SEO For Business Owners: Keywords Then and Now

Screenshot of Google homepage

If you are a business owner preparing for a website update, there are some SEO basics you should know. Getting your head around SEO starts with understanding keywords and how their use has changed over time.

What Are Your Top Keywords?

To start, you and your marketing team will need to decide on your top keywords. These are the words and phrases prospective clients are likely to use to find your business. They may include your business name, products and services, geographic terms, and frequently searched terms related to what you do.

Old Webpages Are Full of Keywords

In the beginning, webpages were filled with keywords. The concept was this: If your page focused on a certain topic, search engines would discover keywords in important areas including the title, tags, headlines, image descriptions (what you see when a picture fails to load), and throughout the text. Because of this, when you are reading an old webpage, you may find yourself tripping over repetition of the same words and phrases on every part of the page.

Modern SEO and TF-IDF

Modern SEO still starts with keywords, but research shows that the importance of keyword placement has fallen. Instead, modern search engine algorithms rely on “term frequency-inverse document frequency” (TF-IDF). Instead of simply counting the frequency of a given keyword, TF-IDF measures the importance of a keyword by comparing its frequency to how often you would expect to find a term on a generic webpage.

For example, if we compare the phrases "basket" to "basketball player" in Google's Ngram viewer, we see that "basketball player" is a more rare, while "basket" is more common. When “basketball player” appears on a webpage, Google will treat it as more significant than a single occurrence of the term “basket.”

Synonyms and Variations

TF-IDF alone won't get your website the traffic you are looking for. Instead, modern SEO includes the pairing of similar and related terms, which signals the topic of the webpage to search engines. Google's “Hummingbird algorithm” compares how often different terms appear together on webpages in order to accurately return results relevant to a person's search. Under the previous example, a page containing terms like “basketball player” “court” “basket” and “coach” will rank higher than pages only containing a few of these terms.

By understanding how search engines use keywords and phrases to rank websites, CEOs and business owners can get a better handle on what it takes to create an effective web presence. Don't stop at keywords. Instead, take your SEO understanding to the next level by focusing on significance and word groupings that will build your search engine credibility.

Provisio Technology Solutions is a web development company that provides services to small businesses looking to do more with their online assets. If you are ready for a website upgrade, contact Provisio Technology Solutions today to schedule a meeting.