Mass extinction event for keywords in SEO?
There is a deluge of predictions about the new 2015 trends that started to appear at the end of 2014 and will continue (based on what happened in the previous years) to appear for a month or two. Highly interesting to read in some cases (there are gems out there, I assure you!) but overwhelming in terms of volume. I found out that following SEO, SMO, online marketing and webdev predictions feels at times as rewarding as trying to puzzle out the ancient pronouncements of the Oracle of Delphi. Much more to the point and informative (imho) is to look at the anxieties and uncertainties implicit in such predictions. Since what worries people in a given domain will actually drive a good deal of their thinking and activity, such an exercise can be quite revealing.
Anxiety 1: Mass extinction event for keywords in SEO?
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is gaining more and more prominence. The idea is pretty simple - words co-occurring many times within the same context have a good probability of being semantically related. These days, searching for “Charlie Hebdo” in google results in several avenues of suggested search: from “attack” to “cartoons” or even the latest “cover”. Each of which has it’s own semantic web of associations, allowing a search engine to infer and offer other suggestions that aren’t even present in original query.
Adding to this, there is the recent thrust toward query answering that is increasingly more conversational. Google Engineering Director Scott Huffman implies that Google’s goal is shifting from simple search to creating the ultimate personal assistant. Quite a few have argued that natural language seems to be “yielding up” to machine learning to such an extent that this development - coupled with LSI - will inevitably lead to the demise of keywords!
On top of all this is speculation about Hummingbird algorithm and its future role. Marcus Tober wrote a very interesting post for Moz blog arguing that a paradigm shift occurred, almost unnoticed by many. However, imho, this should worry you only if you are following outdated advice on how to do SEO that is focused exclusively on keywords.
On the contrary, many content writers simply write on a given topic (after doing an X amount of research), without tailoring the text to the point where it gets Malkovich-like in its obsession with the keyword. If you are of the former category this should be good news for you - as long as you write something useful for your audience you have little to worry.
The upshot: I don’t know about you but for me Ok Google barely matches the intelligence of an obedient but not very smart dog. We are still very very far from an AI that you can converse with. As far as 2015 is concerned I will not wage any money of keywords extinction. Even if / when we switch to full LSI-guided search, keywords should at least retain their role as mental markers for a content writer. Smarter, long-tailed, context-sensitive keywords - yes, that is a given for 2015 but this is hardly news even for 2014.
Do you feel anxious about keyword extinction? We would love to know what you think! Follow this series if want to know what SEO is anxious about in 2015!
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