It’s Time to Update How You Use Keywords
Using keywords is one of the most challenging topics for MSP businesses as they develop their SEO strategy. While best practices involving SEO and keywords have evolved over the past decade, many businesses are still using the SEO playbook from the 1990s and finding themselves having poor outcomes. Take a moment to review how keyword optimization is utilized today.
Why Aren’t My Keywords Working?
One of the most common questions we receive as SEO experts is, “Why isn’t my MSP business ranking for the keywords I want it to?”
We ask potential clients one question: “Do you have content written around the terms you are interested in ranking for?” The majority of the time the answer is no, but they have keywords in their meta-descriptions. Isn’t that enough?
Back in 1995 when the Internet was still young and AOL, AltaVista, and Netscape Navigator still walked the earth - sure! In those days, all you needed to do to rank was to add your desired keywords to your meta code. Here’s an example of that old code:
Easy enough, right? Well, it was easy. It was also easy to manipulate the ranking process through black hat SEO tactics, bringing with it the spamming of keywords and other tactics which - within a short while - corrupted the ranking process. It was not unheard of to add rows and rows of irrelevant or inappropriate keywords in white type to hide in the background of a webpage to trick the crawlers into thinking you had a larger amount of relevant content. In reality, this loads the page with irrelevant keywords designed to fool searchers into visiting your site.
See how easy it was to manipulate ranking?
Since the text was in white type, the human visitor couldn't see the spam content and realize they were being fooled. However, the crawlers could ‘read’ the text and would offer such a site as the result of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), driving traffic and increasing the website’s rank.
This worked for nearly a decade when keywords were the main method for a website to rank; but it wasn’t to last. In September 2009, Google officially announced what SEO professionals ‘in the know’ already knew: the keyword meta tag was no longer being used to determine rank. Here’s Google’s statement concerning why they don’t use the keywords meta tag:
“About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called "off-page" factors such as the links pointing to a web page. In those days, keyword meta tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag… Our web search (the well-known search at Google.com that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don't have any effect in our search ranking at present.”
You have now heard it from the organization you’re most concerned in ranking for: keyword metatags don’t affect your ranking.
So, Are Keywords A Waste Of Time?
No, but we need to rethink how we utilize them. Simply put, there is no magic keyword that will drive traffic to your site; those days are gone. Instead of treating keywords as the thing that will make your site rank on page one, treat them as talking points which you use to guide your MSP content’s focus and direction around.
Consistent, interesting, and informative content is what will cause your website to rank. Google doesn’t value keywords as keywords, they value user experience and whether or not the information provided helps the searcher. Keywords provide the context and your content provides value, but they are of limited value on their own: keywords and content need to support each other. If the content on your site is worthwhile and generates an audience, Google will rank it accordingly.
Keywords Do Have Value
Your keywords must be treated as part of the narrative of your business’ value as an MSP - the story you’re telling your customers about how you’re going to help them solve their technical problems, and therefore increase their productivity, security, and competitiveness.
While there are some basic locations for keywords such as:
- Titles and subtitles (H1, H2, H3…)
- Meta tags and meta descriptions
- Internal links on your website
- Your webpage URLs
- Image alt text and file paths
...the best way to rank for the keywords beneficial to your business is to create unique content which provides searchers valuable information about why they need an MSP; specifically, your MSP. This type of content includes blog posts, videos, case studies, white papers, social media posts, and joining online organizations: all focusing on your services and solutions as an MSP.
The goal of providing your audience valuable keyword-influenced content is to drive qualified traffic to your site, increase engagement, and establish yourself as experts in your field. While Google doesn’t track keywords, they do track how people engage with your site. When visitors who come to your site and stay on it to read your content, this signals to Google that your site is providing the information that searchers are looking for. This, in turn, establishes your authority as an expert and a valid resource for the keywords which are being triggered, resulting in your website being offered on a SERP. This process is the best use of keywords in order to increase your ranking, not as an individual tactic, but as part of your overall content marketing strategy.
How to Use Keywords in Your Content
Finally, your keywords must be used in an organic and natural way throughout your content. Just repeating your keywords in a paragraph without consideration to the context will be treated poorly by the search engines, which are getting better at reading and understanding your content and its context. In fact, this practice is a well-known blackhat SEO tactic called ‘keyword stuffing’, and one of the ways so-called SEO experts 'guarantee’ your MSP website will increase in the rank. This is a prime example of why it is important to use responsible keyword optimization to increase your rank.
As we noted earlier, Google values user experience above all else, and content relevance is a big factor in determining great user experience. So for example, if your MSP blog keyword spams ‘Outsource IT’ like this:
Interested in outsourcing IT? Questions about outsourcing IT? We’re the outsourcing IT Pros. Our outsourcing IT website proves how much we love outsourcing IT. Read our outsourcing IT blog to learn how outsourcing IT can help you...by outsourcing your IT.
Now let’s assume that somehow this website manages to reach page one of Google. What do you think will happen when a searcher clicks on the site? They will leave. In fact, they will be leaving in droves, something Google will notice and - in turn - drop your ranking because you are providing a poor user experience.
Here’s an example of responsible keyword optimization:
Whether you run a small or large company, downtime is a costly experience. Outsourcing your IT can reduce your expenses and increase your productivity. Having an in-house IT department may be out of the question, but ensuring uptime shouldn’t be. When you outsource your IT, you have access to a series of proactive measures to minimize and prevent downtime. Read on to learn how we can help your business reach your goals.
If you examine our two examples of using the keyword ‘Outsource IT’, you can see how much more informative our second one is and how, if a user clicked on the link, they would find much more information than in the first version. That’s the type of experience Google wants a searcher to have. This is the proper use of keywords: not as an individual word, but as part of the entire narrative, which provides the searcher a more valuable learning experience.
While creating dynamic content is your best means to increase rank, there are some more tactics you should take advantage of: ensure your website is optimized and easy to navigate, cultivate high-quality links, and develop your social engagement.
We trust this helps explain how to utilize keywords to increase traffic, maintain engagement, and generate leads. The number one thing you can do to increase your ranking is to provide your searchers with content. If you’re unsure of your ability to create dynamic content to promote your MSP, JoomConnect offers SEO and Content Marketing services. Reach out to us to learn more.