In the early days of search engine optimization, all a site owner or SEO pro had to do was to use the exact phrases people were searching for in their copy. Simply include “keyphrase” in your page’s URL, title, META tags and copy a sufficient number of times and your landing page would rank high.
As the Google algorithm has developed though, this exact phrase matching in your copy isn’t really necessary anymore. In fact, it can really hurt you if it’s overdone…no longer do you see pages with lots of keywords peppered in the copy at the top of the search results.
Rather than include the exact phrase several times in a page, sites who best match the intent of a search query are the ones seeing higher rankings in the search engines.
Google’s big algorithmic updates, namely Panda and Penguin, have changed the search landscape quite a bit.
Rather than matching keywords with a site query, raters and algorithms at the search giant now attempt to determine a user’s intent and then serve pages based around that intent. Pages simply stuffed with keywords are now labeled spam and subsequently dropped from the rankings…Google assumes no one intends to visit a page that’s simply stuffed with keywords and contains little to no real information.
Essentially, there are 3 different query types – action, informational and navigational.
For SEO purposes, action queries are by far the most important. These searches can be characterized as users wanting to “do” something, like “buy Ford widgets.” Informational queries on the other hand are for users wanting to “know” something (i.e. “what are Ford widgets”).
Therefore, the more a page can obviously match query intent by using all of a page’s semantic signals, the higher, over time, it will rank for that query.
(Semantic Index is a part of Google’s algorithm that determines what a site is about and how much it is supposedly about its given topic compared to other sites. In technical terms, these semantic “signals” include such things as the URL, Title Tags, META keywords, META description, BODY tag, IMG alt, internal/external links and external mentions/references.)
So how do I maximize these “signals” so Google properly ranks my page(s) according to a user’s intent?
This is where we get into what’s technically known as EMI and EMQ, or “exact match intent” and “exact match query.” The difference between the two can be summed up this way: new vs. old.
EMI essentially means you develop a page around communicating the “intent” of the page. Is it for informational purposes or action purposes? Determining what a specific page is about (i.e. information vs. action) will help you maximize its EMI.
To maximize your page’s EMI, one thing you can do is to provide info pages for info queries and action pages for action queries. If Google thinks a user is simply looking for information, they assume the user doesn’t want to be sold anything just yet. Therefore, if you try and “sell” to info users, you’re taking a big risk.
EMQ on the other hand, in terms of SEO, basically consists of the exact phrase you’re targeting. These should only be used in the URL of your page or the Title tag – BUT NOT BOTH. Exact Match Queries should be used sparingly in your copy text and backlinks. In fact, partial keywords are okay in this case since Google can most likely determine a user’s attempt in relation to your page.
The important lesson – one we’ve often repeated here at SEO-e – is to write for humans and not search engines.
We feel that Google’s updates over the last couple of years have dramatically changed how we should approach web content. While keywords are a fundamental part of a site’s attributes (i.e. URL, META tags, copy, etc.), they don’t necessarily need to be obvious.
Check out some of our prior posts below on keywords and ways you can harness them for maximum benefit.