How important are keywords for better search engine rankings of your site?
Well, this is not a quite new question or answer on the relevance of keywords and keyword phrases. In fact this question has been asked and replied millions of times in as many websites and blogs dealing with the subject, especially when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Then what is new or important in this article?
I used to see this kind of SEO questions and tried to understand the replies given by SEO experts and tried to implement them in my own sites. The earliest website that I tried to implement it was setup in 2006. I basically knew nothing about the relevance of keywords or SEO then, excepting that I have to use some such keywords. So, I used some such words in my keywords meta. The site now has about 150 pages, hand-coded using the old style simple HTML and uses no themes or templates, or content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress.
The above said site attracts 500 to 1000 unique page visits per day (keeps on varying) though I have never tried to improve traffic or ranking by link building, internet marketing techniques or any such efforts.
Interestingly, some of the pages that I have meticulously setup after the best possible keyword research rank the lowest compared to other pages that I hurriedly uploaded with some random keywords.
And more interestingly, some pages that I expected to rank low have ranked better than my well-researched pages.
The site itself has somewhat behaved erratically in search results and overall ranking in the past. It has had the highest ranking of Google Page Rank 3 and the lowest of PR 0.
Initially, I used to work hard on improving the SEO, site traffic, and all other aspects of ranking of the site. But, after a year or so I left the idea and just used the site as a tool to understand the changes brought about by changes in Google Algorithms, and other aspects of SEO.
Also I would like to mention that I do not have much control over the contents of the pages, as each page contains free ads submitted by users who seek pen friendship, email friendship, hobbies, etc. For the same reason, the keywords/ keyword phrases for most of the pages are similar because of similar content in almost all pages.
Why do some pages rank better and why does the site gain or lose Google Page Rank?
Some of the reasons I understand for the change in Page Rank and SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are as follows:
- The periodic changes in SERPs and the page rank of the site as well as individual pages change mainly based on the change in search engine algorithms, and to some extent depending on how visitors use keywords and phrases to find sites of their choice.
- Though I myself tried very little to increase inbound links, users whose ads appear in certain pages do link those pages in their profiles and other features of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Again, these also change; as such links are either deleted or made dead links by the users themselves. These activities do change the ranking of the pages and the site in general.
- The pages that had the best keywords/ phrases, other well-planned meta such as title, description, and anchor tags on links and even better internal linking, did not rank well because of poor content (as I said, I do not have much control on content as the pages contain free ads on the same subject submitted by visitors).
- The pages that ranked better had better content, the advertisers in those pages had addresses and other little cared for information such as places, street names, and even country names that people search more, but I knew little about.
- Political, financial, climatic, and other changes that have nothing to do with my site also change the rankings and other aspects of my site. For example: when there were times when earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other calamities in some parts of the world, the pages containing names of such places received more visitors than other pages. Similarly, from the beginning of the Arab Spring, people searching for information on Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, etc. brought in more visitors to certain pages that contained references to places or other aspects of these countries, though my site had nothing to do with such events, excepting some people whose personal ads were in those pages.
- In recent times Google Panda and Google Penguin knocked many top ranking sites off the first few pages of SERPs. These changes benefited several other sites that came to the top of the SERPs. This alone shows that you, I or anyone else do not have total control on SEO, SERPs or traffic. The sites that suffered also lost heavily in traffic as well as advertising and other revenues.
The above views shall bring forth an important question. You may ask: “Do you mean to say that SEO, keywords, etc. are to be ignored or cannot be implemented for the better ranking of my website/ blog?”
Well, the answer is: No. You have to try your best to use the known aspects of improving SEO of your sites. Those who do better SEO implementation will definitely have better ranking than others who do not care about SEO, keywords, etc.
That being said, however you may try, your ranking and traffic shall keep on fluctuating depending on how search engine algorithms change, as well as how your competitors perform better than you.
And most importantly, as the old saying in SEO world goes, content is the king. I have seen sites with very good content, but not even with any meta tags ranking better than sites with meticulously implemented SEO parameters. That is mainly because major search engines including Google have given up over-reliance on keywords, description tags, etc. and give more importance on content, user-friendliness and user-interaction, and other factors.