An awful lot has been written about keywords over the years. Way back when the internet was still new, the only thing website owners had to do to rank well on search engines was stuff their content with a small number of keywords and phrases. There is a lot more to it today, but keywords are still critically important.

They are so important that keyword research is the SEO developer’s number one priority. At least it should be. If an SEO company doesn’t devote significant time and resources to keyword research, it is not serving client needs to the fullest potential.

At Salt Lake City’s Webtek, keyword research is as important as it has ever been. They offer the following reasons explaining why it is nearly impossible to ignore keyword research and get away with it:

Keywords Drive All of SEO

The one fundamental truth of SEO – a truth that has been consistent from the beginning – is that it is keyword driven. SEO experts have an awful lot of tools at their disposal for increasing traffic, optimizing conversion, and so forth. But each and every one of them flows from keywords.

Keywords are what search engine algorithms home in on to determine content meaning. Keywords contribute to determining relevance, ranking, page quality, and more. They are so important to search that leaving them to chance is simply bad form.

There Are Right and Wrong Ways to Optimize

Choosing keywords for a particular page does not end the SEO developer’s obligations. Those keywords have to be optimized. Failing to optimize at all generally results in keywords that don’t do much. On the other hand, attempting to optimize for too many keywords makes for a convoluted mess. Optimizing for irrelevant keywords leads to irrelevance.

All of this optimization is driven by research. How do you know which keywords to optimize for? How do you know which ones are relevant? The only way to figure it out is to do the research. You have to look at a full range of keywords and how competitors are ranking for them.

Keywords Should Add Value

Keyword research becomes even more important when you understand that keywords should add value to your site. What do we mean by this? Think of it in terms of conversion optimization. Who do you want visiting your website? You want people most likely to buy your products or services.

Just because a particular keyword is hot does not make it a good choice for the page you are working on. It might be hot only because a large number of internet users are driving it for reasons completely unrelated to your content.

Research can tell you which keywords relative to your industry are most likely to attract the kinds of visitors you want. These are keywords that add value to your site. They do not simply show up on Google while being ignored by users.

Think About User Intent

Keyword research actually boils down to something a lot of website owners don’t think about: user intent. Those of us in the SEO game couldn’t apply user intent a decade ago because search engine algorithms weren’t capable of dealing with it. That is no longer the case. User intent is now a big part of algorithm design.

Researching keywords is still the number one priority because it links user intent with search results. That is really what you want at the end of the day. You do not want to simply rank well; you want to rank well and drive traffic from customers likely to buy. You cannot do that if you don’t research.