The world’s search engines are consistently changing the game; what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow –which leads me to wonder—Do keywords really matter in SEO in 2015?

There are a number of search engine optimization claims being made in 2015 stating that keywords are becoming less relevant than they once were. As key players in the internet search racket continue to evolve and fine-tune their algorithms, it appears as though they might be right.

The very success of any particular SEO campaign has typically been measured in how well a client website will rank for a particular set of keywords; pull that metric out from underneath webmasters and SEO companies and everyone scrambles for another metric to measure their success by.

But what is this new metric and why are keywords losing their potency?


Let’s begin with the latter. A steady focus on keywords has been a key tactic for internet marketers all over the world for years and it’s become clear that such a simple method has been ruining the internet. Companies were able to rank on the first page of popular search engines based on the size of their internet marketing budget, and less so the relevance (and legitimacy) of their content. So the one with the most toys under this old logic wins.

Over time it became clear that search engine algorithms had to change, and so the world’s most popular search engine decides to take a swing at it. And perhaps if they hadn’t, the internet could have easily been considered “broken” in 2015.

Changing Metrics

While regular keywords still carry some weight for SEO efforts, there is a lot of evidence pointing towards “long tail keywords” taking precedence, although it isn’t a simple swap from one to the other. The use of long tail keywords is also a little more complex.

Long gone are the days where one could smatter specific keywords and phrases all over an article to inform Google of its subject matter; Google has been learning some new tricks.

As Google continues to understand the human element in a much deeper way it knows that people tend not to repeat themselves too greatly throughout a piece of website copy. Google is learning about the subtleties of language enough to identify when one is trying to bait the popular search engine.

Instead, using keywords that are long tail or otherwise sparingly in perhaps the title tag or a header are much more effective in 2015. The whole “less is more” adage rings loud and true today.

What is a “long tail keyword”?

what-is-long-tail-keywordFirst let’s look at what a keyword is; a keyword is a few words that best sum up your product or service, or a query relating to the term. So if you ran an internet marketing shop, you’d likely place the words “internet marketing” within your website copy, title tag, and/or header.

But long tail keywords are different.

A long tail keyword is a longer (bet you didn’t see that coming), much more specific set of keywords that are more likely to be used when a customer is ready to purchase.

So looking back at our internet marketing agency example, a long tail keyword isn’t just when someone is looking for a particular type of person, place, or thing –they want that offering to accomplish something specific and will likely provide more information within their search.

Instead of “internet marketing”, one might get a little more granular with their search query and write “digital marketing agency London” if they were looking for help to market something on the internet in a specific region. Perhaps they might go even deeper and provide additional information, such as “digital marketing agency London WordPress website redesign”.

Optimizing your website content for longer and more specific phrases that are generally used when people have cash in hand, ready to go, seems a little more lucrative (and important) than regular old keywords, doesn’t it?

Today’s Google searches for more than words; it is now indexing meaning and context, too.

According to Google, almost 70% of online search queries derive meaning from synonyms of keywords. That’s a giant bulls-eye to reach for.

You Say Tomato, I Say “Bright Red Vegetable”

In addition to context and synonyms, in that .0008 of a second it takes Google to find your search query results, it is also cross-referencing semantics for words one is searching for –and the words in your website copy.

Additional Factors

So now that we’ve pretty much wrapped up what long tail keywords are and how to use them within your website copy, let’s take a quick glance at other factors which help make their delivery more efficient:

  • Structure; is the website easy to navigate? Is site content also structured in a non-linear fashion?
  • Site speed; Google clocks your website loading time and will favour faster sites over your own within search results
  • Security; with NSA hacking revelations, Google also favours websites with proper security measures such as SSL encryption
  • Schema mark-up; marking up your website schema will give Google quicker and more transparent access to your website as a whole

So to answer our original question; yes, keywords matter in 2015 –but long tail keywords matter more (and they are where the money is).