There are a few SEOs who are beginning to shift their discussion of search engine optimization from keywords to queries. The obvious question is, what’s the difference?
Tom Anthony explains how the term “search query” is changing. I like his distinction between “explicit” and “implicit” aspects of a search query. This kind of thinking is a by-product of how Google is now indexing web pages and returning those web pages for specific search queries. It isn’t always based on strict keyword-based queries.
In other words, a page could be returned in the search results for a query without the specific keyword or phrase searched for appearing anywhere on the page.
That’s pretty crazy when you think about it. We’re all used to searching for information based on keywords and, more importantly, we’re used to positioning our pages based on keyword targeting. But that may not be the most effective way to do it in another five to ten years.
I’m not saying, and neither is Tom Anthony, that keywords are irrelevant. I think they are still are, and probably will be years from now. But they aren’t necessarily the most important thing for SEO. What is the most important thing is what the searcher is searching for. That’s vitally important because most searchers aren’t sitting around thinking about keywords. They’re thinking about what information they need access to. Your job as webmaster is to find the best way to present your web pages so that they answer search queries that could be centered around one or more keyword variations.