As a digital agency, our clients often ask about exact SEO keywords. When performing keyword research, we find that the search terms users use are often jumbled, sometimes misspelled, and aren’t always clear. Let’s face it, we don’t always think through our search queries. So, should SEO writers use exact terms users use even though they may read as they sound? The short answer is yes. In the recent past you would have wanted to use exact terms in headings, punctuation, and with creativity in grammar, but not as much today.

Search Intent/Semantic Search

Google’s Hummingbird update was the first significant update to its search algorithm since 2010. It essentially created the knowledge graphs seen alongside search terms today. With Hummingbird, Google began focusing on what the user wanted and less on what they typed. And so it became okay to include stop words, change the order of terms, make them singular or plural, and use words around the keyword, which refers to longtail keywords. Here’s an example. For the search term “dress yellow,” the content served relates to yellow dresses. This is because Google assumed this was the user’s intent instead of ‘how to dress yellow.’ But what was the users’ intent? Was it informational, navigational, transactional, maybe investigative? Fast forward to today: Google serves content that most closely matches what it thinks is the intent of the user. And that’s what a SEO writer has to figure out as well. 

Google’s algorithm is only getting smarter. It will continue to learn what users are looking for. That means web pages are crawled looking not only for exact SEO keywords but for related synonyms and context that, according to its learning, fits with the keyword.

Rankbrain is Google’s latest update. Rankbrain uses machine learning to compile semantic search terms and combine them to categorize search intent. When using a single keyword on a page, it’s smart to include synonyms and other ways of describing the keyword for Google to find relevant content on that page. These synonyms are called latent semantic indexing (LSI) and will help a page rank as a whole. Voice search is then used with the algorithms to see where an SEO keyword fits with everyday human speech.

Using Exact SEO Keywords

So, we’ve established that you don’t need to use the exact match of a keyword; however, it does help. We’re using headers with a version of the keyword or phrase, making sure it’s in the URL, the title, and alt text of relevant images. There are also a few exceptions there are always exceptions when it comes to figuring Google out, aren’t there? With Google Ads, you’ll still use the closest term possible in both display and text, while still making sure things sound natural.

And the concept of natural is what it comes down to. When using keywords or phrases to describe a ‘thing,’ the most important thing brands can do is write about that thing well. Content that has all the information to fulfill the search query will do well in search taking into account the other technical aspects of SEO, including site speed, site structure, and images structured for visual search. Brands that have well-positioned content and websites and have their bases covered technically will rank the highest for the keyterms they’re aiming for.

Savy | SEO Services

SEO is always changing. While we focus most on Google as a search engine, there are many aspects of SEO that are outside of Google including apps like Amazon, and even in social media posts. We maintain a holistic view of SEO and are always ahead of trends. Digital media publishing is an art, and even though Google’s algorithms are fast learners, they are algorithms. Brands will always need humans behind the screens to help lead the bots to the content. If your brand could use some help with SEO, reach out to see where Savy can help.