get a penalty hit for gaming the system with "keywords".

example.com makes more sense if it is

/
/articles
/audio
/inserts
/photos

than if it is

/photos/bigseller/red/size9/redbigsellersize9
etc

Building to keyword hierarchy has been outlawed by the sane and should be avoided by the getrichquik crowd as it does not work any longer.
6:06 am on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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 But the more I think about it the more this tactic the more it resembles spam.

lol
just using that on its own, yes, but, without carefully balancing keywords in the whole architecture, and ui, and beyond, the site will struggle to stand out in a crowded environment.

Think users first.
8:14 am on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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"Think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of
your content. Users who know a lot about the topic might use
different keywords in their search queries than someone who is new
to the topic. For example, a long-time baseball fan might search for
[nlcs], an acronym for the National League Championship Series,
while a new fan might use a more general query like [baseball
playoffs]. Anticipating these differences in search behavior and
accounting for them while writing your content (using a good
mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results.
9:49 am on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are you talking of a silo structure?
1:29 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Depending on how you go about it, focusing on keywords can cause a publisher to lose sight of what the content is really about. A disconnect emerges. You know what I mean, we've all done it. You know the keyword phrase you want to rank for. You create the site. Then slap the keyword with the highest traffic into the title tag. But this isn't AltaVista you're playing with. The algo grew up.

I did a site review a year ago and a guy in the financial space who wasn't ranking for his keywords submitted his site for a site review, asking what was wrong with it. He had a three word keyword phrase in the title of the home page. But reading the content, the content was really about a related phrase. A quick Google trends review confirmed that his chosen keywords had more traffic associated with it than what his page should have been titled with. And that was the case. His zeal for higher traffic ruined his chances for ranking the page for what it was really about.

It backfires to fit an Arnold Schwarzenegger sized keyword on a Danny DeVito sized web page. In my experience this is one of the leading reasons why a site does not rank for it's chosen keywords.

Googler Gary Illyes said as much in a recent interview with Bruce Clay, where Gary called out the practice of Over-SEOing content. The report on that comment is here, Are you Over-SEOing Your Websites? Some Are, According to Google. [thesempost.com]
2:57 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Methinks this particular situation sounds like a marketing misfire more than a problem with SEO architecture.

In this case, the marketer picked a keyword that didn't match his market.

Yes, he might have also picked an overzealous SEO person or strategy too - but does that condemn the broader concept?
4:16 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Well... consider this. In May 2012 Google announced the Knowledge Graph. They said it was the first step in an overhaul of how Google presents the SERPs. Moving away from text strings (simple pattern matching of text in the user query matched to text on the web pages) and moving forward to things; people, places, things and all the objects that modify them. The Knowledge Graph was one small part. Search was the next shoe to drop.

In 2013 the other shoe dropped. The Hummingbird Update in 2013 introduced the ability to identify meanings. This was the first time the algo attempted to understand meanings. This goes way beyond keywords and demands that we think in terms of meanings, especially as it relates to user intent. Meanings, user intent and topics.

Google warned the SEO community they were moving way from strings of text in 2012. In 2013 Google announced that they had moved away from strings of text, it was done. So why in 2015 are we still hooked on a strategy that is more or less (more than less, I think), more or less obsolete?

It could be said (and I am the one saying it) that the date Hummingbird was released in 2013 is the official date of the death of SEO strategies that begin with keywords.

Fire in the hole!
5:35 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And yet..If one searches using "strings of text"..one invariably gets back fairly accurate and usable ( from the point of view of the search ) results from pages that include those search strings ..( or the words in the strings in a slightly different order )..Of course that may be because we as webmasters know how to construct a search string text in order to prevent ( or mitigate to some degree ) the effects of Google trying to "second guess" our intent ( or present inaccurate SERPs but accurate adwords )..

Not saying you are wrong re the death of SEO strategies that rely upon strings of keywords , I tend to agree with you, ( and to agree that G have demoted pages that are obviously using such strategies ) but pages that have naturally occurring ( I think that you and I can tell natural speech or writing from SEO speech and writing ) matches to our search string texts in their speech and writing reach #1 easily, or naturally if you will..

I would say that Google do a great deal ( via direct and indirect announcements ) to dissuade webmasters ( and especially SEOs ) from using "formulaic" approaches..The webmasters who do not understand why such approaches may have worked previously, , but who have heard or read of their past efficacy move onto the next "sure fire SEO method" they hear or read about..

Which makes Googles life very much easier*..as they can reduce the number crunching power need to combat such things 24/7..

I have always had the impression from their actions ( I rarely take what they say as "gospel" ) that they are primarily concerned with not ranking the "abusers" and "formulaic SEOers**", in the same way that when certain "tools" got to the point that Google felt they were being made to look stupid, they slapped hard on all use of anything automated..

They don't seem to be nearly so interested in slapping down intelligence..but they do "randomise" results somewhat, so as to try to obscure "what might be working" from those who might be looking for it..

And of course, If they randomise the results a bit, then those who cannot be bothered with the instability of traffic based on such randomised organic places, if they have the funds, will buy adwords..and thus more stable traffic levels for their preferred keywords or phrases..

*Hence we can still see examples of even such old time "tricks" as "hidden text", or "only keywords and an image on almost otherwise bare page", working on some SERPs..Despite Google having said years ago that they could spot it and similar things and that the "algo" included things to spot it and not make it a ranking strategy..

** Sorry , I know it is not a word..but SEO didn't seem to "fit" so well..
7:38 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Speculating about the death of KEYWORDS as in ORGANIC SEO is like saying Google plans to dump Adwords. Mythbusting one suggests you need to consider how anyone would manage their PPC account.

I'm sure it can be done, but why bother with ALPHABET branding if you plan to extinguish KEYWORDS, also:

Keyword Planner is like a workshop for building new Search Network campaigns or expanding existing ones. You can search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics, see how a list of keywords might perform and even create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together. A free AdWords tool, Keyword Planner can also help you choose competitive bids and budgets to use with your campaigns.

Whether you're new to online advertising or an experienced pro, you can use Keyword Planner to lay the groundwork for a successful campaign.


...most of its revenue comes from better understanding how searchers use queries. So it seems pointless to destroy your own business model simply to deal with spam.

To invent a new way to deal with KEYWORDS implies you also have to re-train the world so your stocks don't take a nose dive.

You'll certainly see this coming for years and you won't need to speculate they will announce for 2020.

[edited by: fathom at 8:05 pm (utc) on Sep 15, 2015]

8:00 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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As for scope: today while drone

drone
drōn/
verb
1.
make a continuous low humming sound.
"in the far distance a machine droned"
synonyms:hum, buzz, whirr, vibrate, murmur, rumble, purr
"a plane droned overhead"
speak tediously in a dull monotonous tone.
"he reached for another beer while Jim droned on"
synonyms:speak boringly, go on and on, talk at length; More
move with a continuous humming sound.
"traffic droned up and down the street"
noun
noun: drone; plural noun: drones
1.
a low continuous humming sound.
"he nodded off to the drone of the car engine"
synonyms:hum, buzz, whirr, vibration, murmur, purr
"the drone of aircraft taking off"
informal
a monotonous speech.
"only twenty minutes of the hour-long drone had passed"
a continuous musical note, typically of low pitch.
a musical instrument, or part of one, sounding a continuous note, in particular (also drone pipe ) a pipe in a bagpipe or (also drone string ) a string in an instrument such as a hurdy-gurdy or a sitar.
2.
a male bee in a colony of social bees, which does no work but can fertilize a queen.



However, in 2015... A drone is also:

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone and also referred to as a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard.

Suggesting Google has good reasons to better understand the meaning of a search query, JUST TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE QUERY.
8:40 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I am hearing that keywords are no longer important but there is clear evidence that in certain cases they are still as important as they were in the past. Try a search for the acronym CMMS then look at the Maintenance Assistant website, which I see in position 2 of the organic results. To me it looks like a classic spammy page based only on keywords.
10:15 pm on Sept 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The problem is everyone site structure is broken not because of keywords but because some pages are removed from serps. You then feed internal pagerank to half a site and it filters away down a black hole of missing pages in serps. Many sites structured with keywords create a great landing page experience and work well on adwords. But when you remove pages from a site from ranking as Google do you pretty much break any site's overall ranking.
2:51 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I can't really remember the last time I seriously thought about keywords for organics, but it was probably around the time (not provided) showed up.

Still important for PPC though.
4:35 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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After doing Local SEO for a while now, I can say that keywords does matter to large extent on local business. How would you even expect G to consider your site to rank for certain matching search phrases if you haven't focused on it at all. If there is no any value of keywords why a domain something like xyz.com with keywords included in it's domain gets more value?
5:02 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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why a domain something like xyz.com with keywords included in it's domain gets more value?


September 28, 2012 [twitter.com]

@mattcutts Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.


Should we abandon keywords?
No. Absolutely not.
I'm not saying we should abandon keywords. However, since Google is ranking pages according to the meaning of the page, because it understands what the page is about, instead of simply pattern matching, doesn't it make sense to at least stop and think of the implications?
5:33 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Two things everyone already knows: Google is perpetually adding new ways to determine over optimization and penalize it. And they're always adding new ways to understand and rank content beyond simple keyphrases.

To me this was enough information, many years ago, to stop focusing on keyword optimization.

I think keywords still matter a lot but I also think any optimization that works now is likely a future penalty. If you're in the business of quick, temporary, income from boosts in organic traffic then optimize away. Otherwise ditch optimization completely and focus on content. It's been said so much it's almost a cliche but that's because it's true. Content will take care of keyword optimization for you.

I know it's the last thing people whose work is primarily SEO want to hear but I think it's a concept that gets re-proven every time a new generation of algo changes comes out. SEO (or I should say traditional SEO) is essentially a war with the search engines and it's pretty clear who's winning.
5:51 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think the point of the THREAD has been missed. OP's query was whether KEYWORDS in SITE HIERARCHY has seen it's day.

In that regard I am in complete agreement that time has come and gone, and as such, get your site hierarchy back to normal and usual commonsense organization. Easier on the webmaster, won't look funny to the end user, and the search engines are going after content, not keywords (which still have some value).

Clean urls makes for better management!
6:13 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I would complete disagree with that.

Website architecture is an approach to the design and planning of websites that involves technical, aesthetic and functional criteria. As in traditional architecture, the focus is on the user and on user requirements.


The URL SLUGS may very well be of limited value to ordered ranks but those are not the only pieces involved in Site Architecture. The Link Anchors are incredibly important especially in a PENGUIN world.
6:16 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have always been against the "Over-Optimizaton" stuffing with keywords on every thing is long gone. But I personally feel we somehow require keywords whether its in URLs, titles or alt tags to let the G better understand what the page is about.

If someone has a site with a full collection of infographics; you have to tell G what category this infographic fall under. Or are we expecting G to understand everything ?
6:52 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Still think you guys are over thinking this. Everyone is throwing around words that have too many meanings, or are absolute nonsense to start off with.

What is the definition of "architecture"? We just had one posted with a "disagree" a post or two above, and yet, that post is right in there where I live in that the CONTENT is king and the best way for a webmaster to MANAGE content is to not complicate his/her own job!

martinibuster started the premise with keyword top and increasing long tail (another "word pair" that has too many meanings) as does "architecture". To me (and I might be wrong) that sounds like navigational keyword/longtail stuffing in urls that really have no value these days. All the major search engines ignore it, so why complicate YOUR side of things? That's where I am in this thread. All the rest that has been brought up is about keywords having value (they don't, not like they used to) and keeping those shoved in the content even if it doesn't quite shoehorn.

KISS is the way, CONTENT is KING. TRAFFIC is the RESULT (and for those in commerce or ads) conversion is the DESIRE.
6:55 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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OP's query was whether KEYWORDS in SITE HIERARCHY has seen it's day.

That's one of many ways to optimize for keyphrases. The point some are making is that ANY over optimization for keyphrases has seen it's day.

I've always maintained that the less effective optimization becomes, the better it is for the web, going all the way back to the death of Altavista.
10:28 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@tangor CONTENT is KING


Content is king for what?
11:22 am on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Content may be king but (like Jeremy Corbyn) Google often does not always respect the monarchy. ;)
3:18 pm on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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IMHO, @Engine summed up the secret to success in these three words:
Think users first.

Figure out what the users you want to reach are looking for, put it on your pages with headlines and words the users actually use and search for. Add good and appealing calls to action and follow up with good customer service and you'll succeed.
3:29 pm on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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the secret to success

Surely it also requires luck.. ;)
3:33 pm on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think keywords are important because if you can't identify what you are about how can you tell about the subject. Keywords today are not being digested correctly. I saw a perfect example the other day. I saw a link saying trending topics. Listed was the term "Ohio stadium". Ohio stadium is also known as the Horseshoe and is home to Ohio State football. However when you click on that link what comes up? I big box to the right about Ohio University Bobcats (a completely different school). I can see how the confusion can happen but it still should not happen.

If you write about a subject correctly the keywords will appear. The issue is when you have something like an English teacher trying to analyze everything that is being said and they have no clue of the subject matter.
5:06 pm on Sept 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Awarn the gist of this topic was about (dot)com/keyword/keyword-keyword1.html compared to index.php?=123 and while I still disagree with the overall assumption and Matt Cutts makes a great point with his powertip here [youtube.com...]

The URL slug isn't very powerful but phrase variance can provide a lot of ADDITIONAL USERS.

My claim can be easily tested INTERNAL URL ANCHOR TEXT are extremely powerful. If you have an upper left hand corner text link labeled as HOME to your homepage on all pages of your website. Change that to an image link with a picture of the word HOME and include a single word keyword alt="Keyword1" there... Then in different parts (silos) of your website make that image alt="Keyword2" and image alt="Keyword3".

Google will mix & match & rank your homepage for a ton of new phrases proving that Site Architecture isn't just about URL Slugs.
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