Keywords – still important for your website?

How the use of “keywords” within website text has changed significantly and how *not* to do it.

are keywords importantSometimes we forget that clients may not be as close to the ever changing landscape of web design and SEO as we, the designers and search marketers are.

For example, updates to how Google evaluates and ranks websites are fairly clear to us but may not be so apparent for the website owner. This is fine where we control all aspects of  a new website design as we simply build-in best practice as we progress; however, where the client is also involved, for example in generating all of the text content for the site, problems can arise.

This was amply brought home to me recently when I looked back at a website where we had provided a framework for a client who wished to add all of the text content themselves using the content management system. Normally we do all of this, ensuring that each web page is optimised correctly for Google. However, in this particular case, the practice manager advised that she knew a lot about SEO and would work this into the text that she was going to produce.

The practice had a very tight budget for the new site and decided to save money by using their own resources to generate as much of the web content as they could. This was fine in principle, however problems soon became evident.

Keyword stuffing

On revisiting the website and examining the text the practice manager had added, it became clear very quickly that keywords had been massively over-used. So for example “cosmetic dentistry” had been inserted multiple time in page titles, heading tags, navigation links and text. Worse still, this hadn’t only been done on one page but on lots of pages, to the point where the site was, in my opinion, at high risk of being penalised by Google for keyword “stuffing”.

I quickly went back to the practice manager and advised where the mistakes had been made, together with examples of best-practice web page structure so that she could start correcting.

So aren’t keywords important now?

Yes, keywords are still important. As Matt Cutts, a Google spokesman, made quite clear, if your keywords aren’t on your page, then the search engines won’t rank you for those search terms.

However, the reliance on having keywords carefully inserted in all of the right places on your web page is significantly less important than in the past. Yes, you still have to ensure that a website is structured correctly but the days of adding your keywords to the correct density and at very specific places in the page architecture are now (nearly) gone.

Google has fairly recently updated it’s ranking algorithm so that it “understands” the context of a web page far better than it used to i.e. when it primarily relied on exact match keywords to define what the page was all about.

So whilst it’s still important to make sure that your main keywords are there, it is pointless (and in fact risky) to overuse them. Much better is to add your main phrases quite sparsely and then support them with other contextually relevant words – so for example, a page on implants would not just include “dental implants” but also terms such as “replacing missing teeth”, “tooth implants” etc. Remember that Google now understands the intent and topic of a website page far better than it did just a few years ago. This is the key factor which the practice manager in the example cited above, had missed. Simply because she was relying on knowledge that was several years out-of-date.


As we’ve seen from the example above, it’s very easy to step outside of website design best-practice and potentially fall foul of Google’s publishing guidelines. In the case of keywords, there is no longer any need to focus on keyword density and their precise placement within your content. Whilst keywords are still important,  Google is now very good at determining the intention and topic of your dental website page without needing to see that you’ve included those trigger phrases an exact number of times.

If your page is structured correctly, your content is well-written and compelling with just the right level of keyword relevance, then your page will rank much better than one which is simply keyword stuffed.

If you would like more advice on how to structure your dental website correctly or would like your existing site audited, then please call the Dental Media web design team on 01332 672548.

We’ll be pleased to help.