Is there still a place for keywords in 2022? The answer is definitely, yes. Voice search, zero-click searches and Google’s MUM may be changing the landscape of search. But keywords remain an essential ingredient to any 2022 SEO strategy.

Here are some of the ways keywords can be used to increase traffic, visibility and conversions in 2022:

1. Target keywords to drive traffic to your site

Once you have users on your site, you have the chance to capture their attention and convert them into customers. But first you have to get them there.

All marketers know the importance of appearing on the first page of a search engine results page (SERP). And with an average 28.5% click-through rate, position #1 on the SERP remains a highly coveted spot.

Despite Google’s advanced language processing capabilities, keywords still play a crucial role in indexing webpages. So this coming year, marketers can still target keywords to drive traffic to their website.

Tempting as it is to focus only on the keywords with the highest volume, these are also the most competitive and difficult to rank for. Longtail search terms that are more specific to your products or services could translate into a higher conversion rate, despite the lower number of visitors it will generate.

2. Use keywords to identify user intent

Keywords provide a good indication of what users are looking for.

However, users will not know the best term to use in order to bring up the exact content they want. So Google and other search engine’s AI platforms are increasingly able to interpret nuance and intent. This allows them to predict the true meaning behind a keyword search, rather than just the words used.

For example, if a user were to search for “horse box”, Google will serve Shopping Ads and images for horsebox trailers, rather than a literal interpretation of the words “horse” and “box”.

Going forward into 2022, this does not make your targeted keywords less relevant. The search engines will still use keywords in your titles and meta descriptions to interpret and index your pages so that they can be served for the most relevant queries.

The potential advantage of this is those relevant users could be directed to your page even if the exact keyword they type does not match your target keyword, so long as the search engine interprets their intent as matching the subject of your page.

3. Conduct keyword research to spot easy wins

There are various tools available, such as the Moz Keyword Explorer, which allow you to research opportunities to improve your ranking on SERP.

Starting with keywords you identify as applicable to your business and your customers, these tools allow you to broaden your search to identify similar terms which could also be worth ranking for.

In particular, you can spot pages that are within striking distance. These are pages that are already ranking for keywords – perhaps at the bottom of the first page, or on the second page - but not yet in top position. Since your page is already ranking for this keyword, it is likely that a few tweaks could improve your ranking, without the need to start from scratch.

4. Simple steps to improve keyword ranking

Once you have identified the keywords you want to rank for, there are several ways you can go about improving your ranking.

Check the following:

  • Does the keyword feature in the title tag?
  • Does the keyword feature in the H1 tag?
  • Are the images on the page optimised for the keyword?
  • Have you included the keyword in the meta description?
  • Have you included the keyword in the schema tags?
  • Could you increase the amount of keyword related content on the page?

Whilst 2022 and beyond will see the need to adopt a more holistic approach to keywords, that isn’t to say that these simple rules don’t still apply. The chances are one or more of these elements could have been missed or could use improvement.

Changes to your ranking position may take a month or more to show, so it is important to be patient before judging your results.

5. Use keywords to locate your target audience.

You may have a very clear idea of the keywords you want your business to rank for. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is what your customers are searching for, or that the type of content you are focussing on is the most likely to convert.

Conducting keyword research can help you understand what your target audience is looking for. Once you know this, you can plan and shape your website content around meeting those needs. Meeting your audience where they are will save you wasting time and resources on producing content that no one is searching for.

For example, your product may resolve a problem that your customer has. But if your customer does not yet know your product exists, they will be searching using questions related to their problem, not the potential solution. These, then, are the keywords to be targeting.

6. Adopt an increasingly nuanced approach to Keywords

Google’s algorithms have long surpassed the days of keyword stuffing. A more holistic approach to providing quality, meaningful content is needed as algorithms become increasingly sophisticated. Besides, there is little value in driving visitors to your site through keyword use alone, if the content they find there does not encourage them to stay on the page, let alone convert into customers.

Think carefully about the content your target audience wants to find. This goes beyond simply the keywords they type into the search bar, but to what it is they really want to be reading.

Google tends to favour longer content. For example, if a page has only 200 words on it, it is less likely to be favoured over a 1000 word article on the same topic.

And since any topic could cover various subtopics, making sure to cover your subject matter in detail is likely to attract a greater number of users, since it will answer a wider range of search queries. It also elevates you as an expert on your subject and increases the likelihood of the user finding all they need to know on your site, instead of bouncing.

Key take-aways for a 2022 SEO strategy

Keywords remain important in 2022.

Make sure your webpages are keyword optimised so they are properly indexed on search engines and have increased visibility.

Keyword research is invaluable in helping understand who your potential customers are and what they are looking for. This can help inform your content strategy for 2022.

Don’t take an overly narrow view of keywords. They are a great starting point but should lead you towards a deeper, richer end result.