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Talk to five SEOs and you’re likely to hear five different answers on any particular question involving search engine optimization. But for now, let’s talk about keywords. Are they necessary?

I don’t think there’s an SEO alive who would say “No” to that question, but why not? We live in a day of semantic language indexing. The search engines rank pages based on ideas, not keyword stuffing. In other words, if your on-page content is clearly about how to change a light bulb and you don’t use the phrase “light bulb” but two times in your article, you could still rank for that key phrase. It’s all about quality.

So keywords aren’t important then, right?

I’d say that’s a wrong assumption to make. While semantic language indexing rules the day, keywords are not discounted. I believe you should still focus your content on keywords, but don’t fixate on any one keyword. That is, use a little semantic language markup.

Are Keyword Tags Necessary?

One area where there is a lot of dispute over the use of keywords is in the keywords meta tag. There are two main ideas regarding the use of this tag.

  1. Not necessary. The not necessary camp argues that keyword tags aren’t necessary because none of the major search engines look at them. While this is true, some smaller search engines still do consider this meta tag; and the major search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms so you never know when they may start considering keywords meta tags again.
  2. It doesn’t hurt. The rest of the SEO community falls into the “it doesn’t hurt” camp. Because of the two reasons mentioned above, they argue that it doesn’t hurt to use the tag. Someday, it may help.

It never hurts to employ a strategy that you won’t get penalized for. I would not dispense with keywords altogether. What you don’t want to do is stuff your content with keywords as that might get your pages banned, penalized, or de-indexed. Just use a little common sense in your search engine optimization practices.

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