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A good blog post from Google: [webmasters.googleblog.com ]
Firstly, you are supposed to write content so it 'serves the genuine interest of your visitor'. But how do you know what's their 'Genuine interest?'. By doing some keyword research of-course.
If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content.
As explained, pages that drop after a core update don’t have anything wrong to fix. This said, we understand those who do less well after a core update change may still feel they need to do something. We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.
To know your visitors (so you can serve them good content) is to know what they are searching for. In other words - to know the keywords they use.That's a pretty massive conceptual leap. Unless your subject is something that has absolutely no synonyms and cannot be described in any other way,* your human users may not use any of the right “keywords” in their search. Do you want people to linger on your pages, or do you want to rank well in search? They’re not the same thing.
Something to keep in mind: A site made up of pages that are driven by keyword research practically shouts "I'm a content farm."