John Mueller on How to Use Keywords in Content

My ears and eyes always perk up and light up when I see a headline from our favourite Googler, John Mueller. As it usually means a popular SEO myth or hard-hitting answer to a common question or dilemma has been addressed.

This time around, Mueller was asked about the value of words mapping to a web pages topic and also on the volume of keywords on pages.

This topic may seem a basic or even amateur one. However, it is a timely one due to the ever-advancing algorithm. As SEOs, we need to be constantly questioning which practices and SEO areas are outdated or null and void now due to Google’s increasing crawling intelligence.

The individual posing the question to John Mueller was curious as to whether the practice of including keywords in H1, Meta tags and general on-page content was outdated or still relevant.

The person’s question to Mueller was as follows:

“I have a directive to use keywords, specifically target keywords in meta tags, use it here in the H1, use it this many times in a piece of content.

And that really just seems outdated to me, especially with all the advances in semantic search and all the cool MUM and all that other stuff that’s coming down the pipe.

…Basic question, do you think that’s still a legitimate SEO tactic?

Or should we not be focused on using this particular keyword this many times on a page?”

I believe this question to be fantastic. As there is a belief regarding keyword usage that it’s best to only use them a certain percentage of the time as a ratio in comparison to the total volume of words on the page. There are even tools out there that count this and tell you if you’re hitting the (supposed and perceived) ‘correct’ ratio of keywords to page volume.

John Mueller answers this part of the question first:

“In general the number of times that you use a keyword on a page, I don’t think that really matters or makes sense.

When you’re writing naturally usually that resolves itself automatically.”

This answer seems to be in line with the direction Google has and is moving in – a direction of if your web page and content is written naturally, you’ve hit the sweet spot. Great news, right?

John Mueller then goes on to confirm that the use of keywords is still very important, but as always – be cautious!

“And also with regards to the individual keywords, I think that’s something where I wouldn’t disregard it completely but at the same time I wouldn’t over focus on exact keywords.

So in particular, things like singular and plural or kind of like the different ways of writing individual words. That’s something that you probably don’t need to worry about.

But mentioning what your site is about and kind of like what you want to be found for, that’s something I would still do.

So in particular, what we sometimes see when we look at things like news articles, if a news site doesn’t really understand SEO, they might write in a way that is more… almost like literature in that you read it and you kind of understand what it means, but the exact words that are used on a page don’t really map to exactly that topic.

So that’s something where, from an SEO point of view, if there’s something you want to rank for, I would still mention that on a page.

I wouldn’t go overboard with the number of mentions. I wouldn’t go overboard with all of the synonyms and different ways of writing it.

But like mentioning it at least once definitely makes sense.”

Sources: John Mueller


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