I feel like I am constantly reading about the death of keywords. But I fear that we keep throwing around generalizations instead of facts. There are multiple viewpoints to consider in this debate. I believe keywords are still important as a function of language.
I still rely on keywords for most of my SEO recommendations, but not in the typical application. Instead I pull my research directly from social media like Twitter or forums like Quora. I look at relevant and targeted conversations and then analyze the language used in them.
Why Language Matters for SEO
Words Tell You Where Someone is From
The example I like to use is the difference between using soda or pop. If you grew up on the coasts you most likely say soda. If you live in the midwest than you probably say pop. And if you grew up in the south than you probably say Coke.
Language Represents Internal Mental Models of the World
In psychology we call these mental concepts schemata.They have a strong impact on the way we talk about the world with others. They allow us to store related knowledge for later retrieval.
When I say RPG what do you think about?
At least three things may come to mind; a military weapon, a programming language, or a genre of games. We know the difference between them because of schema. You’ve learned to separate the three through learning and experience.
Patterns in Language Show your Interests
Our words betray our internal thoughts and reveal our wants, needs and biases. I was recently introduced to the research of psychologist Jamie Pennebaker, one of the Co-founders of Receptiviti. In Pennebaker’s research, he determined that pronouns and functional words were the most revealing of people’s inner world.
He learned, from observing speed daters, that when two people like each other, they match each others language. Once they saw the pattern. they developed the methodology to predict who would still be dating in the future. Often before the participants realized they liked each other.
Why Search Engines Care about Language
Search intent allows the search engines to understand words in context. Google is rather intelligent now. It groups words together as having similar meaning. It gets context, which is why keywords seem irrelevant. We can see from search trends that the volume for queries related to “keywords” take a nosedive around the time the hummingbird algorithm change is announced.
I want to make my position clear. Language will continue to matter to search engines even when they can read our minds. This is because language represents our conceptual knowledge. Keywords are just the gateway to the schemata, our mental models.
It is no coincidence that the semantic markup for structures in web development are called schema. When you use schema you are teaching Google and other crawlers about your page. They are linking metadata to associations between structures across the internet and mobile.
Those structures are being used to inform the knowledge graph. It allows search engines to interpret information the way a human mind does. Like our previous section it needs to know which RPG you are talking about. This still requires that we use appropriate language to trigger the right schemas.
“Schema.org vocabulary can be used with many different encodings, including RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD. These vocabularies cover entities, relationships between entities and actions, and can easily be extended through a well-documented extension model. “
Rather disturbingly you can now peer into the brain behind Google search. In a blog post from the beginning of 2015, Google revealed images developed by its learning algorithm. These surreal images reflect not the objects themselves, but what the algorithm understands of the data structures it encounters. Engineers use these images to check up on the algorithm’s education. Google has opened up deep dream for public use.
This is a huge developmental step! Google has the ability to abstract what it is learning and reproduce what it sees. This makes it as intelligent as a young child learning to speak.
We are living in an age where development languages are another form of communication which interfaces with computer brains and AI. SEO is now in the realm of quantified sociology, philosophy, and psychology. Meaning those liberal arts degrees are valuable for tech companies.
My Golden Rule for Predicting Search Engine Algorithm Changes
It may surprise you, but I rarely read SEO news websites any more. That isn’t because they have become less valuable. It is because, often, the knowledge they garner happens after a change is made. Instead, I want sources which help me keep ahead of trends. I don’t want to know where Google search is today, but where it is going.
If you want to predict search engine changes follow the news related to machine learning and AI.
That, plus my degree in psychology, is what has kept my SEO skills sharp over time. If you are willing to consider Facebook, Google, Bing, and other crawlers as infant minds then you are approaching something like the truth.
Image Source: PhilanNews