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For as long as there has been SEO there has been keywords but much to the annoyance of many SEO’s, (it’s amusing how many of us SEO practitioners panic when something changes), the exact match keyword has disappeared from the SEO check list in 2014.

This is due to a number of things, firstly the free keyword tool from Google disappeared on the 27th August 2013, then just a week later Google went 100% secure search and no keyword data was provided via Google Analytics or anywhere else for that matter, then Google announced the Hummingbird Algorithm at the end of September, although it had been running for a month by then but nobody noticed because it wasn’t targeting rankings but rather the search query itself.

The combination of all this caused consternation among SEO’s, where were we to get keyword data from now to determine what to target? More on that later in this post as first I need to cover why the exact match keyword is not what you should be targeting.

Up until recently it was relatively easy to figure out what keywords to optimise your website for, if you’re a plumber in Lancaster the keywords you wanted to rank well for would have been along the line of “plumber Lancaster” or ” emergency plumber Lancaster” but that is no longer the case.

Why you may ask, well its due to a little bird that flaps its wings very rapidly, that’s right the Hummingbird, the name of Google’s latest algorithm, its not an update but a replacement for the core algorithm. So whats behind this change from Google, well its so they can understand the search query better which they need to do due to the fact that the way we search is changing. With the ever increasing popularity of smart phones many of us now search with voice search, we simply say what we need into our phones and up pops the results and even get spoken to us. As an example i’ll go back to using the plumber in Lancaster, in the past we would have typed something along the lines of “plumber in Lancaster” into the Google search box and clicked enter. Now with voice search or conversational search we change the way we think as we are actually speaking rather than typing, its a subconscious thing that we aren’t even aware of, now we are likely to say into our phones (or even voice search on Google Chrome on our laptops) “I need a phone number for an emergency plumber”. Google Hummingbird will change that query into something along the lines of “emergency plumber Lancaster contact details” (Google of course knows your location so you don’t have to say it or type it anymore), another example to illustrate this could be ” Where do I find a good Italian food?”, Hummingbird will change this to something like “Italian restaurant Lancaster Lancashire UK”

Now it won’t be long before Hummingbird starts looking at your website pages content so now is the time to start thinking about key phrases and looking at ways to get all the words in the phrases into your content naturally, also think about an keyword indexes rather than individual key words and phrases and implementing them when creating the textual content on the pages of your website. As an example, in the past you would have targeted “Italian restaurant Lancaster” as a keyword, now you should think of that as the title of keyword index and think about the different ways that query may be spoken and bear that in mind when creating your site content.

So back to the question, where do I get keyword data from now? Well there is still plenty of tools you can use, you can even just listen to the way people speak about your business and its products and services as this will give you plenty of clues on keywords.

The first tool you should probably use is the Adwords Keyword planner from Google which replaced the previous keyword tool, now this is a pretty good tool, in fact its better than the old one we all moaned about Google getting rid of, the only slight problem is you need an Adwords account to use it although you don’t need to have any ads running or even a campaign built, just open an account and you’ll have free access to the Keyword planner tool.

Of course there are other tools you can use such as Wordtracker which as probably been around as long as the keywords themselves, and don’t forget that everyday conversation by other about your business as these spoken words are what people will use when using voice search.

In conclusion keywords are not dead but we need to change the way we think about them.

So what are your thoughts on keywords for SEO in 2014 and beyond, let me know in the comments box below.

By Chris Jones

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