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Keyword Prominence As A Google Ranking Factor

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Keyword Prominence As A Google Ranking Factor


Keyword prominence is an SEO best practice that involves using a page’s target keyword early in order to send a strong signal to Google about what the page should rank for.

It’s a concept comparable to the journalistic standard of never burying the lede. To “bury the lede” means to hide the main focus of a story underneath information that’s less relevant to the reader.

That’s considered a mistake in journalism because it sends a confusing message about what the most important details are in a given story.

Burying the lede in a piece of web content, with the “lede” being the target keyword, is considered a bad practice in SEO because it sends confusing signals regarding what the page is about.

That’s the consensus within the SEO industry at least. But is it an unsupported theory or has Google confirmed keyword prominence is a ranking factor?

Here’s more about the claim related to keyword prominence, followed by the evidence to back it up.

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The Claim: Keyword Prominence Is A Ranking Factor

Where a keyword appears on a page is said to play a role in search rankings.

SEO professionals advise using a page’s target keyword early in order to benefit from a ranking signal known as keyword prominence.

Keyword prominence correlates positively with higher rankings. The closer a keyword appears toward the beginning of titles and text, the more prominent it is.

Using a keyword less prominently is said to reduce the chances of ranking for that keyword.

When conducting a search in Google it’s common to see results where the exact keyword you entered appears at the beginning of page titles.

Anecdotally speaking, a case can be made that keyword prominence is a ranking factor.

Is it confirmed by Google?

Let’s take a look at the supporting evidence.

Keyword Prominence As A Ranking Factor: The Evidence

Early Evidence

Evidence supporting keyword prominence as a ranking factor dates back as far as 2011 where it’s mentioned in a video with former Googler Matt Cutts.

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He discusses how Google picks up on the use of keywords when crawling the web, and that the first few uses of a keyword will send signals to Google about a page’s main focus.

Cutts cautions site owners not to overdo their use of keywords, however, because more isn’t necessarily better.

“The way that modern search engines, or at least Google, are built is that the first time you mention a word — [Google thinks] “Hey that’s pretty interesting, it’s about that word.”

The next time you mention that word, [Google thinks] “Oh OK, it’s still about that word.” And once you start to mention it a whole lot, it really doesn’t help that much more. There are diminishing returns. It’s just an incremental benefit, but it’s really not that large.

… So the first one or two times you mention a word than that might help with your ranking, absolutely. But just because you can say it seven or eight times that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily help your ranking.”

Recent Evidence

A lot has changed in SEO since 2011, but Google’s guidance on keyword prominence remains the same.

Here’s more recent evidence from Google’s John Mueller addressing the topic in 2021 during one of his weekly Q&A sessions (at the 6:43 mark):

“I would recommend, if there’s something that you want to tell us that your page is about, to make that as visible as possible. So don’t just put that as a one word mention on the bottom.

But rather, use it in your titles, use it in your headings, use it in your subheadings, use it in your captions from images, all of these things to make it as clear as possible for users and for Google when they go to your page that this page is about this topic.

So that’s kind of the direction I would take there. I would not worry about like, can Google get to the word number 20,000 or not. Because if you’re talking about the word 20,000, and you’re saying this is the most important keyword for my page, then you’re already doing things wrong.

You really need to make sure that the information that tells us what this page is about is as obvious as possible so that when users go there they’re like “Yes, I made it to the right page, I will read what this page has to tell me.”

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Mueller makes a great point about thinking of keyword prominence from a user experience perspective.

Circling back to our analogy of burying the lede, when you use the most important keyword as early as possible you end up optimizing for readers and Google at the same time.

Other Considerations For Keyword Prominence

We’ve touched on how keyword prominence impacts SEO, how it impacts the user experience, and now we’re going to discuss how it can potentially impact click-through rate.

Mueller strongly advises making your most important keyword obvious in titles, headings, subheadings, and the main copy.

Page titles are not only a factor for SEO, they can also influence click-through rates from organic search results. That’s another reason keyword location is particularly important, as rankings mean nothing without traffic.

In the English language we read left to right, so a page title with the keyword closest to the beginning is going to catch a searcher’s attention since it matches what they typed into the search bar.

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The goal with SEO isn’t just to appear at the top of search results, it’s to get searchers to click on your page over others. Strategically placed keywords can help accomplish that.

Now think about what your visitors are going to do when they land on the page. They’re most likely going to skim through the content rather than read word for word.

With that in mind, you want to use the keyword as early on as you can in an article. You want to make sure the reader is going to see it as they’re skimming.

Use the keyword toward the first paragraph, or even in the first sentence if you can. You want to immediately show the reader that they’ve found the right article to assist them with their search query. Otherwise, they’re going to leave.

As you continue writing the content make sure to use the keyword again in headings, and anywhere else the reader’s eyes are likely to jump to as they’re skimming a page.

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Keyword Prominence As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Keyword prominence is a confirmed ranking factor.

Google has reinforced time and again that using a keyword toward the beginning of a piece of copy is better, from an SEO standpoint, than if it first appeared further down a page.

If you want to maximize your chances of ranking for a particular keyword, then include it in your intro paragraph. Use the keyword early, but don’t use it too often, or you may run into problems with keyword stuffing.

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For more on how frequently a keyword should appear on a page, see our chapter on keyword density.


Featured image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal





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W3C Announces Major Change

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W3C Announces Major Change


The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body in charge of web standards such as HTML and browser privacy, announced a significant change in how it will operate. Beginning on January 2023, the W3C will become a new public-interest non-profit organization.

Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C)

While many turn to Google to understand how to use HTML elements like titles, meta descriptions, and headings, the W3C created the actual specifications for how to use them.

The W3C is vital for the future of the entire web because it is developing privacy standards with stakeholders from around the world and the technology sector.

Stakeholders such as Google, Brave browser, Microsoft and others are involved in developing new standards for how browsers will handle privacy.

However, there are others with a stake in tracking users across the web via third-party trackers, who also belong to the W3C, who are trying to influence what those new privacy standards will be.

A news report (A privacy war is raging inside the W3C) on the internal W3C struggle for what the future of web privacy will resemble quoted the director of privacy for anti-tracker browser Brave stating that some members of the W3C who are contributing to the discussion are trying to water down privacy standards.

Pete Snyder, Director of Privacy at Brave, said:

“They use cynical terms like: ‘We’re here to protect user choice’ or ‘We’re here to protect the open web’ …They’re there to slow down privacy protections that the browsers are creating.”

What happens to the W3C and how it evolves is important because this is the future of how the web works, including what the future of the privacy standards will be.

The W3C was founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s inventor. The mission of the W3C is to guide the creation of open protocols and guidelines that would encourage the continued growth of the Internet, including web privacy standards.

It is currently a “hosted model,” an international standards-making body hosted in the USA, France, China and Japan.

The decision was made to transition this model to a non-profit that could more rapidly respond to the fast-changing pace of innovation on the web.

The statement notes that the original “hosted model” hindered rapid development.

According to the official announcement:

“We need a structure where we meet at a faster pace the demands of new web capabilities and address the urgent problems of the web.

The W3C Team is small, bounded in size, and the Hosted model hinders rapid development and acquisition of skills in new fields.

We need to put governance at the center of the new organization to achieve clearer reporting, accountability, greater diversity and strategic direction, better global coordination.

A Board of Directors will be elected with W3C Member majority.

It will include seats that reflect the multi-stakeholder goals of the Web Consortium.

We anticipate to continue joint work with today’s Hosts in a mutually beneficial partnership.”

Transition to a New Legal Entity

Although the W3C is transitioning to a new structure, the announcement sought to assure the public that current decision-making processes will remain the same.

They stated:

“The proven standards development process must and will be preserved.”

While they state that the development and decision-making processes will remain the same, the reason for transitioning to a non-profit organization is to enable the W3C to “grow” beyond the original structure since its founding in 1994 for developing web standards for the early web and to “mature” in order to meet the needs of the future better.

The reason for the change was explained in the context of evolution and growth:

“As W3C was created to address the needs of the early web, our evolution to a public-interest non-profit is not just to continue our community effort, but to mature and grow to meet the needs of the web of the future.”

“Grow” means to change, and “mature” means to reach the next stage of change. It’s awkward to reconcile the concepts of change and maturation with the idea of remaining precisely the same.

How can the W3C expect to grow and change to meet future challenges while simultaneously remaining the same?

The W3C claims that the decision-making processes will remain exactly the same:

“Our standards work will still be accomplished in the open, under the W3C Process Document and royalty-free W3C Patent Policy, with input from the broader community. Decisions will still be taken by consensus. Technical direction and Recommendations will continue to require review by W3C Members – large and small.”

While the announcement downplays the changes as just being a change to the “shell” around the W3C, it also states how it operates will evolve and grow.

Fortunately, as long as the W3C conducts all of its business in the open, and nothing is decided except by consensus by all the stakeholders, transparency should help guarantee fairness in the decisions made, regardless of how much the W3C changes (while remaining the same).


Citation

Read the Official W3C Announcement

W3C to become a public-interest non-profit organization

Image by Shutterstock/SvetaZi





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Daily Search Forum Recap: June 29, 2022

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Google said they communicate more often about algorithmic updates, not less. Google is testing snippets that expand to show more local intent information. Google product grid results are organic, not ads. Google is testing shaded background colors for shopping ads. Would you hire an SEO who doesn’t know the difference between crawling, indexing, rendering or ranking?

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:

  • Google: We Are Communicating About More Algorithm Updates

    Another point from the Google NYC SEO Meetup the other night was that Danny Sullivan at Google said Google has been more active about communicating about algorithm updates now than ever before. Danny said Google communicates more often about algorithm updates, which is why it feels that there are so many more updates now than previously.
  • Google Tests Expandable Local Related Carousels Within Snippets

    Google is testing a search result snippet that shows a expandable drop down menus under the snippet that contains weather, hotels, restaurants, visual stories, events and more. When you click on these expandable menus, you get carousels of search results for those types of search features.

  • Should All SEOs Know The Difference Between Crawling, Indexing, Rendering & Rankings?

    At the Google NYC SEO Meetup Lily Ray mentioned that when it comes to interviewing new employees for the Amsive Digital SEO team, she asks a question you must get right or you are immediate dismissed. The question is, what is the difference between crawling, indexing, rendering and rankings.

  • Google Product Grid Results Are Organic & Are Huge

    We’ve been seeing a lot of grid-like formats with products and shopping results. We know some are ads and some are organic. John Mueller of Google just added official Google representative confirmation that many of these are organic – if you don’t trust that there is no ad label on them as evidence enough.

  • Google Shopping Ads Carousel With Shaded Backgrounds

    Google is using a gray shaded background color for some of the results within the Google Shopping Ads carousel. I was able to replicate this, where for some images, Google thinks a light gray background works better than a white background. This is not tiled, where every other result is shaded, it is based on some other algorithm, maybe the color of the photo of the product?

  • GooglePlex Outdoor Play & Games

    Here is a photo from a spot at the GooglePlex where Google has set up a nice and comfortable outdoor play area with outdoor games. This was shared on Instagram who posted “fun times at work.”

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Search Features

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, you can follow us on Facebook and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.





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Google Product Grid Results Are Organic

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Google Product Grid Results Are Organic


We’ve been seeing a lot of grid-like formats with products and shopping results. We know some are ads and some are organic. John Mueller of Google just added official Google representative confirmation that many of these are organic – if you don’t trust that there is no ad label on them as evidence enough.

The other day, Dan Shure posted on Twitter this screenshot (click it to enlarge) of this grid product format and said “This is quite the search result page – there are up to SIXTEEN products below a SINGLE organic listing (in addition to the image carousels) and desktop is infinite scroll.”

click for full size

Well, yea, these are organic. John responded on Twitter saying “They’re organic results too. This is one of the reasons it’s good to dig into our ecommerce site guidance if you sell products.”

Honestly, like I said before, I am not a huge fan of these grid formatted results for products. At least, they should be in some “click to expand” feature so you can see more. So show one line of these results with a click to expand. It is just too much in my opinion, even if Google is confident of the intent of the query.

Also, not all of these image snippets need markup to work, although these with the pricing and reviews probably do…

Forum discussion at Twitter.





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