After speculation, Google has finally pulled the plug on Content Keywords in the Google Search Console. While the tool was handy for keyword research, letting webmasters see what Google thought a website was about, the search giant had its reasons. Here’s what happened and what it means for your keyword strategy and content marketing going forward.
John Mueller, trends analyst for Google, posted the news on the firm’s Webmaster Central blog. Mueller points out that the Content Keywords tool dates from the days when Search Console was called Webmaster Tools. The tool had three benefits: it confirmed that the search giant could crawl your pages successfully, it showed you what the Googlebot found, and it could also reveal if your site were compromised by a hack.
However, the Search Console has come a long way since then. Webmasters can use the Fetch as Google tool to verify that Google can crawl your page successfully. Meanwhile, the Search Analytics Report tool reports which keywords your site has appeared in SERPs, the primary info webmasters gained from Content Keywords. Hacks, Mueller notes, are reported to website owners routinely and automatically.
A Long Time Coming
For many folks familiar with the daily grind of SEO and content marketing, it’s not a surprise that Content Keywords has been killed. Mueller first brought up the possibility in May, during a regular “Office Hours” Google+ Hangout.
Responding to a question on Search Console and keyword content, Mueller argued the feature led to confusion and speculation about rankings:
With regards to the content keywords portion… I think that refers to the Content Keywords feature in the Google Search Console. And from my point of view, I kind of would like to turn that off because it does confuse people, like here.
He also seemed to recognize that the presentation of keyword info could lead some webmasters or SEO and content marketing novices astray:
And it kind of almost suggests that the more often you include the same keywords on your page, the more likely it will be relevant in the search results, and that’s definitely not the case.
Mueller invited those in the Hangout to make their case for keeping Content Keywords at the time, but apparently, the search giant wasn’t swayed enough to keep it.
What’s Next for Keyword Research
Now that the end has come for Content Keywords, SEO and content marketing folks will have to shift the focus of their keyword research efforts. As Mueller wrote on Webmaster Central, the Search Analytics Report can still tell website owners what keywords Google associates with their webpages. Better still, it can do so in much greater detail than Content Keywords.
All the same, webmasters and website owners should learn something from the Content Keywords demise. Google killed the feature largely because it wasn’t leading to thoughtful introspection on the part of site owners and marketers. As Mueller alluded, some were fixating on and chasing the keywords Google was associating with a particular web page. More keyword density and focus isn’t always a good thing. Particularly, if that focus doesn’t serve search users or website visitors.
The users, of course, should always be your top concern. Use keyword research and Google reports to judge how well your site is providing the content users are seeking. Determine if the keywords you rank for match your visitor’s intent. That’s the lesson of Content Keywords, as it is the user that Google ultimately wants to best serve, and killing of this tool nudges the search community in the right direction.