The term “keyword” is used when discussing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for websites. For WordPress websites, the most popular SEO plugin is Yoast. This plugin helps the website owner/developer set up some key factors on the “back end” of the website to help Google users find the website in searches.
What Yoast is NOT
It is important to understand that Yoast is not an automatic solution for coming up high in Google searches! There are many, many factors that Google uses for its rankings. Yoast is a tool that helps with some very basic things, and offers a lot of documentation, tips, and information about SEO.
When you have Yoast activated on your site, at the bottom of every Page and Post there is a Yoast Settings box. One of the fields in this area is called “Focus Keyword.” You might think that entering a word in this box will magically tell Google that this is YOUR keyword for that page, and that anyone who does a search using this word will ensure that your website comes up at the top of the search results page (SERP). WRONG.
Meta Keywords are Dead
Confusion and misunderstanding can stem from the word “keyword” which is also used in the term, “meta keyword.” Meta keywords used to be one of the ranking factors for search engines. For the past several years, meta keywords have been proven to be a waste of time, as explained in this blog post from Yoast. The focus keyword field in the Yoast SEO settings box is specifically not the same as the meta keyword.
The Yoast Focus Keyword Tool
This Focus Keyword box is just a TOOL to help you determine how well your content on that page relates to (in technical terms, how well it is “Optimized for”) a search term/keyword that you WANT/HOPE that page will rank for. The Focus Keyword Tool does not put any magic code or message on your page or website that tells Google to rank your page for that word.
Google’s Machine Learning
In fact, your website and pages may rank for things you don’t intend for them to, or hadn’t planned on at all! This is because Google and other search engines have become so smart that they READ the content on your page and look for words that are featured to determine what your page is about in order to better serve their users. This means it is important to think about what your page is about before you even write the copy for it, so you can keep in mind that the words you choose will help determine what Google understands about your website, and how it ranks you when people search for terms related to and/or including the words on your website. Not only that, but Google watches people’s behavior when they come to your site from a search, and may change your ranking based on this information.
A good example is a story I love to tell, shared by Brian Dean of Backlinko. He wrote an article on his website titled “How To Get High Quality Backlinks.” When the post was first published, Google read the title and page content and associated it with the search phrase “How To Get High.” Initially, this post was near the top of the SERP for this search term – lots of people were clicking on it, but they were not looking for backlink strategies! Once these website visitors, who were looking for information on how to get high, saw that the website was not about what they were searching for, they quickly left the site. As Google saw very short visits to the site from this search term, it began dropping the ranking of the site for the term, because it was clear that the website was not satisfying to people searching for “How To Get High.” This method that Google uses is called “Rank Brain” and is currently the third most important ranking factor in their algorithm. It exemplifies how sophisticated the search engines are becoming when it comes to understanding what websites and pages are about.
Stay Tuned! We will add information on how to choose keywords for your website in an upcoming blog post, as well as how to use more of the Yoast SEO Plugin Tools and Settings.