In the course of the last few months or so, the web marketing talking head world - a very small pond indeed - has been all abuzz and excited about the disappearance of keywords.
"It is an illegal use of Google's monopoly power" they say.
"It is the first existential threat to SEO" they say.
"The sky is falling and SEO is now officially over" they moan.
As I mentioned - they are really quite excited about all of this.
For those of you who are unaware Google has recently removed all of the keyword data from standard analytics reporting. Remember the whole "we can tell what word they searched for before they found you" thing? Not anymore.
Now Google says this is for your security and there are some very legit points on that side of the fence, the government is engaged in a shocking level of surveillance these days.
Objectors point out this data is still sort of available over in Google's paid advertising product AdWords - which supports the point this entire thing is about their profits.
I don't really care why, and I think debating about it kind of misses the broader point.
See - this whole organic web marketing thing has been through an awful lot of changes in the last 20 years.
I tend to summarize organic web marketing this way:
"Thou Shalt Not Piss Off The Google" - a good rule to follow. (and yes I used to say Yahoo)
When you change your site to please The Google - that's organic web marketing.
That's it, the whole summary - pretty uncomplicated and principle driven.
It is a bit like saying the point of a gym membership is to make you less fat. That's true of course but the day to day reality can be a lot more complicated.
The world of SEO - search engine optimization - has created many jobs, and destroyed many jobs. It used to do that every 3-4 years, then every year or two, and these days it is about a 6 month cycle of "tricks" that reliably end up not working. Over the years we've seen lots of this...
We had Keyword stuffers - here at Fred's car we sell cars with our car selling skills.
We had doorway pages - make a different 'entrance' for specific engines and phrases. Do that again about 27,000 times.
We had the search engine rank analysis cha-cha, a dance Internet Entrepreneurs love and web professionals have always seen as relatively useless.
The underlying principle to keyword research - thinking about what folks might type in who could then buy something from you - makes sense.
But the game has moved and - to be quite frank - I like the way things have changed.
If your primary focus is on keyword phrase development and the optimization of your site pages based on that research - you are doing something that used to work, but is less and less effective all the time.
Now before web marketers get all up in a lather and write back to declare what they do still works and they swear it and so on - let's consider an image for a moment:
I'll bet there is some exercise efficacy for this woman on this ancient belt vibration machine.
I also bet if you saw one of these things in a gym you'd wonder what was the matter with them. Would you buy a membership there?
If Google made it so these exercise vibration machines went away and didn't work anymore, do you see how that might be a good thing?
Researching what your customers want is still a good idea - it will always be.
Making sure you don't truly piss off Google (which you can still do if you construct a site in the wrong way from a technical perspective) also makes sense.
But keyword phrase lists beyond that point - adding content around specific phrases - is not an effective use of your time.
So what are you supposed to do now?
Sorry to tell you this but it is often the answer in web world - something harder.
You are supposed to be focused on creating wonderful compelling content, something that can truly help people. You judge it by how often it is shared, how much "love" the people show it when they find it, and stuff like that there.
Many folks refer to this as The Inbound Marketing revolution.
Here's the bottom line for Internet Entrepreneurs: You don't need to know everything about web marketing, just understand the principles. Watch for trends and change course - if you are focused on keyword phrases these days - it is a good indication you need a new direction.
Ross Lasley is the Internet Educator, an experienced Internet entrepreneur providing web strategy and consulting services to businesses. Ross speaks frequently on web design, e-commerce, and Internet marketing issues and maintains a weekly newsletter, Web Enlightenment.
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